Swimmers shoot baskets last Fourth of July at the Florence Aquatic Center.

Florence Unified School District teachers dismissed students on Thursday, May 23, for the summer until mid-July. I envy the freedom children have for the next eight weeks as well as the teachers who often use the time for family vacations. Since beginning full-time work in 1978, I haven’t experienced a lengthy summer vacation in 42 years, but memories of summer fun are alive.

I asked Community Services Department employees to share their most memorable summer vacations.

Director Bryan Hughes

“I had several memorable vacations growing up so selecting one is difficult. It’s easier to select the location, which was the destination of several summer vacations during my youth. Each summer, my grandparents rented a cabin on Lake Namakagon in Northern Wisconsin for about a month. The lake was a seven-hour drive from our home in the Chicago suburbs.

“Our family joined my grandparents for a week of fun which included campfires, fishing, card and board games at night and watching the deer and squirrels wander near the cabin. There were also day trips to nearby Hayward, Wisconsin, to the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and the Lumberjack World Championships, which were entertaining to watch as a kid.

“Occasionally, our week would overlap with that of my aunts, uncles and cousins, which meant for a few days my sister and I had other kids to hang out with. Some of my favorite memories were boating on the lake with my grandfather to fish. It was our time together. It seems like we went every year until I was nine years old when my grandfather passed away, but those summer memories are forever.”

Special Events Coordinator Alison Feliz

“My most memorable summer vacations were the years my family rented a condominium on the San Diego boardwalk when I was about 10 to 12 years old. My parents and their best friends, the Fosters, rented for a week and it was a blast. To sit on the boardwalk and people watch, hang out on the beach or walk to Mission Beach and shop were conveniences of renting on the boardwalk.

“My parents and I went deep sea fishing and that was an incredible experience. The bad weather though produced choppy water, but we still caught a ton of fish. When we returned, mom made the best fish tacos. My brothers, who are much older and living on their own, came to San Diego and spent a few days with us which added to my enjoyment.

“After my son Axtyn was born, we did the same thing with our own friends who are Axtyn’s godparents. We rented the same condo for a week for two consecutive summers and created our own memories. I plan to rent the condo again when the kids are older and can enjoy the beach more. I will never tire of visiting San Diego, but I also have a long bucket list of other destinations to visit and I plan to start checking off some of those locations.”

John Nixon

When my family moved from Paradise Valley to Tempe in the summer of 1971, I was about to enroll in my fourth high school in three years. However, I heard great reviews about McClintock High School and was anxious to complete my senior year.

My number one goal was to play football at a school with a winning reputation. Since the school opened in 1966, it produced nine first-team All-State selections.

To help prepare for the August two-a-day practices, I spent a week in Flagstaff at a football camp directed by Northern Arizona University (NAU) coaches. These were college coaches who did not share our concerns of being homesick or exhaustion from the three practices a day.

After the camp, I continued to work myself into football shape during the rest of the summer and managed to add 15 pounds to my meager 6’2” 155-pound frame. I became a respectful 170 pounds. When mid-August arrived, our first practices focused on meeting the coaches and other players.

The two-a-day practices, which lasted two weeks until school started, were a challenge but I was proud I survived and didn’t quit. I still stay in touch with several teammates including Dave Tonniges, Bruce Archuleta, Tom Weathers, Brad Dowden, Ed Garcia, Kirk Miles, Rob Lutz and Mark Aden.

Our department offers a variety of summer programs for kids including daily programs at the library, the aquatics center is open six days a week and our Summer Kids Club on Monday through Friday are the main attractions. Check out our web page at www.florenceaz.gov/parks-and-recreation for more detailed information. I hope all Florence youth have a safe and enjoyable summer.

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