Opelika Parks and Recreation receives three awards at ARPA State Conference


Special to the Opelika Observer

Opelika Parks and Recreation received three distinct awards at the 2019 Alabama Recreation and Parks Association (ARPA) State Conference.

The three awards included: Innovative Special Event of the Year, Innovative Program of the Year and Professional of the Year in Recreation.

The Opelika Shine Prom received the Innovative Special Event of the Year award. This award honors special events that exemplify exceptional innovation in design, presentation and implementation in the park and recreation field.

The Shine Prom is a special night out for teens and adults with special needs to enjoy an unforgettable night of dancing, food, limousines and a red-carpet entrance. The event was inspired by the Tim Tebow Foundation’s “Night to Shine” event, and it is executed by the Opelika SportsPlex, Chic-Fil-A TigerTown- Opelika and the Hudson Family Foundation. This past year it grew to include 150 guests, requiring about 400 volunteers to make the event happen.

The Toddler Drive-In Movie received the Innovative Program of the Year award. This award honors programs that demonstrate exceptional innovation in design, presentation and implementation in the park and recreation field.

This program was founded in summer 2017 by Mandy Johnson, event coordinator for Opelika Parks and Recreation. Johnson became inspired when she saw a picture on Pinterest of toddlers watching movies in their backyard while sitting in cars made of cardboard boxes. The event exploded with interest, with more than 50 kids showing up to participate.

“This unique event affords children ages 5-7 in the Auburn/Opelika area the opportunity to be creative,” said Laura Leigh Chesser, public relations coordinator. “It is really special to witness the feeling of accomplishment and excitement for what they created once their car is complete.”

Johnson also received the Merit in Recreation Award. This award recognizes outstanding leadership and innovation in the area of recreation, athletics, leisure or special event programming and/or instruction.

Since being hired as Event Coordinator, Johnson introduced several new programs including indoor and outdoor movies and a shopping trunk show.

“Mandy has brought a new level of creativity, innovativeness and organization to Opelika Parks and Recreation that we didn’t have previously,” said Chesser. “Mandy goes above and beyond her call of duty daily, and she works in a way that spreads joy and humor to the others around her.”

For more information, www.opelika-al.gov/341/Parks-Recreation.

Morgan Bryce
Opelika Observer
(334) 749-8003
(334) 749-8009 (f)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here