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updated: 6/3/2011 11:29 AM

Summer fun that's free as sunshine

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Old sayings become old because they're oft-repeated and generally true.

But whoever coined the phrase "everything has a price" was a little off base.

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They just didn't look in the right places.

Had they checked first with the Fox Valley Park District, they would have discovered dozens of opportunities that come at no cost. That's right, they're free.

Fox Valley's "Free and Fun All Summer Long" offerings are just that -- a great way to celebrate the warm weather season without having to spend a red cent.

Among the most popular is the annual Summer Playgrounds Program that begins Monday, June 6, and runs weekly through July 22. Held at four different park sites throughout the district, this program provides children entering first through fifth grades a venue to enjoy free structured activities from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each weekday.

It's geographically spaced, so there's a site close to everybody. They include Fearn Playground (1600 Hawksley Drive, North Aurora), Greene Field Park (Russell and Illinois Avenue, Aurora), Lebanon Park (Parker and Douglas, Aurora) and Phillips Park (Moses Drive, Aurora).

Kids entering first to fifth grades can get in touch with their creative sides at the Neighborhood Art Extravaganza Camps, where they'll learn to draw, paint, craft and create to their heart's content. The free camps are offered at six different park sites and run from mid-June to late July. Check the Summer Activity Guide or visit foxvalleyparkdistrict.org for more information.

Registration for both camps are ongoing at each park site. So participants can join in a week late or attend different sites on different days if they'd like.

Another season of complimentary live music is on tap. Free concerts in the park -- six of them in all -- run from mid-June to early August at various sites throughout the District. Simply bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy outdoor music under the stars.

Concerts begin June 16 with Smokin' Gunz at Montgomery Park. Other bands scheduled to perform include Yorkville Big Band (June 30 at Montgomery Park), August (July 7 at McCullough Park), Gallery (July 14 at Montgomery Park), American Legion Band (July 28 at McCullough Park) and Saturday June Band (Aug. 4 at McCullough Park).

Enjoying nature is always free, and the park district is providing fun, educational ways to do so. Two programs -- Roving Naturalist and Animals All Around -- offer an engaging look at the woods, waters and wildlife that surround the Red Oak Nature Center. One of these events is happening virtually every weekend; check the website and/or Summer Activity Guide for details.

The summer capper at Red Oak -- Bug Fest -- proved to be one of the biggest and most popular outings when it debuted last summer. This year should be no different when it's staged on Aug. 27. Big Fest offers a fascinating look at the world of insects and is a favorite for families and young children.

Everybody will get a charge out of these programs -- at no charge.

• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at jlong@fvpd.net

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