Aurora libraries, parks and rec classing up offerings for locals



AURORA | The rec center is where you go to play basketball. The library is where you go to find books.

Both of those statements are true. And both barely scratch the surface of what Aurora’s Parks and Recreation and Library systems have to offer for those looking to expand their horizons. While the city offers the standard fare of activities you’d expect to find, there’s more to what’s available than just the usual.

Byron Fanning, the manager of recreation for Aurora Parks and Recreation, said his department works to not only provide residents with what’s already popular in the community but also for things that might be the next big hit activity.

“We really use a lot of inputs to create our programming. We take the concept of a program that performed really well and take it to next level or do it in a different way,” Fanning said. “We also look at what our competitors are doing, whether that’s the gym down the street to the soccer team down the street to a rec department in Cincinnati.”

The city works to provide access to amenities such as spinning classes, open gym hours and child-care options for parents while they use rec facilities, Fanning said. But beyond that, there’s also ways for parents, kids and couples to expand their horizons, with multiple options for classes that cover everything from healthy tailgating, to dancing to taping an undiscovered artistic talent.

Aurora Public Library works to try and find ways to engage with residents in their late 20s and 30s, the largest group in the city, said outreach librarian Brittni Ehrhart. That means offering cooking classes on how to make tailgating food healthy and arranging date nights for couples that include activities for the kids to take them off of mom and dad’s hands.

“One of the things I really enjoyed recently was the kitten yoga program we did over a month ago at the Aurora central branch. We partnered with the Aurora Animal Shelter and brought kittens in for the class. It was so much fun,” Ehrhart said. “We also have things like programs for women and teens on how to start a business and what it takes to make it successful.”

Jason Bade, the pottery arts program specialist at the Bicentennial Art Center, is quick to brag about the facility available for residents to use. With 18 pottery wheels, multiple kilns and classes ranging from parent and child pottery basics to how to make your own totem pole, the city’s facility is on par with professional studios and colleges throughout the area.

“In my honest opinion, I think we’re a hidden gem and a lot of people don’t know about us and what we have down here,” Bade said. “And it is a pure zen experience to throw clay on the wheel. It’s very therapeutic.”

One thing that isn’t so zen but has become a hit for youth programming over the summer is the rec department’s zombie camp, Fanning said. The weeklong day camp teaches kids about the outdoors, from how to start a fire without a match to identifying plants to figuring out if there’s a wild animal in the vicinity. And all of it is taught in the context of surviving a zombie apocalypse.

“The last day of camp is a zombie apocalypse and the kids are attacked by zombies and they defend themselves with water guns. A lot of parents and volunteers dress up as zombies, put makeup on and torn clothes to participate,” said Fanning, who himself has been a member of the walking dead for the camp. “It’s really a blast for everybody.”