OGDEN -- With orange slices in hand, a large group of youngsters sat Monday in Liberty Park, listening to stories about the Underground Railroad.
It's all part of the new Arts in the Park program, a spin-off of the four-year-old Science in the Park, which works to get arts into everyday life, said Kathryn McKay, Arts in the Park coordinator. She is worried about schools cutting programs, especially in the arts, and hopes to keep kids involved with them.
"We need to be growing our own students. We want to make students think science is fun and that arts are part of their lives, so it's not foreign to them," she said. "We want them to realize education is important."
The program runs Monday through Friday for three weeks, and each day is focused on a different art -- literature, visual arts, music, dance and theater. Free lunch is also available.
For Ogden resident Erin Harris, Arts in the Park is a good way to give her children a variety of foods while doing something each of them -- ages 7, 6, 3 and 1 -- will enjoy.
Harris said the older children like the crafts and activities, and the whole family gets to enjoy being outside.
Monday's activities were literature-related and tie in to next year's Weber Reads program, said Carlos Camacho, Weber County Library associate specialist.
The library is giving out books on Frederick Douglass and the Underground Railroad at a variety of reading levels. They also brought in storytellers to bring to life the stories of the railroad that helped escaped slaves flee the South to the safety of Canada before the U.S. Civil War.
"We want families and kids to know about the Underground Railroad and what it's about," Camacho said. That way they'll be aware of and prepared when Weber Reads begins later this year.
Salvador Ceja, 12, said it's fun to go to the park and be with his family. He said he likes to read, and getting free books is a nice bonus.
McKay said between 100 and 200 people attend every day, so it's exciting to see the program succeeding from the beginning.
Americorps volunteer Javier Chavez said the youngsters really enjoy Arts in the Park. He said it's a way to get them outside, fed and given something to do that will spill over into their lives once the program is over.
He said it also gives him the opportunity to help out during the summer, when volunteer opportunities are scarce.
Arts in the Park is still running from today to Friday at Liberty Park, 751 21st St., and Monday to July 2 at Monroe Park, 850 30th St.