GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Maranda ended the Park Party season exactly where she started the summertime tradition 25 years ago: at Garfield Park in Grand Rapids.
The finale party of the season was historic. Approximately 11,600 people filled the park Thursday, making it the largest Park Party ever, according to Maranda.
While it’s tough to explain the powerful impact Maranda Park Parties have had on West Michigan communities, it was visible on the faces of families enjoying the free fun Thursday.
For Paul Martin and his son, Paul Jr., Maranda Park Parties have defined their summers for eight years.
“We go to every one in the Grand Rapids area. If it’s here, we’re going and he has a great time,” Paul Martin said.
It takes a lot of planning and organizing to host thousands of kids and support their families.
“We have 26 interns that are working today just to help us with logistics, but we also have 30 of our employees who’ve walked away from their day jobs to come and help do this. Some are certainly on camera and interviewing… but others are handing out Cheeze Kurls and helping people find their way to the bathroom and everything you can think of — parking cars, you name it. It takes an entire community in our station to serve the community in this way and I’m so proud of everyone’s efforts,” said WOOD TV8 General Manager Julie Brinks.
New Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne says connecting with families in such a fun atmosphere is priceless.
“Having this opportunity with this number of people enjoying themselves and having a good time, you know money can’t buy that. So Maranda bringing this here, like I said, it just warms my heart seeing all the little kids. It’s just a good thing,” Payne said.
In honor of Maranda’s 25 years leading the Park Parties, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss officially proclaimed Thursday Maranda Day.
As Maranda wraps up another season of Park Parties, she says it always comes back to one thing: the kids.
“You know that’s the best part and the scariest part for me. People will come up and be like, ‘Oh, I was on your show when I was little or I came to a Park Party.’ and I’m like, ‘How old are you?’ And then sure enough, they show me their 10-year-old. And I’m like wow, we’ve been doing it a while,” said Maranda. “But I think gosh, how lucky that we’ve had the chance to just be a part of their lives consistently and they associate it with good. Wow, what a blessing that I can say you know we made it happen. We brought someone a good time and they’re going to remember it for their lifetime.”