Tag Archives: slides

Playing it Safe

June 10, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article originally published in June 2015 Her Family.

If you come from early Omaha stock, it’s likely your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and maybe even your great-great-grandparents grew up frolicking on the City of Omaha’s playground equipment.

“The movement for playgrounds really came about in the late 1890s,” says Tracy Stratman, recreation manager for the City of Omaha Parks & Recreation Department. “It all started in the inner cities to create locations for kids to actually get out and have constructive play. That way they could deter negative activities and youth crime.”

Gone, though, are many of the early playground standards. You won’t see the sheet-metal slides that sizzled in the sunshine and featured steep, narrow steps. It’s nearly impossible to find tall teeter-totters (Anyone else remember crashing to the ground when the child on the other end suddenly scooted off?) or high, slick, monkey bars positioned over a shallow layer of sand on hard ground. Oh yes—don’t forget those flat merry-go-rounds that sent children skidding off the perimeter.

As children, we wanted playground toys that were faster, higher, and more intense, but from an adult perspective, it’s safety first. Or as Stratman puts it, “Your perception of what you see on a playground drastically changes when you become a parent.”

Contemporary playgrounds still deliver the thrill, but rein in the risk for kids of all ages and abilities, says owner of Crouch Recreation Eric Crouch. As a Heisman Trophy winner for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, he knows about the unpleasantness of hitting the ground hard.

The company’s installations can be seen all over the metro area in public locations such as Benson Park, Vogel Park, and Stinson Park, as well as other sites such as SIDs, commercial daycares, and schools throughout Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.

“Accessibility is huge and safety is one of the top factors. Quality of equipment, and sometimes design, factors into it as well,” Crouch says. “We want things to be safe, to look nice, and to stand the test of time.”

Industry standards are guided by the American Society for Testing and Materials, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Crouch says. But manufacturers have found ways to keep the old standbys (“You really miss the mark if you don’t include slides or swings”) only with safer—and sometimes more fun—options from saucer seats and wide platform slide entrances to spring supports for see saws and pliable surfacing.

“We are so safety-conscious today and we’re making improvements, but we’re seeing the throwback to what we did as kids,” Stratman says.

Larger playground structures are typically modular so clients can create one-of-a-kind arrangements with more features than ever available, Crouch says.

“Now kids will get to a park and they see something that will interest them: How do I use this? It takes a little bit of their mind and their body strength to look at a piece of equipment and interact with it,” Crouch says. “New designs stimulate creative thinking.”

Other innovative elements seen on today’s playgrounds include the use of environmentally-friendly materials, custom designs that integrate into the surroundings, shade structures, seating for parents or caregivers, stroller- and wheelchair-accessible paths, and even sports and fitness features to make parks appealing to all ages.

But one thing never changes, Stratman says. “The confidence building as well as the social skills you learn on the playground are limitless.”

PlaygroundEquipment1

Pecha Kucha

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Four nights a year, they gather in dark, hazy spaces just beyond the streetlamps.

Each participant is prepared with 20 projection slides each, showing images on a design topic of their choosing. They’ll take no more than 20 seconds to discuss each slide.

It’s called PechaKucha Night, this thing they do. It means “chit chat” in Japanese, and it’s not just happening in Omaha. It’s an evening of informal presentations that began in Tokyo in 2003 as a way for designers to concisely explain their most recent work. Now, more than 500 cities around the world host an evening of thinking and drinking for their local designers and other creative souls to share current projects.

Guests in Omaha pack places like Blue Sushi and The Slowdown to capacity in order to hear these sometimes witty, sometimes inspiring, sometimes awkward, but always highly individual presentations. Slides can be confusing, occasionally distasteful, and often beautiful.20130228_bs_8150_Web

Speakers can and do discuss the design of anything and everything, including fashion, architecture, pottery, video games, prosthetics, car overhauls, and Native American heritage. Over the past five years that Omaha has been an official PechaKucha city, 179 people have braved the intimidation of public speaking to add their voices to the quarterly event, with anywhere from eight to a dozen speakers a night.

And yes, there is some mark of pride in being an official PechaKucha city, recognized by the PechaKucha organization based in Tokyo. Omaha organizers are Tom Trenolone, founder of design alliance OMAha, Inc. (daOMA), and Brian Kelly, an assistant professor of architecture at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Trenolone had been looking for a way to get local talent to be part of a bigger, more international group. He credits Kelly with being the mastermind who’s kept PechaKucha going in Omaha.

“We were, I want to say, the 120th city to take it on,” Trenolone recalls. “We were sandwiched between Newcastle, England, and Oslo, Norway, on the site’s list.” He contacted Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham about introducing their Tokyo event to Omaha.

“The contract’s still just a handshake, really,” Trenolone says, referring to the relative informality of keeping Omaha listed on the PechaKucha website as a charter city. But Klein and Dytham were serious, he recalls, about making sure Omaha knew what PechaKucha had to include. “We had to explain why we wanted to put it on, and what we were trying to do. They wanted us to know we were overseers of the PechaKucha brand.”20130228_bs_8126_Web

There are just a few rules that the couple wanted to make certain every PechaKucha city observed: Events are held at least four times a year, and beer breaks are mandatory. Yes, Trenolone and Kelly have to make certain the event takes place somewhere with a liquor license to facilitate the goal of getting guests to move around and chat about what they’ve seen so far. “Get people to have conversation,” Trenolone says, gesturing at the people moving like restless sardines in a tin can at The Slowdown. “The density is what we want. It adds to the feel.”

As far as gaining speakers for the next round of presentations, “We solicit at the end of the night from other speakers,” Kelly says. Word of mouth is another common way to bring in new presenters. There’s rarely a theme to a PechaKucha; Trenolone and Kelly say they’re just looking for a good narrative from each speaker.

“It’s the most poorly advertised, yet best attended design event in Omaha,” Trenolone says, only bragging a little.

To hunt down the next PechaKucha, check out daOMA’s Facebook page or browse pechakucha.org/cities/omaha.

Make Any Photo a Great Gift

January 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Framing a photo for your special someone can make for a great Valentine’s Day gift. But why just settle for a regular frame and print when you can get creative with your gift? Canvas prints, puzzles, t-shirts—you name it! There are plenty of unique ways to share photos with your sweetheart this holiday.

Rockbrook Camera

If you’re thinking about getting a big photo gift, consider Rockbrook Camera’s wall-size Presentation Print or Gallery Wrapped Canvas Print. They’ll print from negatives, slides, prints, or digital files. Canvases come in Rolled Canvas, Stretched, or Gallery-Wrapped Canvas, and Textured Fine Art Prints. The service time for a canvas print is three working days for unstretched and five working days for stretched or gallery-wrapped. Depending on the size and the type of canvas, projects can range from $49.99 to $269.99.

But Rockbrook Camera has more than just canvas prints for photo gifting—they also have photo memorabilia options. You can have photos crafted into a beautifully bound 11×8½ book. Covers come in black, royal blue, burgundy, or metallic silver, and cost $29.99 for 20 pages or $39.99 for 40 pages. You can also have photos printed onto puzzles ($13.99 for 110-piece or $26.99 for 252-piece), t-shirts ($16.99-19.99), woven pillows ($75.99 for 17×17), woven throw ($129.99 for 50×60), ceramic mugs ($12.99-16.99), and many more gifts.

Rockbrook Camera at Rockbrook Village
2717 S. 108th St.
M-F/9am-7pm; Sat/9am-5pm; Sun/12-5pm
402-397-1171
rockbrookcamera.com

Rockbrook Camera at Legacy
2909 S. 169th Plz., Ste 100
M-F/9am-7pm; Sat/9am-5pm; Sun/12-5pm
402-691-0003
rockbrookcamera.com

CanvasPop

If you’re more of an online bargain hunter, check out CanvasPop, which often has great deals on its photo gifts. Since 2009, CanvasPop has been providing customers with the highest quality canvas photo prints anywhere. Unlike other photo printing locations, CanvasPop can create canvas prints from images beyond negatives and digital files. They can actually access your Facebook or Instagram accounts or pull photos directly from your mobile phone! With every canvas print you order, CanvasPop can also send you a free digital proof by e-mail so that you can see exactly what you’re getting.

Depending on the size, the type of canvas, and the framing, photo projects with CanvasPop can range from $30 to $419 (not including the flat rate of $14 for shipping and handling). If your order over $150, however, you can get free shipping. And if you don’t love it, CanvasPop will either reprint it or give you your money back.

CanvasPop also has multiple options for photo presentation. Photo collages can incorporate 3-20 photos (starting at $60); photo mosaics can incorporate 9-200 photos (starting at $60); and panoramic photo prints are available in 18×48, 24×72, or any custom size.

CanvasPop
1-866-619-9574
canvaspop.com