by Anthony Urtarte [Anthony Urtarte is a student at Kennesaw State University]
– The City of Kennesaw hosts events and activities year-round, many of which are long-held traditions
– Community support is at an all-time high in Kennesaw
– The Parks and Recreation department is dedicated to making sure that Kennesaw residents enjoy their time living there
The year was 2020. Covid was at its height and people weren’t allowed to gather like they used to. But that didn’t stop Kennesaw from trying. For Christmas that year, the Parks and Recreation department hosted a Virtual Tree Lighting event. People from all over Kennesaw gathered around their monitors to watch live music, a reading of Christmas classics, and a speech from the mayor commemorating the lighting of a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree.
Normally it would have been a completely ordinary event. But that year was different. It was the time of year for miracles, and a Christmas miracle did happen.
“I read The Night Before Christmas, the mayor came in, we had some music by School of Rock; the mayor got up and did his speech and then we were going to light up the tree,” said Bill McNair, the Assistant Director at Kennesaw’s Parks and recreation department. “And as soon as he finished talking and the tree was lit, the train came through on the tracks and it was almost like it was Polar Express…It was perfect timing.”
It’s those kinds of moments that the Parks and Recreation department of Kennesaw try to create every year. From barbeques to fireworks, the Kennesaw Parks and Recreation department has dedicated itself to providing Kennesaw residents with quality public parks, recreational facilities, and incredible memories that can last a lifetime.
McNair said that the most fulfilling part of his job was getting “to be a servant to the community and to see that we are making a difference”. That difference shows through the immense amounts of classes, events, and general opportunities to get involved that are available in Kennesaw. The Parks and Recreation department offers a plethora of classes, camps, and activities that people of all ages can enjoy. All of the information for these events are available on the Kennesaw Parks and Recreation Department website.
The people at the Parks and Recreation department love to give back to the community, and the community appreciates it. Long-time resident of Kennesaw, Joseph McKinney, said this about his experience with the events there, “I moved around a lot way back when. This town is the first place to make me feel like they really care”. And clearly, he’s not the only one.
Every year, the city of Kennesaw hosts an event called “Touch-A-Truck”. During this event, parents can take their children to see over 40 different “larger-than-life trucks, heavy construction and public safety equipment, cool cars and specialty vehicles” according to the event page on Kennesaw’s website.
McNair stated that, before he came to Kennesaw, it would be a struggle to get people to show up. But in Kennesaw, “You can have 5,000 people at Touch-A-Truck at the drop of a hat”. At Kennesaw’s Pigs and Peaches event “you’ll have 50 to 60,000 people over a two-day period”. And at their Fall-o-ween event, McNair says they will have 3-4,000 people show up. It’s clear that Kennesaw residents love to have fun with their community.
McNair said that he used to work in Baldwin County before he retired. He came to Kennesaw because he always wanted to work in Cobb County and a position had just become available at the time. Once he got here, he realized that the community was very eager to be involved. When asked about the difference between Baldwin and Cobb County, McNair said, “The community support and just, the way the city government, the manager’s office, the council, and the residents, they really enjoy our events…When you talk to most people in Kennesaw, they really support recreation.”
What to do in Kennesaw
Big events aren’t the only things to look forward to in Kennesaw. In addition to those, McNair says there is Swift Cantrell Park and 12 other “pocket parks” in neighborhoods throughout the city: a newly built Rec Center that’s only a little more than a year old, and many other classes and activities to be done throughout the year.
In Swift Cantrell Park there is an inclusive playground that was built in 2020. The goal of this project being to make that that children of all abilities are able to have fun together. With a main structure that has wheelchair accessible ramps, sensory stations, and the newly built “We-Go-Swing” that allows people in mobility devices to not have to transfer from them to ride it, no one will be excluded from the fun. More information on the inclusive playground can be found on Kennesaw’s website.
This summer, Kennesaw residents can get involved by participating in the many age-old traditions taking place this year. In May there is the Backyard Campout, an event where families can go to Swift Cantrell Park and participate in a bunch of different activities, ending the day with tent camping. The next event to look forward to would be the Outdoor Movie Series. In the months of May, June, and July, Kennesaw residents can go to Swift Cantrell Park to watch Minions: The Rise of Gru, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Finding Nemo in that order.
In addition, one of the biggest events of the summer would have to be the Salute to America event. Kennesaw has hosted this event for over 50 years, with the first time being in 1995. “I’ve been going to it since I moved here,” said Jeanott Grantham, a Kennesaw resident, about the event, “It’s been going on for so long that I get to see my grandkids go as well. And it’s always fun.” Salute to America consists of fireworks, food, and musical entertainment.
The next event would be Pigs and Peaches. What started off as a simple backyard cookout has turned into one of the biggest events of the year. With McNair estimating that around 50-60,000 people can show up each year, it’s sure to be a big day packed with good music and barbecue fun.
More information on all of these events can be found on Kennesaw’s website via “The Playbook”. The Playbook is readily available online and is the place to look for every event or class taking place in Kennesaw each year.
The City of Kennesaw does a lot for its residents. The events and activities discussed in this article are just the tip of the iceberg representing the Kennesaw Department of Parks and Recreation’s actions for the community. McNair said that the current management in the department has only been in Kennesaw for around five years. Although that is the case, they are dedicated to making sure that Kennesaw residents have even more fun than they could have in the past.
“Almost everything we have, we didn’t create it, it was already there,” McNair said. “But with the staff that we have now, we’ve been able to enhance all of the events and programming that we inherited from the previous administration.”
Through a huge base of community support, volunteers, and dedicated city workers, Kennesaw is able to be a place full of joy and fun times for all of its residents. “If you get someone that says that they did not enjoy our events, they probably haven’t been to many of them,” said McNair.
Anyone in Kennesaw, whether they be a resident or visitor, should go out and experience these things. The City of Kennesaw is giving back to its community, so it would be a waste to not reap the benefits.