3 parks to host Race2Play summer kickoff events

The Columbus Park Foundation will kick off its annual Race2Play summer programs with a special celebration.

Kids and their families are invited to Morningside, Pence Street and Ninth Street parks from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday to learn about the foundation’s summer programs, including the Come Out and Grow Gardens and the new Curiosity Machine Project, said April Williams, project and resource development director for Columbus Parks and Recreation and the Columbus Park Foundation.

The Columbus Area Kiwanis Club will have a neighborhood cookout at each of the parks.

All children ages 6 to 12 are invited to participate in this year’s Race2Play activities, including the kickoff celebration, for free.

The Race2Play program started in 2013 when Tony Stewart, the NASCAR driver-owner and Columbus native, returned to his hometown to renovate the park he played in as a child. Subway spokesman Jared Fogle, a native of Indianapolis, also worked with Stewart on the project.

Each summer since, Williams said the parks foundation has organized summer kickoff celebrations.

As part of Friday’s event, children can plant vegetables in the Come Out and Grow Gardens. Williams said volunteers from Cummins prepared the gardens in the spring, and Columbus-based Hackman’s Farm Market donated all of the vegetables.

New this year is the Come Out and Play Curiosity Machine Program, which will focus on teaching underprivileged kids and young girls about science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, subjects. Cummins engineers will lead these sessions at the parks on Mondays and Wednesdays.

If you go

What: Race2Play summer kickoff celebration

When: 4 to 6 p.m. Friday

Where: Morningside, Pence Street and Ninth Street parks.

More information: columbusparkfoundation.org

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.