AquaPark sets back-to-school schedule in Highland Park
Highland Park, 8/11/12 A pool goer takes a ride down the slide at the Hidden Creek Aqua Park in Highland Park August 11. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Camps: 26 summer camps hosted 1,399 local kids
Water Park: At least 43,378 people visited the Hidden Creek AquaPark
Highlight: Big Top/Little Top Circus Camp celebrated its 20th anniversary
Updated: September 17, 2012 11:57AM
HIGHLAND PARK — It’s that time of year.
The Park District of Highland Park camps are over, the Hidden Creek AquaPark will soon scale back its hours and teachers are busy setting up their classrooms in preparation of schools opening next week.
But while local kids cling to their final days of summer, officials at the Park District are now able to take a deep breath and celebrate another successful summer.
“It’s sad and a relief when our hours begin to come down,” said Julie Rivi, the district’s assistant manager for ice and aquatics. “The last week or two of summer is a nice wind-down.”
Starting Aug. 20, the weekday hours at Hidden Creek AquaPark are reduced to only 4-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 4-7 p.m. on Fridays. Weekend hours will remain 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. until Sept. 3.
Through last week, the Hidden Creek AquaPark’s 2,610 members visited the local water park a combined 15,987 times. Non-member Highland Park residents spun the turnstiles 15,000 more times, and nonresidents spent about 13,000 days at the AquaPark this summer.
Boosted by the district’s first summer promoting the water park with an online discount coupon, Hidden Creek’s 43,378 visitors by Aug. 5 proved a three-year high, park officials reported.
“It will be sad to not see them again for a year,” Rivi said.
The district’s 26 summer camps came to an end Aug. 9 after hosting 1,399 kids this summer. Camp attendance ended up 47 campers short of last year’s district numbers.
“It was hot, but this has been a great summer,” said Julie Naatz, the district’s recreation manager. “We had a lot of fun.”
The summer camp schedule concluded with an inspiring closing ceremony earlier this month under a professional circus tent at Larry Fink Park.
About 40 local kids helped the district celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of the Highland Park’s most unique, popular and longest running summer programs, the Big Top/Little Top Circus Camp.
The local fourth- through eighth-graders traversed tight ropes, spun around on unicycles, walked on stilts, juggled batons and danced ballet moves on horseback.
The district’s popular sports camp took on a special Olympic theme this summer. During several weeks, campers competed in a wide array of Olympic competitions.
“The kids adore that stuff and we make everybody a winner,” Naatz said.
An after-camps program was among the new offerings this summer. Instead of going home, kids could take a bus from camp to the Recreation Center for swim lessons.
Naatz and her park colleagues are already brainstorming ways to improve the local camp offerings for next summer.
“There is always something new out there to incorporate into our camps,” she said.