AMERICAN CANYON, Calif. - Friday marks the celebration of the first weekend after California's reopening and a kick-off to summer in American Canyon.
The nonprofit behind a special new event at Shenandoah Park says there is now a free attraction to help families as they emerge from the pandemic.
It offers live music to lure people outdoors even under the hot sun. For many, it was their first gathering without a mask.
"I'm feeling at ease. I didn't think I would when I first got out. It's perfectly fine. I feel comfortable," says Tammi Haney, who lives nearby and came to participate in the festivities.
StoryWalk is the new attraction. It features a book, taken apart and displayed in 16 reading stations, spread out around the park. An adult reads and the children perform the activities in the story. It's a literacy and health program.
"With a goal of people walking, reading a few pages, walking some more, reading more pages until you get to the end of the book," says Janelle Sellick, executive director with American Canyon Community & Parks Foundation. It's the nonprofit behind the program funded by a grant from Redwood Credit Union based in Santa Rosa.
"Have fun, play, reconnect in a way that we haven't in a year and a half," says Sellick.
Parents say just being able to be around other families is helping their children after more than a year of social distancing.
Parks are essential, just being outside, letting kids run around. That's the main thing for any family," says Yuliana Miranda, the mother of two young daughters.
"It feels great. It's hot outside, but it's great to be around people. It feels like we're coming out of a tunnel," says Mike Tadewald, a parent who read to a group of children and led them on the StoryWalk around the park.
The storybook installation will be a permanent fixture at Shenandoah Park.
People say the best part is that it brings families and neighbors together.