Summer finally arrives at Willmar Parks and Rec

The 2020 summer recreation program with Willmar Parks and Recreation kicked off on Monday with a reduced slate of activities for youth. The COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns have required staff to come up with a new way to offer summer fun for the kids while trying to keep them safe and healthy.

Willmar Parks and Recreation Summer Recreation programming opened for the summer on Monday, offering kids a wide variety of activities. At Miller Park, the sports sampler give children ages 3 to 5 the chance to try out different sports and games. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — It isn't the summer recreation program the Willmar Parks and Recreation Department had been hoping for, but even the start of a pandemic-shortened season is something to be excited about.

"We wanted to get the programming up and going," said Rob Baumgarn, Parks and Recreation director.

The season started Monday and activities will be available into August. While some favorites such as wrestling, which is a full-contact activity, most likely won't take place this summer, there are a variety of programs that families may choose.

Kids can try their hands at baseball, softball, soccer and other games. As the state's coronavirus plan changes through the summer, Baumgarn hopes to add even more. The most recent change in guidelines has allowed the city to open up basketball and volleyball.

"Hopefully after the Fourth of July, we'll be able to offer more programs," Baumgarn said.


Parks and Recreation is also allowed to put together competitions and games with neighboring cities, something they were not planning only a week ago. Prior to last week's executive order update, the department was focusing more on skills and drills.

New guidance from the state Department of Health recommends that youth sports games and scrimmages resume June 24 or later for outdoor sports, and July 1 or later for indoor sports.

"This opens up the door a lot for us," Baumgarn said.

Registration for summer recreation programs was mostly done online, though kids can still sign up. More information can be found on the Parks and Recreation Department page at or by calling 320-325-1454. Scholarships are available.

"We don't want to deny anyone the opportunity to do our programs," Baumgarn said.

So far registration has been steady for some programs and low for others.

"It will be interesting to see if people want to do this," Baumgarn said. "It is not like it was last summer."


The state is also allowing the start-up of adult summer leagues. More information about registration can be found on the department's website or by calling.

Parks and Rec has a coronavirus procedure in place as an effort to keep everyone participating as healthy as possible. Parents, when they register their children, are being asked to read the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines regarding COVID-19 and mark on the form that they understand them and the potential risk involved in taking part in summer recreation programs.

Participants will be separated into groups with one staff member for every nine kids, to help reduce the risk of spread.

"They will stay together the whole time," Baumgarn said.

Staff will clean equipment between classes, for example sanitizing the baseballs and spraying down benches. There will also be hand sanitizer available for use, and when possible kids should try to use their own equipment.

"Everything gets disinfected after each section," Baumgarn said. "We have never thought of this stuff before."

One of the biggest challenges will probably be keeping kids socially distant from each other. For many this is probably the first time they will be with larger groups of kids since schools ended in-person classes in late March.

"Kids will want to congregate," Baumgarn said. "It will be interesting."


The coronavirus has definitely impacted Willmar's summer recreation program, but sthe taff always hoped they would be allowed to offer something. Even prior to in-person activities starting up, the department was offering programs such as the 100 miles in 100 days biking challenge with Mayor Marv Calvin or giving recreation ideas for individuals and families.

"Our job is to provide services for the community," Baumgarn said. "We need to provide activities."

The most important reason Baumgarn and his staff wanted to get going was the kids.

"They are hungry to get out and do something," Baumgarn said. "Kids have to get out, they have to get moving and grooving."

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email or direct 320-214-4373.

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