#GetOutside: Unexpected fun at Laurel Park

For this week’s edition of my scavenger hunt of parks in Conway, I visited Laurel Park to see who I could meet.

 

My first memories of the park are from the college years. I believe my roommate and I “discovered” it while venturing out after a meal at Stoby’s. I fell in love with the grouping of four small maple trees towards the middle of the eastern edge – a spot where the hubs and I spent many hours during our courting days. For the past sixteen years, I’ve found myself returning to the park for special events, running clinics, and everything in between.

Arkansans definitely love their outdoors time – doubly so if it’s an option at an unexpected time. So with breezy 70°F weather on Sunday, the plethora of activities happening in Laurel Park wasn’t a surprise.

I didn’t see anyone playing basketball, grilling, or in the gazebo, but all the other amenities of the park were in use. Picnics were happening at picnic tables. The playground equipment was teeming with children. The pavilion was in use. Tennis games were happening on all of the courts. The fields were host to soccer, kite flying, and other free play. The jogging track was spotted with mothers pushing strollers and others walking dogs. A family was enjoying the amphitheater, where I also spied recent chalk art. A grouping of hammocks was hung in the trees. The unexpected, though, was a gathering of forty or more larpers (live action role players).

Thrall filled his role as my ambassador and conversation opener perfectly. After letting those who wanted to enjoy some puppy love do so, Kathryn Chouinard happily answered a million questions for me.

Dagorhir (pronounced “dag-er-here”) is a historical fantasy-based live action role-playing and combat simulation organization. The group was at the park for a tournament between the Arkansas realms (chapters).

Kathryn’s been in the sport for almost two years. Her character, Laoghaire (pronounced “Lheer”) is part human, part faery and a co-leader of her unit, Viridian Dawn. Viridian Dawn, The Vanguard, Birgade, and Church of the Honey Badger are all units of the Fauldenfell realm (the Central Arkansas chapter).

Of course, the group of forty folks dressed up in an array of medieval costumes, some of whom were battling with each other, attracted many onlookers. They were very open and friendly, talking to anyone who was interested in learning more and even playing with the children who wandered up to them.

This diversity in activities and the folks one can meet is one of my favorite things about Laurel Park. The layout, size (26 acres), and array of amenities make it a perfect spot for a variety of events - so it’s almost impossible to know what to expect to find there on any lovely day.

Just in the past year, Laurel Park has hosted Earth Day activities, The Color Run, Kids Run Arkansas races, ArkansasAcro yogis, a free car wash by the City Church of Conway, Praise in the Park, Conway Pagan Pride Parade, dog training, Conway Arbor Day Celebration, Conway ArtsFest activities, a charity BBQ fundraiser, and so much more.

Sigma Kappa Sorority’s Easter egg hunt (April 26), Arkansas Walk for Apraxia (apraxiawalk.org, Sep 10), and Conway EcoFest (conwayecofest.com, Oct 8) are already scheduled to be held at Laurel Park this year with dates publicly announced.

For those who aren’t already familiar, Laurel Park has two main entrances. The northern entrance, parking lots, tennis courts, pavilion and amphitheater can be accessed at 2215 Prince Street – between the roundabout and Don Pepe’s. The southern entrance with the playground and pavilion is at 2310 Robinson Avenue, right past the Renaissance Women’s Center. Both sides have small green inverted-U bike racks. There’s also a pedestrian entrance in the middle of the eastern edge where Caldwell takes a 90° turn (and my favorite maple grouping is).

The park is readily accessible to many pedestrians who live, work, and study within a few blocks of it. It’s easily accessible by bike to anyone on the west, south or east. Folks will disagree about bike accessibility to anyone who would need to come down or cross Prince Street and I would highly recommend anyone doing so to be very aware of their surroundings as drivers don’t usually expect cyclists on Prince.

So whatever the reason, get outside, explore Laurel Park, and make sure to drive, bike, or walk there safely.

 

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