OGDEN -- Five-year-old Jay Olsen came for the food and stayed for the entertainment.
After stopping by the Lorin Farr Park pavilion Monday for the first day of Ogden School District's free lunches for schoolchildren, Jay, and sisters Sarah, 4, and Emily, 9, strolled to nearby booths to check them out.
"I like to make projects," said Jay, who quickly settled in to enjoy the first session of the Ogden Arts in the Park program. Jay used colored markers to decorate his shaker, which volunteers were helping children make, with dried beans or rice trapped inside Styrofoam cups that were taped rim to rim.
"I like music," said Jay, with a big smile. "It's fun."
This is the second year for Arts in the Park, which invites children to come, play and maybe even make a take-home project, all between noon and 1 p.m. on weekdays. This week, the fun is at Lorin Farr Park, but the free, outdoor party moves to a new park each week.
"Each day is a different theme," said Lydia Gravis, Weber State University Outreach Coordinator. "We have 'Play It,' 'Move It,' 'Read It,' 'Make It' and 'Imagine It.'
"We usually get 100 to 200 kids a day," Gravis said. "Parents love that the activities are so accessible, and that we bring learning activities to the kids. I like that we can reach so many kids."
Besides Weber State, sponsors include RAMP, Ogden City School District, Weber County Library, and the Alan E. and Jeanne N. Hall Endowment for Community Outreach.
Children made musical instruments at two additional stations near old-growth shade trees, beneath which some parents waited and enjoyed the breeze.
At one table, children used disposable plastic cups with damp cords strung through the bottom and anchored outside the cup. By running fingers down the string, kids could get a sound somewhere between a flute and the cluck of a chicken.
At another table, kids made popsicle stick flutes, with two rounded wooden sticks, spacers between and a folded length of wax paper trapped between the spacers. The sound was something like a kazoo. Other kids beat plastic bucket "drums" with drum sticks for a communal percussion experience, and another group of youngsters lifted a parachute by its edges, and took turns running underneath.
"We came last year, and they learned a lot," said John Bedel, of Ogden, who brought sons Nicholas, 4, Anthony, 6, and Zachary, 13. "This is something Anthony has been looking forward to since school ended."
Nicholas took a break from coloring his shaker.
"I like playing and doing stuff," he said. "Lunch is my favorite part, but I like art projects a lot. I take them home and put them in my closet."
After a suitable period of display, Bedel added, "We put them out and look at them for a while, but eventually they do end up in the closet," he said.
Arts in the Park coordinator Kathryn MacKay said Arts in the Park was created to follow the successful model of Science in the Park, which begins at 11:30 a.m. Monday at Lorin Farr Park, 769 Canyon Road. Both are scheduled to coincide with the summer free lunch program for children up to age 18. Lunches are offered in several area school districts. At Lorin Farr Park, weekday free lunch for children goes from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
"We take advantage of the lunch crowd that is already here," MacKay said. "The kids love being creative, and they learn that arts are part of engaging with the world."
After this week, the Arts in the Park schedule is: Monday-June 17 at Liberty Park, 751 21st St.; June 20-24 at Monroe Park, 850 30th St.; and June 27-July 1 at West Ogden Park, 751 W. 24th St. All sessions are from noon to 1 p.m.
Melanie Olsen said she and her children will be back.
"This is so exciting," she said. "My kids love make-and-take projects, and they love the outdoors. It's fun that there are so many ways for them to learn about music."
Olsen does suspect some of the new creations won't survive long in a household of active kids.
"I expect I will be picking up a few beans," she said, watching her brood decorate their cup shakers. "I guess I should be happy they didn't choose the rice."