NEWINGTON – When word spread that the annual Extravaganza and Camp Recreate were canceled this summer, the pandemic hit some families’ last nerves.
Newington Parks and Recreation made the announcement in late May, shutting down pools, special events, programs and camps. Then at the end of June, as Connecticut’s COVID-19 case count continued its steady decline and the state loosened restrictions, the department restored a few activities – and hope for a fun-filled summer after all.
“When we had to cancel everything, we were pleasantly surprised to see how many residents reached out to us because they really love the Newington Parks and Recreation system,” Superintendent Bill DeMaio said. “They were upset; but in a weird way it’s very invigorating to us. It makes us feel good that they love our parks, playgrounds, fields and activities.”
Select in-person camps are now permitted on half-day schedules with restrictions, per the Phase II reopening plan which kicked off June 17.
Recreation supervisor Karen Gallicchio and staff have put together at least 20 different sports camps running through July and August, some even stretching into the first week of September.
“Some have been so popular that we’re running them an extra week because of their success,” Gallicchio said.
The Ben Alaimo Baseball Camps began June 22 with Newington High School head baseball coach Ben Alaimo at NHS and Clem Lemire Recreational Complex.
Golf clinics for youth and adults will take place at Indian Hill Country Club all summer long, with beginner ladies meeting Wednesday evenings through July 22 and co-ed beginner adults Wednesday evenings Aug. 5-Sept 2. There will also be a co-ed junior golf camp for kids ages 8-14, set for July 14-17.
The department is collaborating with the NHS Boys’ Basketball Team to offer the Don King Sr. Basketball League, Tuesdays July 21-Aug. 18 at Mill Pond Park. The late Don King Sr. was an administrator and revered varsity basketball coach at the school for many years. He passed away in February.
NHS players will be coaching boys in grades three through eight from 4-8 p.m. each week.
“That’s brand new this year,” DeMaio said. “Don was very active in our community and we’ve named this new outdoor basketball program in his honor.”
For many summers, NHS Boys Tennis Coach Don Lukowski has taught tennis clinics at the high school courts. He will be joined by Girls Tennis Coach Sean Hussey Wednesday evenings for four weeks this July and August.
Newington Parks and Recreation is also partnering with the Skyhawks Sports Academy to offer a series of co-ed camps for youth.
Sand Volleyball Camp is running July-6-10 for ages 10-14 in Churchill Park. Basketball Camp is July 20-24 for ages 5-8 in Mill Pond Park. Flag Football is set for July 27-21 for ages 6-10 in Mill Pond Park
The Mini-Hawk Camp for ages 5-7 is set for Aug. 10-14 featuring a variety of sports fundamentals.
Call 860-665-8666 or visit Facebook.com/newingtonparksandrecreation for a full list of camps and activities.
Participation is limited and people are asked to stay home if feeling ill.
“We’re very serious about the rules,” DeMaio said. “We’re doing what it takes to put this together while staying safe to avoid spreading the virus.”
The department canceled its ‘Zoomirrific’ Virtual Summer Camp due to lack of interest.
“It really didn’t materialize after we found that parents don’t want their kids on computers this summer,” DeMaio said. “They want them playing outside.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.