Buckwalter Place Park is off Buckwalter Parkway at Buckwalter Place, near the Don Ryan Center for Innovation.

Bluffton’s various parks will be featured in three special events that celebrate families, friends and fun. Two events in particular are planned to bring families with young children together from all over town.

“Most Bluffton families have young children and the town wanted to celebrate our families and bring our neighbors together with these events,” Mayor Lisa Sulka said. “These events also give families an opportunity to socialize with neighbors and children outside of their neighborhood.”

“Jump into Summer” on June 11 at the Buckwalter Place Park will feature bounce houses, video games played on a Jumbotron television, lawn games, a DJ playing music, a concession stand, and fun prizes for participants.

“Slide Out of July” is scheduled for July 16 at Oscar Frazier Park’s Field of Dreams and will give kids a fun way to cool off as they splash through waterslides. That event will also include video games, lawn games, a DJ, a concession stand, and fun prizes.

Both events are free and will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be charges at the concession stands.

Town Manager Stephen Steese said it was the town’s way of encouraging folks to gather again after all the restrictions from the pandemic.

“As we move from pandemic to endemic, we want to get the community together for events. We are making it a priority to try to encourage that, especially with as much growth as we have had in the past two years,” said Steese. “They might not have had a chance to get out to Mayfest and the Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival. We want those people to become part of the community as well as take these events to other parts of the community –and not just in Old Town.”

Buckwalter Place Park is in the Buckwalter Place shopping center on Innovation Drive. Oscar Frazier Park is on Recreation Court off 8th Avenue.

The third big summer bash is the town’s inaugural Independence Day Celebration, scheduled for July 2. Events and activities will take place at and between the Martin Family and DuBois Parks in the heart of Bluffton.

The pre-party fun begins at 5 p.m. in both parks, and the fireworks will begin at about 9 p.m.

Fun at the Martin Family Park will include the Lowcountry Boil Bluegrass Band. Jevon Daly, the lead singer, will also provide a 45-minute special program asking kids to perform with him between the band’s music sets.

Games, such as an inflatable axe and score-a-basketball hoop, will be available at Martin Family Park. Children will receive a patriotic-themed prize at each game station, while supplies last.

Food and drinks, such as hotdogs, pretzels, snow cones and lemonade, will also be available from a vendor at Martin Family Park.

A rock wall, bungee jump station and bounce houses will be located throughout and between Martin Family and DuBois Parks.

The fireworks display will begin around 9 p.m., launched from a barge in the May River. The whole show can be viewed from Oyster Factory and Wright Family Parks.

The impetus for this celebration was inspired by some generous folks who sponsored a similar display before the pandemic shut things down.

“They paid to do the fireworks and shot them off, but during COVID that kind of fell to the side,” Steese said. “We want to make it more than fireworks, to be together and take advantage of the natural environment we have with the park and the river, and work the fireworks into that all together.” 

Steese said the results were the work of town staffers Lyndee Simoneaux, special events manager, and Debbie Szpanka, public information officer, who did a great job of pulling it all together.

“I want to see more events to get the community together, to get the music and the rides and games and blowups. I saw how excited people were with the Christmas parade and the movie, and how excited they were to get to together and have these events,” said Steese.

The Martin Family and DuBois parks are on Boundary Street between Lawton and Green streets in Bluffton.

Parking will be limited but available at spots within walking distance of the event sites.

The Martin Family Park’s parking lot will be closed to stage the activities. Lawrence Street, between Boundary Street and Martin Family Park’s parking lot, will be closed from 9 p.m. Friday until 9 p.m. Saturday. Green Street, adjacent to the park, will also be closed. Parking will still be available on Boundary and Lawton Streets, adjacent to DuBois Park.

The public can park at the Cornerstone Church parking lot, accessible from Calhoun Street and Boundary Streets. The town has an agreement with this church for free parking.

Campbell Chapel AME Church’s parking lot, located on Boundary Street, will be available for public parking for a $15 donation. These donations will help fund the church’s children’s program.

First Zion Missionary Baptist Church, located off Wharf Street – about a block from Oyster Factory Park – is allowing parking for a donation to the church’s programs.

There is free parking at Dr. Mellichamp Drive’s parking lot, Town Hall, and M.C. Riley Sports Complex.

Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.