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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

WORCESTER - The weather outside was frightful, but inside the DCU Center on Tuesday afternoon, the talk was of jungle gyms.

Convention-goers at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Recreation and Park Association forged ahead with their event despite a snowstorm, and served notice that sunnier days lie ahead.

"It will be spring, eventually," said Colin Drury, East Longmeadow's town recreation director, the incoming president of the professional organization for the state's parks and recreation officials.

However, a vendor displaying battery-powered rockets for science summer camps noted, "It doesn't look like it today.

"It's coming down sideways," said Coleman Lunt, area manager for Wicked Cool for Kids, a Stoneham business that runs science and technology summer programs for recreation departments.

Outside the DCU Center at midday Tuesday, the snow and wind combined to create white-out conditions.

Inside, a vendor tossed a Frisbee while Burlington recreation director Brendan Egan pedaled a tricycle around the ballroom.

"We're a fun group," said Linda Berger, outgoing president of the 130-member Massachusetts Recreation and Parks Association.

The organization went ahead with its annual convention despite the storm that caused the Massachusetts high-school basketball tournament scheduled at the arena the same day to be postponed.

"We're powering through," said Ms. Berger, recreation director in Sharon. "We're in the business of making sure people are having a good time."

Said Mr. Drury: "You go with the flow. You never know what's going to happen in recreation, so we do have the right people in the room. The power can go out, the vendors can get stuck in the snow, the speakers can have their flights canceled, and it doesn't matter."

Convention organizers had encouraged attendees to arrive the day before and stay at the nearby Hilton Garden Inn. The weather kept some vendors away. Ms. Berger said conventioneers planned to attend a social Tuesday night at the DCU Center.

The power outage that turned out the lights in downtown Worcester on Tuesday was felt at the DCU Center. The convention center went dark for 20 seconds but then the generators kicked in, said Damon Wilson, sales representative for Perfect Parties USA, a Peabody company that provides inflatables, sumo suits and human-bowling games for recreation department events.

While the overhead lights were on, the floor power was off, which was why his Giant Lite Brite wasn't working at that moment, Mr. Wilson said.

Charlene Vera, representing Victor Stanley Inc., a manufacturer of park benches and litter receptacles, came up Sunday from Maryland for the event. "It's part of the job," she said of working at a convention in a snowstorm. "You gotta do what you gotta do."

The challenge, Ms. Vera said, would come at the end of the day after packing her convention display materials back into a big carrying case. How to lug the cumbersome case from the hall back to the hotel through the snow? "That's what we've got to figure out," she said with a shrug.


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March 15, 2017


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