Irving–When Murlin Graham decided to stage a field day for adults featuring old outdoor party games like the 3-legged sprint, egg and spoon race, and tug-of-war, his wanted to help people blow off some COVID-19 steam. On a near-perfect Saturday on the Texas Lottery Plaza of the Toyota Music Factory, dozens of people came out and did just that.
Eight teams with names like Weapons of Mass Intoxication, Slightly Above Average and Goal Diggers converged on the plaza to compete in the first ever Las Colinas Field Day, which consisted of five different events, most of which many of the participants, in their 20s and 30s, had not played since middle school.
“I can’t tell you how much I needed this,” Stacey Udall said. She had never played Pickleball before, but fell in love with the paddleball sport that is part tennis, part badminton.
“You look around and it feels like we’re doing something we haven’t done in a lifetime,” she said. “It feels like the pandemic has been around forever. Just being outside with other people having fun was really enough for me.”
Graham, who works in event and promotions for the Toyota Music Factory, said it all came about while perusing the Las Colinas Social site, a Facebook group of residents who live near the venue. He was struck by a post that said with everything happening from the pandemic to “the Big Freeze” what the writer craved was a good old fashioned field day.
“After I read that, I immediately said, I love that idea, and better yet, I can actually plan this,” Graham said. “So I did. I figured I could have it right there in the plaza.”
Graham put the word out and partnered with Irving Parks and Recreation, and Camp Gladiator, both of which sent representatives to run the activities and lay down the rules.
“After that, we just started moving right along,” Graham said. “Volunteers started coming onboard. The main thing was to bring the community together. I just think people were so fed up of being indoors and doing the whole mask thing they jumped at the chance to do something outside and have some fun as if everything was normal.”
It came together in a month. Most of the communication was via Facebook.
“All of them live within a mile of this place,” Graham said. “Some of them live closer than that and could probably just walk over.”
That is what Scott Waterman did. Once there, he and a neighbor quickly recruited six other members to fill out their team of eight.
“Do you want to win? Of course, no one wants to lose,” Waterman said. “But I have to tell you, this has been the most fun I’ve had in a long time, although I guess with everything happening that isn’t saying a whole lot.”
Emceed by Irving-based host Kwame Hall, the games were exhilarating, because nearly every contest was close. The sack races had several people tumbling and rolling over one another, laughing like eight-year-olds. If the sack race was the most comical, the most gut-wrenching was the grueling tug-of-war where the Goal Diggers team, wearing matching black T-shirts, pulled out the victory. The semi-final was “a nail biter,” as a team member put it, before the team staged a rather dramatic comeback.
Not everyone who came out for Las Colinas Field Day competed on a team. People could hang back and play pickleball or yard pong, yard dominoes or participate in a water balloon toss.
“I wanted something people could do if they didn’t want to be on a team and compete,” Graham said. “This was all about fun and community, and we wanted to stress that.”
Graham allotted time for some of his partners, like Camp Gladiator, to give spills on what they offer a few days a week at the Lottery Plaza. Derek Ragan of the Alliance of Young Professionals spoke a few minutes about the non-profit that supports families, the homeless. He arrived with a large box to collect gently used shoes for the homeless.
Before wrapping up, Graham told the crowd that they would love to do the field day again soon, perhaps making it a twice a year tradition for spring and fall.
“That’s the plan,” Graham said. “We’re really just learning with this one. We figure it will get better and better.”