MIDWEST CITY — Fran Gilles and his staff are trying to keep up. As the economy continues to slump, residents of eastern Oklahoma County are looking for more entertainment options close to home. That’s where Gilles and the Midwest City Parks Department come in.
"Everybody can’t afford to go to the Bahamas or on expensive vacations,” said Gilles, parks supervisor. "We try to offer good, quality programs, and we also try to keep our parks nice and clean and user-friendly.” Popular parks programs continue to draw big crowds, Gilles said. The annual Daddy-Daughter Dance is expected to draw nearly 1,000 attendees. "It’s a really neat event for dads and daughters,” he said. "Almost every city’s offering one, and nearly every one is selling out. We try to make it as elegant and nice as we can.” The interest has spurred a similar event: a mother-son luau. Another new parks activity is an adult recreation soccer league, which is set to start in March. In 2009, parks officials hosted the first Doggy Paddle, a day when dog owners brought their pets to the city pool. "For the first time doing it, it was way above expectations,” Gilles said. Gilles said there are many long-term goals for the department. For example, a dog park, pool remodeling and a skate park addition could be future improvements. "Those are some of the things that are on our list,” he said. "But we want to maintain and improve what we have now." Gilles said he and other parks employees are always listening for new ideas and are open to suggestions.