By Ann Reily
---- — Under a picture-perfect sky yesterday morning and afternoon, scores of children, parents and grandparents crowded Atkinson Common for the annual Kids Day in the Park.
They came for the bicycle and doll carriage parade and stayed for the free lunch, face-painting, games, crafts, music and more.
Organizer Jim Noyes estimated that at least 500 people would pass through the park by the end of the event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“People stay until we run out of food,” Noyes said with a laugh.
Latitude Sports Club served up about 500 hamburgers and 500 hot dogs, while Coca-Cola provided drinks and the Exchange Club of Greater Newburyport, which has been sponsoring Kids Day for the past several years, sliced up watermelon.
Many of the adults at the event marveled at the opportunity to entertain their children at no cost, while the kids seemed most excited to see a police dog and climb aboard the modern and antique firetrucks on display.
A group of Amesbury boys enjoying Richie’s slushes before heading over to the firetrucks all agreed that the Sheriff’s Department’s K-9 demonstration was their favorite part of the day so far.
“He found a gun,” said 8-year-old Nick Carullo. His mother, Erika, was quick to add that it was fake.
“Everything’s really fun,” Erika Carullo said. “It’s a beautiful day for it.”
The Carullo boys, who also include 7-year-old Ben and 4-year-old Jacob, were joined by friend Logan Genualdo, 4, on their first Yankee Homecoming outing of the year. Having just returned from vacation, Erika said they were looking forward to checking out the rest of the week’s activities.
Another popular attraction was the Kids as Peacemakers’ face-painting booth, which had a long line stretching from it all day. Butterflies were a popular choice for the girls, while 2-year-old Liam Dellapaolera of Amesbury was eager to get an eagle.
Liam had spent the morning with his grandfather, Richard, who collects eagle items, before being joined around noon by his mother, Angela Ward.
“They have so much going on for the kids, it’s great,” said Richard Dellapaolera, a North Hampton, N.H., resident.
A new feature this year included the Story Walk set up by Family & Community Connection, a Community Action program that serves families in Amesbury, Newburyport and Haverhill.
Children could walk along a path to read the pages of “Not a Box” by Antoinette Portis. On the way, they could stop at activity stations that included naming the bunny in the story — some suggestions offered were Elephant, Happy, Fluffy and Coco — and games using everyday objects such as cardboard boxes, paper plates and paper towel rolls.
“I tried to pick things that would be easy for families to do at home,” said Donna Forcier, who was manning a table at the end of the path along with co-worker Hassanatu Bah.
“We’re promoting literacy and encouraging parents to read to their kids,” said Bah, who handed out free copies of “Not a Box” to children who stopped by.
And the day wouldn’t be complete without entertainment, which included storytelling with the Newburyport Public Library, singalongs with musician Steve Swochak and 10-minute performances of “Sleeping Beauty” by Theater in the Open.
“We’re super-excited to be here,” said Beth Randall, production manager for Theater in the Open. “What we brought today is a mixture of students and teachers from our summer workshop.”