- Sponsorship -

Cedar Springs students surprised by ‘ultimate party at recess’

Park Party Recess season kicks off

The Park Party Recess provided a fun summertime break for students

Cedar Springs — Cedar Trails Elementary students shuffled outside recently for what they thought would be a normal mid-morning recess, but their pace quickened to a jog, then a sprint, as they saw what was in store for them: bounce houses, obstacles courses, music and more.

The occasion? Maranda’s first Park Party Recess of the summer. 

The WOOD-TV8/WOTV kids and family expert has been hosting the events for 30 years, and she kicked off the milestone season with a surprise visit to Cedar Springs.

Kids during the summer just need a break. You’re in a hot, sweaty classroom; you’re trying to learn; you want to be a good student, but it’s just hard and you need to know you’re not forgotten.’

— WOOD-TV8/WOTV kids and family expert Maranda 

The party brightened the day for more than 200 summer school and Campus Kids childcare program students, including Drew Wiethurst and Parker Duram, who are both going into fifth grade in the fall. 

Drew and Parker said the party was a welcome and unexpected change of pace.

“This was such a surprise,” Parker said of the event between bites of an ice-cream treat handed out as it got underway.

“It was super cool,” added Drew, beelining for the Kent County Sheriff’s Office station, where he hoped “to get arrested” — or maybe just take a tour of the onsite cruisers.

For Parker, the top draw of the morning was the inflatable obstacle course.

Rewards of Learning

Cedar Springs Superintendent Scott Smith said the event fits well into the district’s mission to keep school rewarding and engaging, even in the summer.

“You want to make school something that kids can’t wait to get to,” Smith said. “We want them to have that internal drive. So an event like this just really is a surprise. It’s engaging; it’s very exciting — it’s one of those things that makes kids want to come back and learn more.” 

He added: “It’s just a neat way to engage with students and help them celebrate and help them see learning as a positive reward.”

Everyone’s Invited, Everything’s Free

Rewarding students in accessible and affordable ways was part of the inspiration when Maranda started the events — then simply called Park Parties — 30 years ago.

Maranda hands out ice-cream sandwiches to Cedar Trails Elementary student Kayden Haynes

“I was thinking about all the kids watching me on TV talking about all these fun places, but knowing that a lot of kids never have the opportunity to do that,” Maranda said. “So I thought, ‘What can I do where every kid is invited and everything is free?’” 

She started holding massive county-wide events that drew about 10,000 people each. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic signaled a need to scale back, but Maranda was adamant that the events not stop. She and her team helped pass out food boxes to students during the pandemic, and the recess events evolved from there.

“Kids during the summer just need a break. You’re in a hot, sweaty classroom; you’re trying to learn; you want to be a good student, but it’s just hard and you need to know you’re not forgotten,” Maranda said. “So our vision was: the bell rings and kids can run out of the classroom and be surprised with the ultimate party during recess. 

“We’ve been doing this for a few years, but we’ve stayed true to the mission of Park Parties: bringing the party to kids who need it, and that’s what this is.”

A Day to Remember

Courney MacDonald, Cedar Springs’ director of summer programs for kindergarten through eighth grade, said Maranda’s event is a great way to ensure that education and enjoyment are correlated in the minds of students.

“We try to do a lot of fun stuff so they have a positive association with school,” MacDonald said. “Oftentimes when kids struggle with school, it doesn’t create positive memories or positive experiences, so this is just an amazing way to get them to fill those gaps.”

The Cedar Springs event did just that, she said.

“I think they’ll remember this probably for the rest of their lives,” MacDonald said.

Maranda has three more Park Party Recess events coming up this summer, but the specifics are being kept under wraps to preserve the element of surprise.

Partners for the event included the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, the Cedar Springs Fire Department, Future Farmers of America, Meijer, Fifth Third Bank, Kent ISD and more.

Read more from Cedar Springs: 
Educators and business leaders team up to help build school-to-work pipeline
Building character: ALC members visit Green Acres

- Sponsorship -
Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley is a reporter covering Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids and Sparta school districts. An award-winning journalist, Riley spent eight years with the Ludington Daily News, reporting, copy editing, paginating and acting as editor for its weekly entertainment section. He also contributed to LDN’s sister publications, Oceana’s Herald-Journal and the White Lake Beacon. His reporting on issues in education and government has earned accolades from the Michigan Press Association and Michigan Associated Press Media Editors. Riley’s early work in journalism included a stint as an on-air news reporter for WMOM Radio, and work on the editorial staff of various student publications. Riley is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He originally hails from western Washington.


Related Articles

- Sponsorship -

Issues in Education

Making Headlines

- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You Live WGVU