August is many things in the Petersen house. It is back-to-school month. (A big deal in a house with both a student and a teacher in it.) It is Dad’s birthday month. (Traditionally celebrated with a fussy craft beer and maybe a trip to a Marlins game.) And it marks the annual end of Friday Night Sweating in Holiday Park season.
FNSiHP season is, of course, a Fort Lauderdale tradition, also known by its official city name, Starlight Musicals. Every Friday from early June to mid-August, locals turn up on one of the Holiday Park football fields to watch a band.
Well, I say “watch a band.” Dancers and serious band-watchers migrate to the front, near the stage. For the rest of the assembled, sticky masses, it’s a sort of picnic/tailgate hybrid. Beer, wine and those water-with-booze-in drinks are consumed. Chicken wings are passed around. Kids band together and disappear to corners of the park, just close enough to be within earshot, just far enough to have fun. It’s a neighborhood party.
And yeah, it’s the worst time of year to be outside in Fort Lauderdale. It’s the drenched-in-sweat-walking-from-the-Publix-parking-lot-to-Publix time of year. It’s as moist and brutal at 8pm as it was at 2pm. But that’s fine, we’ll take it. If we wanted to live somewhere where it’s pleasant in July and August, we’d go somewhere where it’s dank and sad the rest of the year.
This is Fort Lauderdale Magazine’s community issue, and parks make up such a big part of any community. That’s why, in this issue, we look at some new programs in the city’s parks. One’s a program for kids, another’s for adults. Both aim to give people options for getting active in a way that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Both are a reminder that parks aren’t just green spaces with ballfields and playgrounds – they’re places where people come together and form communities. Some of those communities come together in the obvious ways, like kids’ sports. But there are other ways as well. The classes for kids and adults that teach everything from karate to coding. The free public events – including, yes, concerts. The little park additions for specific subsections of the community. (My wife usually takes the dog to the Holiday Park dog park; on the rare occasion that I do it, I always wind up chatting to the dog-park regulars who are on a first-name basis with Smokey.)
Summer’s ending, and the wagon we use to drag party supplies to Starlight Musicals will soon be put to other purposes – namely, carting softball equipment around the same park. Our park, as we think of it. Although of course, yours too.