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Kids give the Destination Playground their seal of approval

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Briana Sanchez / Tribune Kids run through the chain link construction paper Saturday, June 24, at Willmar's Destination Playground in Willmar.2 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Arielle Schmidt runs into Willmar's Destination Playground and goes straight to the cheese Saturday, June 24, in Willmar.3 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune People filter through the gates Saturday, June 24, at Willmar's Destination Playground in Willmar.4 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Kids and community members wait to enter Willmar's Destination Playground Saturday, June 24, in Willmar.5 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune People filter through the gates Saturday, June 24, at Willmar's Destination Playground in Willmar.6 / 6

WILLMAR — The past year has been a whirlwind for the Willmar Destination Playground and those who have worked to make it all happen. At 1 p.m. Saturday the adults who fundraised, designed and built the nearly 20,000-square-foot, fully accessible playground stepped aside for those the playground is meant for — the kids.

"It's cool. It is different than other ones. Its big and it has different swings," said Zinia Jansen, 12, of New London.

Kids, and their parents, started lining up for the grand open ceremony at Robbins Island almost an hour beforehand.

"It's exciting because it is nothing like we have at school," said Rylan Altermatt, 8, of New London.

While some of the kids had already had a chance to play on the structure, for many it was their first opportunity to really get into the playground and see what was all there.

"I think it looks awesome, the biggest park I've ever seen," said Ozzie Egan, 11, of Fargo, North Dakota.

"It's the funnest," added Joaquin Valdez, 8, of Willmar.

Many of the children anxiously waiting for the big moment already had their favorite pieces picked out.

"The swing set," said Angie Ulloa, 5, of Atwater.

There were probably several games of tag and hide-n-seek being played around the playground once it opened, since many kids planned to do just that.

"The tree house, play hide-n-seek. I think it's going to be fun," said Skyla Gomez, 5, of Grove City.

By far the most popular piece at the playground was the zip line.

"The zip line, because it's fast," said Eva Nelson, 6, of Willmar, with a big grin. Her brother David Nelson, 3, agreed.

The fact that the entire community paid for and built the playground for them wasn't lost on the kids.

"People put a lot of effort into it. It's awesome, doing that for the community is pretty nice," said Jacey Altermatt, 11, of New London.

Dave Baker, who first approached the city about putting in the playground at Robbins Island, was on hand to officially open it.

"It's an incredible moment for our community. Today is one of the proudest moments in my life," Baker said.

Dozens and dozens of children of all ages raced through paper chains created by the youngest helpers at the playground community build in May on their way into the playground.

Rachel Skretvedt and Kathy Schwantes lead the entire playground project as the steering committee's co-captains. As they looked over the playground filled with kids running and playing, it made the long hours and stress all worth it.

"I never imagined it would be as amazing as it is," Schwantes said.

"I'm so honored I was asked to do it. The community built this incredible playground and I was part of it," Skretvedt said.

As the kids ran around, swung on the swings, zipped on the zip line and climbed through the castle and treehouse, it was very clear the kids definitely approved of the Willmar Destination Playground.

"I wish I could come every single day," said Ayson Gordon, 6, of Murdock.