Jul. 8—MASSENA — Love Massena Day, a free event for the entire community, is back for another year.
The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 16 at Alcoa Park.
Jason Sweet, pastor at New Testament Church in Massena and one of the organizers, said it's a milestone event.
"It's going to be our 10th annual event. Our first one was in 2013. Even during the COVID year when everything was kind of shut down, we had gotten special permission to use our downtown building, the current Horizon clubhouse, to hand out hot dogs and gifts to people driving by in their cars. We didn't want to skip a year, so we did that in 2020," he said.
Love Massena Day returned to its normal activities in 2021.
"The numbers were down slightly from prior years, but we still had a great turnout. It was a beautiful day," Mr. Sweet said. "We tried to enhance it by adding a 5K run last year. This year we chose not to do it because there's another run going on that same day in Louisville. We didn't want to feel like we were competing with it. So, it's going to be more like the normal format we've done for the other eight years."
The Louisville Turtle Trot Walk/Run is scheduled for the same day.
Even without the 5K run, there will still be plenty of family-oriented activities going on, he said.
"It's still a totally free event. We're doing a bounce house and a dry slide. We'll have free hot dogs, chips, water, snow cones, cotton candy, popcorn. We are having music playing," Mr. Sweet said.
The Salvation Army will be back with the snow cones.
"The last couple of years they've really turned it up a notch. When we first started, we had maybe two or three flavors. Now they have multiple flavors to choose from. It's one of the busiest areas for the kids that day, especially on the hotter days," he said.
McDonald's is returning, too, with free iced coffee.
"They've even added additional flavors of iced coffee over the last few years. They've brought some of their flavors with them," Mr. Sweet said.
A popular event from last year, "a very, very competitive three-on-three basketball tournament," also returns for age groups 8 to 11, 12 to 15, and 16 and up. More information about the event and registration can be found at wdt.me/NVT8Da.
A mural is set up each year, and that will be back again this year for people to paint. Murals from the past will also be displayed.
"It was always our goal that we'd bring prior years back. We put them on the tennis courts fence. So, it's becoming a larger overall mural with the ones that we're putting on the fence as we create a new one each year. Our plans are to continue to do that," Mr. Sweet said.
Balloon creations will be on the schedule that day, as will the "ever-so-popular face painting," he said.
"It's great to see as the day goes on more and more of the kids' faces filled up with different types of beautiful designs. We have some really talented people that have jumped in to volunteer and help in that area," he said.
DJ Rick Gilman will be spinning the tunes during the day.
"The last few years we've enhanced and tried to make throughout the day not just playing music, but calling kids forward and interjecting games like musical chairs, Simon Says or something of that nature. We have a grab bag of prizes for that," Mr. Sweet said.
The first Love Massena event in 2013 featured everything from music to food, face painting to balloon creations, and basketball to tennis. The event was coordinated by Compassion North in cooperation with the Greater Massena Ministerial Association and has continued to grow over the years.
The first event was meant to do something positive in an area that at the time had seen crime ranging from an attempted abduction to drug trafficking.
"Back then especially, it seemed any time that area of town was mentioned, it was in a negative light. That's when our pastor at the time, Don Curry, reached out to the mayor at the time and police chief and said we'd like to do something in that area that would be positive, a family-focused event to kind of change the outlook and have something bright and happy going on in that area of town," Mr. Sweet said.
And Love Massena Day was born.
"We didn't think it was going to be an annual event. But we got such a great turnout that first year that it's one of our highlights of the year along with our Vacation Bible School," he said.