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Empire Township gatherings remain popular

Empire Township has a good thing going on Sunday nights. A good, old fashioned, entertainment in the park kind of thing. And it keeps getting better every year.

This Sunday kicks off what Empire parks and recreation commission members think is the ninth season of the Empire Summer Entertainment Series. They're really not sure, though - it's been evolving as a biweekly, then weekly community event for so long, they've kind of lost track of the years.

But that's okay, because every summer, township residents keep coming back. In fact, as the years have rolled by, more and more seem to be coming out to meet their neighbors, enjoy some entertainment and just relax a little before their weekend is over.

"Many of the attendees are neighbors whose families live close by, go to the same churches, go to the same schools, see each other at our local businesses and generally are familiar with each other on a day-to-day basis," said Empire parks and recreation commissioner Jill Parkins. "It's just a fun little gathering at the end of the weekend."

The entertainment varies from week to week. Some weeks feature kid-themed entertainers, like the Heebie Jeebies Family Comedy Act playing this Sunday. Other entertainers are more for the parents, like when Twin Cities recording artist Tim Mahoney gives his free, acoustic performance in the park on July 15.

Not all of the programs are musical in nature. Some are more geared toward featuring nature, like when Walton's Hollow brings its petting zoo to the park, or when the Raptor Center brings its bird show. And some are just plain fun, like when the magician, the juggler or the yo-yo artist comes to the park. The season always caps off with a performance by the Farmington High School Marching Band.

Parkins isn't sure if it's just the entertainment that gets folks down to Town Hall Park, or if it's a combination of fellowship, entertainment, playground equipment and popcorn. The latter two, for sure, are popular among the younger visitors, she added.

"Watching the kids, the little ones that come up for the popcorn, they're adorable," she said. "There's kind of a 'something for everybody' feel out there."

Attendance each week depends on the performer, and the weather, but the more popular performances draw about 200 visitors.

The list of entertainers is available on the Empire township website, Flyers have been sent to homes in the township, and every week the parks and rec commission puts out signs to remind residents of the event. All of the performances in the park are free.

Empire's entertainment series shows generally run from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.