MARSHALL - It sounds like a kid's dream. When the Christmas holiday falls in the middle of the week, as it did this year, it can sometimes mean more days off school than usual. In the case of Marshall Public Schools, students are in the middle of a two-week winter break - classes don't resume until Jan. 6.
"I like it," said Dillon Loft, as he and a cluster of friends took a break from ice skating at the Lockwood Motors Ice Arena last week. The kids were looking forward to everything from being able to sleep in, to doing family activities.
"We're probably going to go ice fishing this week. I've never done it before," said Justin Cavazos.
Photo by Deb Gau
With school out for the Christmas holiday, many local families were taking the opportunity to have some fun together. At the Lockwood Motors Ice Arena last week, Lydia Sussner kept an eye out for Lyzah Sussner, at left, and Libby Sussner as they learned the ropes of skating.
Local recreation areas like the ice arena and the sledding hill at Independence Park were busy last week, full of kids and families enjoying Christmas vacation.
But the question of finding something for kids to do during the long break isn't all about staving off boredom. It can also be a question of logistics, or of finding additional child care. Over the past week, some local residents said they were taking advantage of the long break for family activities or vacations. Meanwhile, some Marshall community organizations were planning programs geared toward giving school-age children something to do.
The children's department at the Marshall-Lyon County Library had extra activities planned during the holiday break, although children's librarian Mary Beth Sinclair said attendance has varied. A Lego building challenge on Saturday afternoon didn't draw many participants, but a kids' movie showing earlier in the week had an audience of about 10, she said.
"On Friday, things were really busy from 11 to 3 o'clock," Sinclair said. Patrons included kids and families checking out books and DVDs for the weekend. However, she said it's possible that many people were still on vacation last week and not really looking for things for kids to do.
"I think this week will be the real test," Sinclair said.
The same might be said of participation in some of the school-holiday programs at the Marshall Area YMCA. The YMCA holds its "School's Out Camp" program on days when school isn't in session. Families can sign up to have their children attend the day camp, which includes activities like swimming, crafts or outdoor play, said Cindy Rosa, the YMCA's assistant executive director.
"It's something we've offered since even before we had a building," Rosa said. In its earliest days, the Marshall camp was held at the Adult Community Center.
On Friday afternoon, a group of about 10 kids were participating in the camp, but Rosa said attendance often fluctuates.
"It really depends on the day, and when the holidays fall," Rosa said.
During the week of Christmas, area families were also finding ways to have fun together. The ice arena held holiday open-skate hours that were well attended. Attendant Sara Antony said she saw a wider variety of ice skaters Friday afternoon, ranging from local youth hockey players to younger children and families.
She said timing of the open skate periods, during the afternoon, may have also been a bigger draw for parents with first-time skaters.
"There are not as many of them later, at night," Antony said.
At the Marshall Bowl, there were a lot of lane reservations, and more families and kids bowling on Thursday and Friday night, said Brandi Shover. It was a different kind of crowd than usual for those nights, she said.
"Usually it's college students on Friday night," Shover said, but with the fall semester over, many students at Southwest Minnesota State University are out of town on their own vacations.
Getting a chance to have fun together with loved ones was one reason to enjoy the school break, local parents said Thursday. Combined with some mild weather right around the Christmas holiday, it seemed like a great time to go out sledding with the kids, said Darik Lyons.
"It's a little warmer out, so we might as well enjoy it," Lyons said.