George Gershwin had it right when he penned his most famous song for the 1935 opera, “Porgy & Bess,” leaving the immortal philosophy on everyone’s lips: the livin’ is easy in the glorious, school’s-out summertime.
This is what every kid looks forward to during the other nine months. The parents, on the other hand, while most love the season as much as their kids do, sometimes struggle with how to keep their charges entertained, especially if they are employed.
Allen County is blessed with many summertime venues and events, including Science Central (where exhibits change periodically), the Botanical Conservatory, Fox Island, Metea Park, Salomon Farm Park, airboat rides on the rivers, biking and hiking on the Rivergreenway and more.
Fort Wayne residents Nora Hernandez and Ernesto Garcia, whose daughter Jocelyn is 6, work a split shift – she works in the morning while he stays with Jocy and then he works while she has Jocy for the afternoon. They do as much possible as a family all year round, with “mom time” and “dad time” alone with their favorite kid.
“Ernesto’s going to teach Jocy to swim,” said Hernandez. “She also loves going to the Y, the zoo, the library and the park, and if finances allow, we’ll go to Indiana Beach. And all three of us love to fish, so that will be a huge part of our summer.”
Melissa Johnson’s three kids (Ella Blu, 9, River, 8, and Eden, 6) have library trips (summer reading programs), camps (gymnastics, church), Vacation Bible School, Tin Caps games, local splash parks, Cedar Point, the zoo and oodles of other activities planned. “We also enjoy visiting the airport with a picnic lunch to watch the planes take off, going to Zesto and to outdoor concerts like the ACPL Rock the Plaza and Wednesdays on the Green at Indian Trails Park,” said Johnson, who teaches two days a week and whose husband works full-time.
“We’ll also be attending the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Camp at Indiana Tech (tennis and soccer). Time at home will be spent jumping on the trampoline, creating artwork, painting bedrooms and gardening.
“Last summer, we spent a great family-bonding week at my dad’s lake cottage, swimming, playing games and relaxing. We went to the Village at Winona and had dinner at the Boathouse Restaurant, visited the MudLove store and did sightseeing.
“My wonderful mother and mother-in-law will take turns watching our children. They’ll spend time playing at our house and visiting my mother in Noblesville. It is so nice to have grandparent time in the summer. I expect lots of boat rides, ice cream and giggles!”
Stay-at-home dad Jeff Gardner of Warren enjoys time with the kids while wife, Tiff, works at Pathfinder Services in Huntington. Justin, 22, Mariah, 18, Brandon, 11, Brad, 10 and Kaitlynn, 6, fill their summertime with baseball practices, the zoo, riding their ATV, trips to Grandma Carol’s house and to Indiana Beach.
“The boys go to Tin Caps games and take their baseball mitts just in case there is a foul ball they can catch,” said Tiff. “And Mariah and the little kids ride at a Fort Wayne stable and feed the horses and clean up the barn afterwards.
“Also, the four younger kids love fishing, where we fish at a Fort Wayne friend’s addition pond. Jeff also fishes but is nearly always out-fished by the kids! Often the bluegill are so hungry that they will bite again as soon as they’re thrown back. We tell the kids they are catching the same fish over and over again! They don’t care! Afterwards, we go to Bob Evans for dinner.”
Crystal Sponseller, a stay-at-home mom, and husband, Garth, have four children and says the family plans to go summering at the zoo a lot!
“I also try to find as many fun, free things for the kids to do as I can,” said Sponseller, whose children include Grace, 9, Daniel, 8, Claire, 7, and Wyatt, 5.
“We hope to do swimming lessons and hang out at the Arlington pool and the Jorgensen Y’s fabulous outdoor water park. Dare 2 Dream Youth Ranch is also on our list, and walking to Zesto’s on warm nights with neighbors, summer reading programs, VBS at Faith Baptist and East Allen County Church of Christ, the Three Rivers Festival and Tin Caps games.”
Last summer Sponseller left three of the kids at home while she and Garth went to Ukraine to adopt Daniel.
“It was so much fun to get back to a Fort Wayne summer, which is very different than an Ukranian summer. Going to the zoo and watching my kids bond over the things my sisters and I bonded over, like the monkeys and the lion drinking fountain, was very special.”