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Escalon Covenant Wraps Up Summerpalooza
Several dozen strong, kids from the Escalon community and beyond have joined in the fun Summerpalooza offered by the Escalon Covenant Church, a six-week program that runs each Wednesday. The final session in the summer program is slated for today, July 29, at the church.

"I introduced it last year," said Beverly Wilson, wife of Escalon Covenant pastor Mike Wilson. "This is a way to reach out to kids."

Developed initially when the couple was at a church in San Diego, Wilson said she saw the need for it here, especially since activities for kids tend to fall off in the summertime, after school and its accompanying extra curricular activities end.

"Last year we did eight weeks and it ran from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.," she noted.

This year, it was scaled back slightly, running from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. each Wednesday for six weeks. Response, Wilson said, has been huge.

"We've had our regulars," she explained. "We're averaging around 50 and we did spike at 80."

There are set activities each week, along with the opportunity for some special classes. Children also have the option of spending part of the afternoon at the nearby community pool. There is a $2 admission fee at the pool; otherwise, the entire program is free.

"We do have people in the congregation that couldn't volunteer (time) so they provided financial support," Wilson said. "We also have a donation can that people can choose each week to donate to if they want."

The program itself is underwritten by the church as part of its mission and community outreach. Volunteers to run the various classes and activities come from the church family, with a number of volunteers on hand to work with the children each week.

Program participants arrived around 3 p.m. each Wednesday and got signed in, then either opted for the short walk to the pool with a group leader or selected one of the many other activities. Those staying at Escalon Covenant for the afternoon rotated through the various classes, which ranged from crafts and cooking to art and dance.

One of the highlights this year, Wilson said, was the creativity of volunteer Matt Smith in developing fun and interesting games for the kids.

"He did bottle rockets outside with them, made goo, created a food shooter, he was just very creative," Wilson said.

Among those in the crafts class recently was Priya Stime, 7, of Escalon.

"I don't come every week," she said, adding that she enjoys the activities whenever she does make it the Summerpalooza. "I like to do the painting."

"I like the activities," added Logan Webster, 6. "I like cooking, I like cakes."

Nine-year-old Gabby Rigg was hard at work creating a grass skirt recently, part of the 'slumber party luau' special activity.

She said "having the crafts" was her favorite part of the summer program and, though swimming was an option, she decided to not go to the pool on a regular basis.

"I stay here," she said of working on her craft project and joining in the variety of activities offered at the Escalon Avenue Church. "There's enough to do."

The program also includes the serving of dinner to the youngsters, which was prepared and served by church volunteers.

"Then there's Bible-focused time after dinner, just to introduce them to the concepts," Wilson said of fitting in a spiritual aspect to the fun summer program.

Summerpalooza was offered to kids from five to 18 years old and the July 29 program will close out the summer series. Wilson said the final week will include a special celebration and re-cap of the event, just prior to the closing at 7 p.m.

"It has been a lot of fun," she said.