By Jason Armstrong
A few years back I had an AmeriCorps service member by the name of Nicky Becher come to me and introduce the concept of game and craft night in the park. Nicky proposed that this event take place every Friday night during the summer, starting in July. This would allow the family of campers to come together and acclimate to the park while learning about all the weekend events that take place. However, game night has proved to be much more than that for me.
I think back to my years as a State Trooper and the many efforts to connect with the community through my profession. Many of these attempts were community organized events, public speaking in schools, coaching, and even if you can believe it, chaperoning many high school graduation trips. None of these experiences compare to the enjoyment and connections that are created at game night.
These experiences have been really highlighted over the past few weeks, especially since game and craft night did not happen in 2020. Two weeks ago, I was heading into game night to M.C. the giant Jenga game when I came upon a family that had arrived early. I recognized the entire family, but one face really stood out. I met Kayla a few years earlier and Kayla was so energetic to play and beat everybody at Jenga. To this date, Kayla is the only player that has finished Jenga in the park without a single move left. Fast forward to 2021 and Kayla was so excited to talk and share some of her experiences. Kayla was so proud of her new campaign hat (which I love) and her new Park Ranger shirt. Kayla’s park ranger shirt was adorned with Washington State Parks character pins and Junior Ranger badges. Kayla was less involved with playing giant Jenga this year, but we had the opportunity to talk during the entire game night and catch up with her experiences since I had last seen her.
Game and craft night is not just about shared experiences though. I get to meet many families that have never been to Deception Pass State Park and provide small history lessons. The easiest one to talk about is the Amphitheatre and how it came to be. However, during these experiences I firmly believe and encourage families to play and learn together through our many opportunities at game and craft night. Some of these games are giant Tic-Tac-Toe, Yardzhee, Cornhole, and toss the ring. Craft projects have been things like animal foot molds, hand puppets, custom T-shirt nights and hand-crafted necklaces. The rangers do a fantastic job sitting at the table and engaging all the visitors. As you can see, Ranger Anderson has proved to be extremely artistic and wins necklace of the night.
In closing, game and craft night is not just for campers. I encourage community members to come out and enjoy the company of other visitors and park staff. The human connection is one of the most powerful tools we have at healing ourselves and our community. Game night is always followed by a live concert in the park each Saturday. These concerts are culturally based and are a small festival in the park. Just this past Saturday a mom came up to me and wanted to share a photo she had taken. The experiences from Friday game night created this immediate connection and bond which will carry forward into future years. I cherish each one of these experiences and look forward to every Friday in the park.
Striving to be graceful and kind to one another as we build a community at Deception Pass State Park; determined to connect families with nature.