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Families flock to downtown for fun, movie
Louisa Leimbach, right, visits with Abby and Joshua Prince while waiting for the movie to start at the Movies on the Green at the Smithgall Arts Center Thursday evening. - photo by Tom Reed

Under a clear evening sky, more than 400 people gathered for a bigger version of a family movie night.

The first of Movies on the Green, a series of free movie showings held by the Smithgall Arts Center, kicked off at 7 p.m. Thursday on the lawn outside the Smithgall Arts Building.

The atmosphere leading up to the screening of "Bee Movie" buzzed with energy.

A variety of fun-filled activities was provided to keep the kids entertained until the movie began at 9 p.m., including face painting, magicians, art stations and a jumping house.

Some families brought their own picnics, but for those who wanted to indulge in typical movie fare, there were vendors selling everything from hot dogs to ice cream.

Giggling kids played catch, impromptu games of soccer and caught Frisbees while parents chatted away on blankets and in lawn chairs. "This event is a great way to get families together and give back to the community," committee chairwoman Anna Dempsey said.

"And the venue is perfect."

In the span of one summer, talking bees, surfing penguins, a mythic water horse and Audrey Hepburn will occupy the same 20-foot inflatable screen.

Movies on the Green has expanded its movie itinerary from three movies last year to four movies this year. The event is offering a lineup of family films such as "Bee Movie," "Surf’s Up," "The Water-Horse: Legend of the Deep" and the Audrey Hepburn classic "Breakfast at Tiffany’s."

Smithgall Arts Center Director Gladys Wyant said "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" is showing in August when most kids have gone back to school, so that couples and singles can mingle for the date night atmosphere.

Wyant added that if the movie event is rained out, the canceled movie will be featured at the next scheduled showing.

For Angela Parks and her daughter, Eva Perry, 13, of Gainesville, "just having a day out" with Movies on the Green was a perfect finish to a mother-daughter day filled with shopping.

Perry said that hanging out on the grass was a refreshing change. "Usually I don’t go outside because of all my schoolwork," she said, "so I like sitting outside."

Both said they would probably come again to check out the other movies.

For a night of fun family atmosphere and a free movie, outside with Movies on the Green is the place to be.

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