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Downtown Iowa City hosts first Parents' Night Out

BY MEGAN DEPPE | DECEMBER 06, 2013 5:00 AM

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The age-old question of how to go Christmas shopping without tots in tow can now be solved with an evening of festivities for children, giving adults time for shopping.

The Iowa City Downtown District and Parks and Recreation Department have teamed up to host the first Parent’s Night Out, an event in which parents in the area can drop children off at the Recreation Center for an evening of activities.

This event is to be held in support of the downtown event Celebrate the Season, which will have many holiday-theme activities for parents to participate in, as well as offering them a chance for Christmas shopping.

The event will be held today. Families who register beforehand paid $7, and families who register on the day of the event will pay $10. Children will be provided with an open gym to play in, as well as arts and crafts and a movie.

Downtown District Executive Director Nancy Bird said the district approached the Parks and Rec Department to co-host the event.

“It’s a great program that other communities have done to get parents and kids excited for the holidays,” Bird said.

This is the first event of this nature to be held in Iowa City, after seeing similar events have enjoyed success in places such as the Iowa Children’s Museum in Coralville.

Sarah Shimon of the Children’s Museum’s said parents were thankful for their event and the children enjoyed it.

“I think it’s a great program for anyone to host,” she said. “Parents can go shopping and make sure their kids are taken care of at the same time.”

Though there had not been any direct wishes for a program like this, Bird said it has been greeted with enthusiasm, and she expects a large turnout.

“It’s a win-win for both kids and parents,” she said. “This time of year, [these types of program] are really helpful for parents.”

Jessica Lang, the office coordinator of the Parks and Recreation Department, said the original maximum number of children the department expected to host was 50, but that number was expanded to 75 after seeing the number of children registered on Dec. 5. She also said the department is anticipating at least another 25 children to be dropped off on the day of the event.

Lang said the large turnout may be due to an unspoken need for a Christmas shopping trip without children along.

“What parent doesn’t need to go out and get presents without children with them?” Lang said.

Downtown shops preparing for the event also said they look forward to the event.

Ritu Jain, the owner of the Textiles, 109 S. Dubuque St., said kids are generally welcome in her store, but the event is a good idea for the children to enjoy themselves while parents shop.

“Being a parent, I think it’s a great way to go out and shop and know that your kids are having a good time,” Jain said.

Jain also said she expects to see an increase in shoppers for the night.

Lang and Bird said they were happy at the large turnout and said the District and the Parks and Rec Department would like to see this become an annual project.

They also said there is consideration for making a Parent’s Night Out event at other points during the year, depending on how families feel after the event is over. “This might be something that we explore in the future,” Lang said. “It’s definitely our hope.”


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