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Recreation programs see fewer participants

Time of year, not economy, is to blame, officials say

POSTED: January 1, 2009 11:43 p.m.

Gainesville Parks and Recreation planned two days of activities for kids over winter break, called Camp Cold-A-Lotta and set for Monday and Tuesday. The only problem was, nobody signed up.

Some local organizations have seen participation fluctuate over the holiday season, with blame shared between the busy time of year and the poor economy.

Julie Butler-Colombini, Gainesville Parks and Recreation marketing and communications coordinator, said she thought Camp Cold-A-Lotta died because of the high volume of activities available in December.

"We don’t believe it was a factor of economics," Butler-Colombini said in an e-mail. "I think the low number was more related to a variety of options for kids during the winter break."

And Gainesville is not alone in seeing unstable numbers for its programs at this time of the year.

Katie Nuckolls, Hall County Parks and Leisure program coordinator, said attendance is a gamble.

"Some of them are just hit or miss," Nuckolls said. "Some of them we’ve had only one or two people sign up and then we’ve had others ... booked to capacity."

Nuckolls said some events she predicted would be popular ended up with a short attendance list.

The county planned "Parents’ Night Out" Dec. 19, which cost $8 and gave parents a place to bring their kids while they took care of last-minute Christmas shopping.

Nuckolls said she expected a full crowd but few attended. She thinks the economy could be to blame, with fewer people out shopping or willing to spend the extra cash on baby sitting.

Most of the county’s activities are inexpensive, and Nuckolls doesn’t think the economy has hurt most programs.

"I feel like with our stuff we always try to keep them very reasonable and low-cost," Nuckolls said. "We haven’t had a huge impact with the economy. It may even start to help us because it could be that our stuff is more reasonable than taking your family to the movies or something."

Sign ups for adult activities, like many kid’s programs, have had a decline over the holiday season, as well.

Kim Savage, the continuing education program coordinator for Gainesville State College, said she typically sees interest in classes decline around Christmas.

"It’s a little slower than normal," Savage said. "Part of it is the time of year."

Continuing education courses range in price from $25 for a landscaping class to $425 for real estate courses.

Gainesville State College’s brochures for 2009 classes were recently mailed out, so Savage said it is too early to tell whether or not the economy will affect interest.

"I don’t want to say it’s strictly the economy," Savage said.



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