Treasure Hunt and Family Fun Day Draw Hundreds to Downtown Winter Haven on Saturday
by James Coulter
Hundreds of local children and their families visited Downtown Winter Haven for a chance to scour hidden toy figurines in shops and cafes and to enjoy free fun activities in Central Park last Saturday.
Both the Downtown Treasure Hunt and Family Fun Day drew local families to Winter Haven for a Saturday of fun and games at the park and at participating downtown businesses.
Hosted by Main Street Winter Haven, the Downtown Treasure Hunt allowed children to peruse several local shops and cafes in search of hidden LEGO figures. From Haven Roasters and Gourmet Goodies to Bah Dah Bling and the Treasured Olive, attendees could visit these establishments and have their maps stamped once they located the hidden figurine.
Overall, more than 900 children pre-registered for the event, said Bailey McDaniel, Main Street Executive Director. At 2 p.m., several hundred children and their families packed the Ritz Theater to witness the grand prize drawings and watch a family film afterward.
The completed treasure maps were placed inside a large wooden chest, and six were drawn from it to determine the winners of the contest. Five lucky winners received LEGO model toy sets, while the grand prize winner won a free trip to LEGOLAND Florida Resort.
Previously, the prize drawings were hosted at the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce. However, with more than 900 children pre-registered, this year’s drawing was hosted at a much larger venue at the Ritz Theater.
“It was a wild ride,” McDaniel said. “This is our first year at the Ritz…It is an astronomical number compared to previous years, so we are thrilled about that, and we might keep these changes.”
Main Street Winter Haven often hosts more adult-oriented events to draw people downtown. Their Downtown Treasure Hunt is specifically created with children and their families in mind, offering them an opportunity to explore eateries and other businesses in Downtown Winter Haven.
“I had someone come up to me and say this is such a cool experience with our kids and teach them about small businesses and shopping local because they picked up something at a different location,” McDaniel explained. “So, they might not have known about that coffee shop or store was there before, now they have some awareness, and that is something beautiful.”
Meanwhile, at Central Park, the Bridge Church of Winter Haven hosted its second annual Family Fun Day. Attendees could enjoy free family activities including bounce houses, carnival-style games, a children’s play area, and live musical entertainment. Aside from a fun day at the park, the event also offered several hundred free backpacks filled with school supplies.
“We do it because we want to see families in our community make memories,” said Dimitri Phillips, Bridge Church Pastor. “That is what we do: create an environment for families to enjoy themselves and also give away free school supplies. Inflation has jacked up, so if we can do something to help families in our community, the better.”
This was the second year the church hosted the event. Their attendance has since doubled, with 300 having attended last year and nearly 700 attending this year. They hope to host even larger events in the future that will draw in larger crowds, Dimitri said.
“It is about our community,” Phillips said. “Enriching them and helping them make families, and also cutting down costs by giving away school supplies and enjoy a few hours to themselves. For our next event, we keep making it larger and bigger, and reach far beyond the entire community.”