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Jennifer Juni, Joel Juni and Savanna Tate entertain youth and merchants at Pioneer Park Friday at a youth party sponsored by the Downtown Business Association. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Main Avenue reaches out to youth

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Park Rapids youth and business owners shared laughs, food and music Friday night at Pioneer Park on Main Avenue.

The youth party was organized in part by the Park Rapids Downtown Business Association.

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Cynthia Jones, co-chair of the DBA, said the outreach is the first in what she hopes will be many collaborative events between businesses and youth in downtown.

Sara Bowles, chemical health coordinator for the Hubbard County Youth Drug and Alcohol Task Force, said similar events were happening in Nevis and Laporte. The task force and Rock Sober sponsored the events but it is more about the communities supporting the youth, she said.

"It is about getting to know the faces of the kids on Main and form relationships with them," Bowles said. "It is about filling the needs of area youth to have organized activities and promote substance free fun.

Music for the event was organized by Ben Ranson and Savanna Tate. A hip hop/rap singer named "Baltimore" had youth step up to participate in rapping. Brandon "Skittlez" Smith stepped up to the challenge. Other youth tried the chicken dance in order to win a prize.

The merchants of downtown stepped up with donations for the event, as well. Several area businesses donated gift certificates, posters, candy and other prizes that were given away during the evening.

Donations came from Arvig Communication Systems, Glik's, Main Street Meats, Wildwood Enchantment, Aunt Bell's, Albrecht Jewelers, Park Theater, The Good Life Café, Coborn's, Old Liberty Shoppe, Small Mart, J&B Foods, Park Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Toys for Boys, Al's Paint & Glass, Brigid's House, Park Avenue School of Cosmetology and Fresh Catch.

"I believe this event is the first step in a new relationship between the youth and the downtown businesses," Bowles said.

Tony Bunde, owner of Fresh Catch, who also helped with the organizing, said this was a good first step in developing a relationship between merchants and youth.

"This kind of positive approach works well in getting youth involved," he said.

Perhaps a gentleman who stopped by the park as the party was wrapping up said it best. As he pulled a sizeable donation from his pocket, he said, "It's all about the kids."

The DBA has pledged to continue working on building a relationship with area youth and will work to hold future events.

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