There weren’t nearly as many youngsters stomping across the grounds of Houston Avery Park last Saturday (November 4) as there traditionally are when Destiny Worship Center presents its annual Stomp the Yard Youth Day. But those who did tread the park’s confines did so with gusto.
Laughter and squeals of delight could be heard throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the municipal park as about 100 children, from toddlers to teens, came out with parents or guardians to enjoy an afternoon of free fun, food and fellowship. The estimated crowd number was a fraction of the normal yearly attendance.
The 11th annual event, originally scheduled for October 7 but cancelled when Hurricane Nate threatened the area, featured access to the park’s toddler and bigger-kid playgrounds as well as a pair of bouncy houses that drew the most attention from the younger set.
“I am excited at the imprint of this event on our community,” said Destiny’s pastor, Dr. Bernard Bishop before turning the youngsters loose to run, jump and otherwise frolic across the recreational area. “Remember, the first Saturday in October each year, unless a hurricane comes our way, will be Stomp the Yard Youth Day. I’m proud of the citizens of Atmore for understanding why we’re here; I’m super-proud of the children who come out every year and abide by the rules of the park.”
Bishop revealed that the reason he was adamant about rescheduling the five-hour fun period was an observation he made when the tents, signs and other objects were being disassembled on October 7. He told of arriving at the park around 7 a.m. to find two young boys, their basketballs under their arms, waiting for the event to start.
“This event has been going on for 11 years,” he said. “I told my crew that we had to reschedule it, at least for those two little boys. That’s the reason we’re here today.”
The pastor said he is most proud that the event has been violence-free for more than a decade.
“I’m most proud to say that in 11 years, we’ve never had one act of violence at this park during this event,” he announced. “In many of those years, this park has been filled to capacity, front to back, with kids and adults, and we’ve never had any major violence, fights or injuries that we can remember.”
None of the informational booths that were to be part of the event were set up on Saturday, and only one musical group performed. There were no free HIV tests, no professional dog handler. Those absences left more time for fun, and the featured guests made the most of it.
Older attendees spent most of the afternoon visiting with each other under the tent set up near the speaker’s pavilion. Young mothers and fathers chased errant toddlers while older children made full use of the bouncy houses, slides, ladders and other playground equipment.
Adults and children enjoyed free Pepsi products, hot dogs, snow cones, snack cakes, popcorn and other crunchy snacks. Older children showed off their moves on the basketball court or played table tennis. Elements of Worship performed several Gospel selections, and prerecorded Christian rap and hip-hop floated from the DJ-manned sound system throughout the day.
Mayor Jim Staff said prior to reading a municipal proclamation in honor of the event that the October 7 cancellation was a case of erring on the side of caution.
Projections, later proven to be inaccurate when the hurricane made an unexpected turn, were that it would move through the heart of the city and county.
“It’s been getting better every year,” Staff said. “The cancellation, well, we didn’t know it was going to not rain. We thought the weather was going to be bad. But we’ve got it going now, and we’re going to keep it going. I’m already looking forward to the 12th year.”