UNION — The weather may have kept attendance off a bit but a large crowd including approximately 300 children nevertheless turned out for a morning of fishing and other fun activities at Saturday’s J.A.K.E.S. Public Safety/Kids Fun Day event at Foster Park Lake.
The J.A.K.E.S. (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics, and Sportsmanship) Public Safety/Kids Fun Day is sponsored by the Union Public Safety Department in cooperation with the National Wild Turkey Federation, SC Department of Natural Resources, and the US Forest Service. It is an annual event that provides children up to the age of 15 with the opportunity to enjoy a morning of fun activities including fishing.
Enjoy them they did Saturday morning, even though the day began with overcast skies that threatened the possibility of rain.
“Attendance was a little bit off,” Union Public Safety Director Sam White said. “The weather hampered things a bit, but they still had a good crowd there. It was cloudy at first but it cleared off and everyone had a good time.”
The event is for children and White said approximately 300 were signed up to fish in the lake. Only children 15 and under were permitted to fish in the lake from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday. The only adults that could fish during that time were those assisting the children.
The banks of Foster Park Lake were lined early on with children eagerly fishing for the catfish that the lake had been stocked with for the event. Parents, older siblings, other relatives and friends were also there to lend the young anglers a helping hand when needed. The number of fish caught grew rapidly throughout the morning as the participating children — with a little help from time to time — reeled in more and more catfish.
US Forest Service Forester Chris Smith said that were definitely biting during Saturday’s event. Smith said that in some cases people caught so many fish they couldn’t actually carry them to their cars but had to drag them. He said he has previously seen people carrying as many as 20 fish from such an event, but on Saturday he saw some people with as many as 50 fish.
Fishing wasn’t the only activity for the children at Saturday’s event. There was also rock climbing where many young, aspiring mountain climbers attempted with varying degrees of success to reach the top. There was also archery and BB guns to test the aim of the children who availed themselves of the opportunity to use a bow and arrow and/or a BB gun for some target practice. There was also a smoke house where children learned what to do if they find themselves in a house fire and a fire truck and an ambulance to give them a close up view of the vehicles emergency responders use get to get an emergency and save lives.
Smith said that after fishing the most popular activities at Saturday’s event the archery range and the BB gun shooting gallery. He said that from 9 a.m.-noon there wasn’t a minute where there wasn’t at least one child learning how to shoot either a bow and arrow or a BB gun.
Prizes were raffled off throughout the day and at noon Union Public Safety officers handed out bag lunches containing hamburgers and potato chips to all the hungry young anglers.
In addition to Saturday’s event, there was fishing rodeo at Foster Park Lake on Thursday for special needs students from area schools including Union County High School. Smith said that approximately 75 students took part in that catch and release event.
White, who was present for Saturday’s event along with a number of other public safety officers and other members of the sponsoring organizations, said that it was especially heartening to see so many children fishing and taking part in the morning’s activities.
“It’s really kind of neat when you see the kids there,” White said. “Many of them have never been fishing or do it rarely. This gets them out from in front of the TV or off their cellphones and gets them in the outdoors and the fresh air.”
The shores of Foster Park Lake were filled with children and families taking part in Saturday’s J.A.K.E.S. Public Safety/Kids Fun Day. Only children 15 and under were permitted to fish in the lake during the event from 9 a.m.-noon, the only exception being parents and/or other adult family members assisting the child fish for the catfish the lake was stocked with for the event.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.