Earlier this month, a wonderful coincidence occurred in the Twin Cities connecting local youth to a national movement rooted in sports and community. On August 8th, hundreds of people came together in North Minneapolis to participate in two official Guinness World Record attempts at North Commons Park. This was the culmination of three weeks of youth activities and summer games, coordinated by Seeds to Harvest, a community-based coalition of non-profits centered on service, play, and youth programming.
Meanwhile, on that same day on the St. Paul side of the river, the Hmong community was at the center of a celebration for 2020 Olympic Women’s Gymnastics All Around Gold Medalist, Sunisa Lee.
Together, these events represent the promise of youth, play, and athletics. They point to a future where the Twin Cities can rise above the headlines of the past year and into a new understanding of, and commitment to, the next generation’s health and well-being. They are incredible points of pride centered on a region that is enriched by racial and cultural diversity. In the case of Minneapolis, the community sees our parks at the center of their vision.
Seeds to Harvest’s world record attempt event at North Commons Park capped the first City of Lakes Summer Games, a community-centered tournament for third through eighth graders, timed to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics. From Sol of Cities Futsol youth football league to mountain biking and even chess, the roster of City of Lakes Summer Games events hosted a range of activities. Organizations including Growth and Justice, Playworks, the Loppet, MPRB, the local YMCA, and many, many more came together under community leadership to instill a renewed sense of place and pride around one of our cities most storied parks.
The Sunday world record day was as festive as a fair. People began arriving hours before the start of the event – to play soccer and basketball, to paint a mural, and to set up for the world record attempts, which included the most people playing catch with an American football and most people doing a jumping high-five simultaneously.
As the record attempts neared, more people arrived – in pairs, families, and small groups – drawn by the food and vendor fair, the live broadcast on KMOJ, or social media posts by attendees to come join the crowd. “The best part was the feeling of community, the range of people who showed up,” said Paul Bauknight, Minneapolis Parks Foundation’s Project Implementation Director and an official steward at the event. “Every age, occupation, ethnicity, the whole range – it was a great feel.”
As people lined up to be officially counted and led onto the field, they were matched up in pairs. For some, their partner was someone they already knew; for others, they joined forces with a stranger in a sort of community-wide “blind date” that created connections where, under nearly any other circumstances, would never have been made.
In the end, new world records weren’t set (this year) – they were shy about 40 participants (out of 600). Like an athlete who earns a spot on the Olympic team through commitment, perseverance, and teamwork, Seeds to Harvest and its partners – and the North Minneapolis community – still came out as winners. This was just the beginning. Looking ahead, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation is committed to an emerging vision from the community that puts North Commons Park in the center of a neighborhood renaissance that celebrates the wealth of our community beyond records and medals, but more specifically, by the promise of the future held by each child.