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Oil City Opinions: Group offers alternative to ‘day-drinking holidays’

Memorial Day 2021 (Greg Kearney)

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‘Family Day’ offers substance-free alternatives

Hi there!  My name is Sheena Hixson. I am a 6th generation born-and-raised Casper native, and I LOVE my community!  Many people in the community know me from school, or through different social groups, and some of you may know me as the Chair of the Natrona County Prevention Coalition (NCPC). It’s from that position that I write to you today. 

If you ask anyone who works in the prevention field, they will tell you the goal of our job is to work ourselves out of a job. NCPC is group of individuals and organizations here in Natrona County that are working hard to reduce substance misuse in our community. One of the ways we do this is by changing habits and social norms. These changes start in the home, with the family, and the effects are often very difficult to analyze. As a data driven leader in prevention, I see the cumulative value in decreasing DUIs, domestic violence, and substance use of minors, while simultaneously increasing attendance at schools, improving grade point averages, and promoting healthier youth and families all around. It’s all about piling on those protective factors and decreasing risk factors for substance use. When those small changes become the cultural norm, we know we’ve made a lasting impact.

That’s why 13 years ago, Mercer Family Resource Center (Mercer FRC) and NCPC began hosting Family Day, a free family-friendly alternative to alcohol related events occurring in town following the annual parade. Back then, Parade Day had a day-drinkin’ vibe.  Growing up in Casper, I remember many of the adults would celebrate the holiday by heading down to their favorite local bar around lunchtime, and stay there most of the day. WYDOT’s Law Enforcement Liaison, Pete Abrams, has mentioned that the biggest concern with “day drinking holidays” is the increase in drunk driving, and consequently, alcohol related accidents. Sure, there was no shortage of events after the parade in those days, but the members of NCPC wanted to see an event that was solely focused on the families here in Natrona County, free from the inclusion of alcohol or other substances.

Thus, Family Day was born! The very first Family Day was a small gathering on the lawn of, what was then, the Mercer House. As more families learned of Family Day, the more it grew. It eventually sprawled to Mike Sedar Park as the Festival of Kites before growing so big that it took over the bulk of Washington Park!  As more and more people started attending Family Day, the cultural shift that we were aiming for started happening. 

Now, let me tell you, pulling off an event this size took the work of many NCPC partner agencies collaborating together. There was a lot of pooling of resources and funds, a lot of asking for favors and donations, and a lot of hours dedicated by many passionate people to pull it off each year. But the hard work always paid off, and the result has always been a Parade Day event that offered family fun, access to local resources, and free lunches to over a thousand people in the community each year. The event welcomed anyone who wanted to join!

Over the years, more and more parents are now taking Parade Day as an opportunity to connect with their kids and their community. Consequently, more organizations and businesses around Natrona County are jumping on board to host such opportunities. This trend has led to a decreased focus on alcohol and increased celebration of family time during Parade Day.  Mercer FRC and NCPC don’t take credit for that, but we are proud to have been a part of the change.

Family Day started with a mission: to promote healthy and positive choices to local families who had limited options. Although Family Day after the parade has been a long-time staple event for our Coalition, knowing that the families we serve now have many family-friendly options to celebrate together, makes it easier to say goodbye to Family Day. We are officially passing the torch for a Parade Day event to our fantastic community that has stepped up to the plate. In doing so, NCPC will be able to shift its focus to other times of the year where healthy and positive options are still needed. We’d like to include the community in deciding what future events are needed, so be sure to send in your suggestions through Natrona County Prevention Coalition’s Facebook page.  We will be posting a survey soon!

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