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Bookmark the Park: Literary-inspired park events take off

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | May 28, 2021

From left, Shepherdstown family Roula Hammer, David Hammer and Effie Kallas talk and look at nature-themed books at the beginning of Saturday’s Bookmark the Park kickoff event at Rumsey Park. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Shepherdstown residents biked, walked and even drove to Rumsey Park on Saturday afternoon, to participate in the Shepherdstown Parks & Recreation Committee’s kickoff Bookmark in the Park event.

The Bookmark in the Park series, according to committee member Effie Kallas, has been in the works for some time, but had to be postponed until this summer, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The series is featuring a different literature-focused event each month, in one of the six parks in town.

“This is post-COVID, and we haven’t seen each other in months!” said Marianne Alexander, of Shepherdstown, as she and two of her friends relaxed in their camping chairs and discussed the books they brought to the event.

Attendees were encouraged, for the kickoff event, to bring nature or springtime-themed books to discuss with other attendees. While many attendees each brought their own books, some decided to share, including mother-and-son Peggy McKowen and Matthew Macauley.

“We’re reading ‘The Secret Garden,’ which we felt fit the theme,” McKowen said, mentioning the two would take turns reading. “We just thought it was a beautiful day and a good opportunity to enjoy nature and the park.”

Shepherdstown Parks & Recreation Committee Chair Cheryl Roberts, left, talks with Peggy McKowen, of Shepherdstown, as McKowen’s son, Shepherdstown Elementary School fourth grader Matthew Macauley, looks on, at the beginning of Saturday’s Bookmark the Park kickoff event at Rumsey Park. Tabitha Johnston

McKowen was one of a few attendees who bought their books at Four Seasons Books, while others said their books came from the Shepherdstown Public Library.

“The parks’ good, the library’s good, so why not come to this event and support both?” said Betty Snyder, of Shepherdstown, as she perused her rented book.

According to Kallas, Four Seasons Books and the library are sponsors for the series, and have agreed to offer reading suggestions for those attending this and future Bookmark the Park events.

“We’re always wanting to encourage support of our local businesses and our local library and our local parks. This is the essence of Shepherdstown, so let’s combine them together!” Kallas said, as she sat with her husband and daughter in a camping chair semicircle under a canopy of trees.

“We wanted to have something to bring people to the parks! There are six parks in town, and we want to make sure people know about all of them,” said Shepherdstown Parks & Recreation Committee Chair Cheryl Roberts, mentioning this is one of two ways the committee is trying to raise interest in Shepherdstown’s parks. “We’ll be sending out a survey soon about the town’s knowledge of the parks.”

Shepherdstown residents Betty Snyder, Marianne Alexander and Carolee Youngblood, from right, talk about their nature-themed book choices at the beginning of Saturday’s Bookmark the Park kickoff event at Rumsey Park. Tabitha Johnston

Four of the remaining five parks will host a series event, Kallas said. On June 13, a book swap will be held at Viola Devonshire Commemorative Park at 2 pm. Attendees are encouraged to come with a book to read inspired by Father’s Day, Juneteenth or West Virginia Day, and to bring another book they’d like to exchange with another attendee at the book swap table. On July 24 at 11 a.m. at Riverfront Park, local book clubs will be encouraged to attend the event, with patriotic or historic books. On Aug. 20 at 5:30 p.m. in Cullison Park, the event will be an adults night. Attendees can look forward to a quiet time for adults to wind down after work with a few good books on a topic of their choice. On Sept. 12 at 2 p.m. in Bane Harris Park, the tables will be turned for a kids time, featuring a kids story time and play time.

“It’s a fun community thing — bring a book, come find a park, see what’s cool about it,” Kallas said.