Steve Christ’s reasons for attending opening night of the program were simple: “It’s an inexpensive, fun night with the kids,” said the Perry Hall resident.
So there he was, relaxing in a lawn chair on Saturday night as the Disney film “Tangled” flashed up on the big, inflatable outdoor screen at .
Around him were hundreds of other families, friends, couples and neighbors enjoying the free film and popcorn. Many moviegoers spread blankets out on the Honeygo Run soccer field and opened picnic baskets or fast food bags. Others stood on the fringe and occasionally wandered over to the playground, tossed a football or chatted in groups.
An exact headcount wasn’t immediately available, but event organizers ran out of popcorn after distributing 500 bags. The crowd was so large that police had to direct traffic away from the park’s filled-to-capacity lot and toward nearby Sunni Shade Court.
“There are definitely more people here than I expected,” Christ said. “I had no idea.”
Sixteen-year-old student Gabrielle Minoza, who shared a blanket with classmate Aiah Bayawa, said attendance seemed to be larger than last year, but she didn’t mind. “It’s good to watch a movie outdoors, and it has always been nice weather when I’m here,” Minoza said.
This is the second summer for the “Movies in the Park” program, which is hosted by .
“Part of the DNA of the church is simply to serve the community,” said Campus Pastor Kelly Harrison. “The movie nights are just a great thing for families, dating couples, everybody—it’s free, it’s safe and it’s fun.”
Before the movie started, young guests were treated to face painting and balloon sculpting. Organizers also orchestrated a “Minute To Win It” game, used a giant sling shot to launch balled-up T-shirts into the crowd and held free raffles, including one that gave a group of lucky guests “VIP seating” and food provided by .
Echo Community Church, which incidentally meets each Sunday morning at , provides about 30 volunteers for each “Movies in the Park” event. Both AMC Loews White Marsh and Beltway Movies in Overlea donated the popcorn Saturday night, while Bayside Custom Renovations provided additional sponsorship support.
Harrision also acknowledged the considerable assistance of the Baltimore County Department of Recreation & Parks, which has made Honeygo Run Regional Park available for the next four Saturday nights. During that time, the movies will be “Despicable Me” (Sept. 10), “Toy Story 3” (Sept. 17), “Ratatouille” (Sept. 24) and “How To Train Your Dragon” (Oct. 1). Pre-show activities start at 7:40 p.m., with the featured presentation getting under way around 8:15 p.m.
Harrison smiled as he surveyed the gathering on Saturday and thought back to last summer’s Opening Night, when he hoped for 200 people to show up and instead got 650. The largest single-night attendance last year was 1,200, and the five-movie total hovered around 4,500—a number that is bound to be topped if the "Tangled" showing is any indication.
Echo Community Church, which currently has about 250 members, didn’t start holding Sunday services until this past January—more than three months after the first series of “Movies in the Park” concluded. Yet, according to Harrison, “We had people come to the services who remembered us from being here [at Honeygo park].”
“For us, we’re just happy to be able to give back to the community,” Harrison added.
More information about "Movies in the Park" can be found online at http://parkmoviesonline.com or on Facebook.