‘Movie in the Park’ a community treat

On July 9 the long awaited Movie in the Park premiered at historic Athletic Park playing “Field of Dreams.” The event was sponsored by Marshfield Clinic and the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce and was offered free of charge.

Paraphrasing the movie, “if you build it, they will come??¢??????¦” and come they did! More than 100 people came out to be a part of Merrill’s first Movie in the Park. Athletic Park was the perfect back drop for this heartwarming and sentimental story of the all-American past time of baseball and the bond the game can have between father’s and their children. The only thing missing was the cornfield, but then Athletic Park is tucked away in a tiny corner of Merrill and under the bright stars of the evening, it was easy for the viewers to imagine the corn was actually all around them. There was a real sense that at any moment a ballplayer from long ago would actually step out onto Athletic Park field.

Movie in the Park was sponsored by Marshfield Clinic and the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce and was offered free of charge to the public. The goal was to present a free, family fun night so in addition to the movie the sponsors set-up seven baseball themed games and activities for kids of all ages for two hours prior to the movie. Tons of prizes were awarded to the kids each time they played a game; favorite prizes were laser finger lights, so the night became ablaze with shiny, dancing multi-colored lights as the darkness rolled in signaling the start of the movie.

The audience was amazed as they entered the ballpark and saw a giant 20 foot inflatable screen sitting in the outfield. Quickly families staked out their prime seating locations with folding lawn chairs and blankets. The majority of the kids were excited because they had never seen a movie on the big screen outside and most of the adults reminisced about the fun times they had at the outdoor drive-in theaters of their past.

And just like those outdoor theaters of old, there was a concessions stand – this time operated by the Merrill Baseball Boosters who served up hot dogs, brats, hamburgers and chicken sandwiches, popcorn, nachos, candy and soda. A percentage of the profits were donated by the boosters to the Merrill Relay for Life, one of the charities that Marshfield Clinic sponsors annually.

Like many successful events, the first Movie in the Park left those in attendance wanting more. Although there is not another movie scheduled for this season, Marshfield Clinic and the Chamber are already talking about movies, themes and locations for next summer. “We were very happy about the number of folks that turned out for Field of Dreams,” stated Debbe Kinsey, Chamber executive director. “The positive comments and feedback that we received that evening and since then has been terrific and has caused us to begin discussions about potential movies and activities for next year.”

The modern “movie magic” began and ended with a great young couple from Superior who own this traveling movie theater. In less than 45 minutes they quickly unload, inflate, set-up a canopy tent and all the electronics needed to make the movies come to life. And just as quickly, the screen collapses and everything fits neatly into a small trailer, just as a curtain would fall upon a stage at the end of a play. No one would ever guess that the magic of Hollywood had come to life on the site just minutes earlier. In historic terms the production was reminiscent of the circus coming to town and everyone turned out to watch the big top go up and then come down again all in the blink of an eye.

Movie in the Park was a fun, fresh way to spend a summer evening with family and friends and the type of community event that we could all use more of.

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