Araya Garcia, right, of Marion County Health and Human Services, plays a game with attendees to promote the new Family Connects program during the Hallman Neighborhood Family Council's inaugural "Fun Fridays at Northgate Park" event on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Italian sodas, football tosses and colorful crafts made Northgate Park a lively spot on July 9.

The Hallman Neighborhood Family Council hosted its first Fun Fridays in the Park, drawing hundreds of parents and kids for an evening focused on promoting health and education for young children.

Stefany Ponce said her daughter Daleyza, 6, was excited for a chance to get out of the house.

“She was talking about it all week,” Ponce said as Daleyza made a small butterfly out of pipe cleaners and a plastic bag stuffed with raisins.

The pair ran into a former preschool teacher while browsing the booths spread across the shaded west side of the park, Ponce said.

Daleyza Ponce, 6, decorates a magnet at the Food Hero booth during the Hallman Neighborhood Family Council's inaugural "Fun Fridays at Northgate Park" event on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The Hallman council, formed earlier this year, is part of a citywide effort to improve the quality of life in Salem’s lowest income neighborhoods by bringing together parents and giving them support to make their ideas reality.

Hallman’s council is led by longtime Salem activist Eduardo Angulo, whose house borders the park, and neighborhood parent Whitney Contreras. Their goal was to help families feel comfortable in public spaces in the neighborhood, which has seen an uptick in shootings this year. They also wanted parents to have easy access to information about healthy recipes, preschool programs and more.

A DJ played a mix of recent hits and classic songs including “Despacito” and “La Camisa Negra” while a volunteer led families in a dance fitness class. Angulo grilled hot dogs in his backyard, and hundreds of people entered a raffle for educational toys and other prizes.

Salem police officers chatted with kids and tossed a football around, while leaders at Valor Mentoring got a game of cornhole going.

Whitney Contreras and son Ivan wave to a friend during the Hallman Neighborhood Family Council's inaugural "Fun Fridays at Northgate Park" event on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Contreras, who attended with her three children, compared the planning process to going into labor. Friday evening felt like finally giving birth and getting to meet your child, she said.

“It feels good,” she said.

The council is planning weekly Fridays at the park through August 27. The theme on July 16 is “safety,” and Angulo said 16 organizations are participating.

Council member Ramon Arredondo, center, greets a visitor during the Hallman Neighborhood Family Council's inaugural "Fun Fridays at Northgate Park" event on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Salem Police Department cadet Ashley Setzer talks with visitors during the Hallman Neighborhood Family Council's inaugural "Fun Fridays at Northgate Park" event on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter) Attendees visit a booth at the Hallman Neighborhood Family Council's inaugural "Fun Fridays at Northgate Park" event on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter) Noe Contreras helps to hang a sign during the Hallman Neighborhood Family Council's inaugural "Fun Fridays at Northgate Park" event on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)Attendees walk in during the Hallman Neighborhood Family Council's inaugural "Fun Fridays at Northgate Park" event on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter) Meredith Mooney, of New Harvest Church, gives away Italian sodas during the Hallman Neighborhood Family Council's inaugural "Fun Fridays at Northgate Park" event on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)A family sits in the park during the Hallman Neighborhood Family Council's inaugural "Fun Fridays at Northgate Park" event on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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