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Families invited to 'Get Unplugged'

Believe it or not, there are alternatives to spending evenings on the couch or in front of a screen.

Members of the Parks and Recreation Commission in St. Paul Park are working hard to prove it.

The commission has organized a full week of activities at each of the city's parks starting at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, Aug. 9 to 13. Everyone is invited to participate.

"We're calling it 'Get Unplugged,' said commission chair Jennifer Cheesman. "We want families to discover they can survive without being plugged into a computer, cell phone or MP3 player."

"We're hoping to get people off the couch and outside to meet their neighbors and maybe get them to realize they like being outdoors," said Sandi Dingle, city council member and liaison to the commission.

"We also want more residents to visit and become acquainted with each of our parks," Cheesman said.

Activities will include a nature walk at Riverside Park on the west side of town with Karen Schik, an ecologist with Friends of the Mississippi River. There will be basic tennis lessons given by high school students and free kite-making kits. At Veterans' Park, yard games such as bocce ball will be set up, while the finale at Lions Levee Park will include a bonfire, s'mores, a professional storyteller and acoustic music.

All the events are free and will last as long as people remain, Cheesman said.

- Monday, Aug. 9 -- Heritage Park, 14th and Laurel avenues. Events will include tennis, basketball, volleyball and softball.

- Tuesday, Aug. 10 -- Veterans' Park, between Fourth and Fifth streets, north of Broadway Avenue. Visitors will play lawn and board games.

- Wednesday, Aug. 11 -- Riverside Park, located at the west end of 13th Avenue, which is just south of Pullman Avenue. Ecologist Karen Schik will lead a walk along the river, while she talks about the river and the importance of protecting its habitat.

- Thursday, Aug. 12 -- Abdella Park, at the north end of Dayton Avenue off 10th Avenue. Visitors will play tennis, basketball and kickball.

- Friday, Aug. 13 -- Lions Levee Park, at the west end of Seventh Avenue. Entertainment will include slightly spooky stories around a bonfire, plus s'mores and music.

Movies in the park

Unplugged week is just one of several summer events planned by the parks and recreation commission. The group has also designated two nights for free movies in the park.

Movies are appropriate for families. The next movie night is set for 9 a.m. or dusk on Friday, Aug. 20, at Veterans' Park. It will take place immediately after Moonlight Bowling at Park Grove Bowl -- part of the annual Heritage Days Festival. Bring a lawn chair or blanket. Light refreshments will be available for purchase.

The final free movie is scheduled at dusk on Saturday, Sept. 11, at Heritage Park. The event will begin with a brief ceremony commemorating those who died on Sept. 11, 2001. Members of the American Legion Post 98 in St. Paul Park will conduct the service.

Sign up online to learn about other park events

For families that want to receive e-mail notification of future park events, sign up online at Go to General Information, find Recreational Activities and complete the form at P&R Event Notification.