By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
There were several reasons why this year’s Stomp the Yard drew only a fraction of the children and guardians who traditionally attend the annual “youth explosion” at Houston Avery Park.
“Kids have trickled in as the day has progressed,” Bishop Bernard Bishop of Destiny Worship Center said as all but the youngest of the few hundred attendees sought refuge from the unseasonably hot weather. “But it’s a really hot day for October, and that probably had a little bearing on the attendance. There were also a lot of funerals in the city today, and a lot of people are at those.”
Temperatures that climbed into the mid-90 degree range forced even the youngest in attendance to take frequent breaks from jumping in bouncy houses, climbing on playground equipment, playing basketball and enjoying other activities, and long lines formed at the trailer where iced water and soft drinks were served.
Even a brief tour of a city firetruck’s exterior and a presentation on the various rescue and fire suppression equipment failed to hold the attention of most youngsters, who became restless as they stood in the blistering sun.
Most of the more seasoned attendees flocked to the huge tent near the performance gazebo and a few waved handheld fans in a mostly futile effort to stir the sticky air.
Among the less secular aspects of the day were the inclusion of two inmates from Fountain Correctional Facility.
“They’re here to give their testimony about their incarceration,” said Alabama Department of Corrections Capt. Willie Knight, who escorted the two. “They want to help keep the kids from coming down the same path they did.”
The pair were part of a change that, for the first time, saw the greater portion of the event dedicated to spiritual well-being.
“This is the first year we’ve tried this, and we hope it’s going to be positive,” Bishop said shortly before 2 p.m., when the afternoon of fun turned into an afternoon of worship. “The parents may enjoy it more than the kids because the kids really enjoy the other things. But you never know. We’re trying something new, and we’ll see how it works.”
Bishop agreed that attendance was relatively low in relation to the previous 11 Stomp the Yard celebrations but pointed out that the size of the crowd was not a fair measuring stick.
“It’s not really about how many people attended,” he said. “It’s about joy and unity; it’s about the coming together of several ministries in the community; it’s about seeing these kids smiling. The crowd is smaller than in past years, but the support from the community has been amazing.”