zumbaJust because it's almost (allegedly) winter doesn't mean the Lansing Parks and Recreation Department isn't busy.  The 'Rec Department' offers programs all year 'round with some of the most popular taking place in the winter.  This winter the Rec Department is taking on a decidedly Latin tone: a Zumba class has filled to capacity, and starting January 2nd a new Spanish class for adults starts up.

"Nora Schapira has taught our summer program youth Spanish classes before," says Recreation Director Steve Colt.  "We've both talked about doing something for adults.  It's going to be a beginning level class, based on conversation.  So if you are travelling somewhere this class will give you enough of a background to feel confident about the normal question - answer stuff where Spanish is spoken."

Schapira is a New York certified Spanish teacher.  The class will be offered at 6:30 on nine Mondays, starting January 2.

"The Spanish program is new and I'm excited about that.  We're going to do it at the library," Colt says.  Nora's excellent.  And it's $50 -- that's a really great price."

Colt is also excited about the new Zumba class.  The class started this Fall and has already become a runaway success.  The current session, with about 20 people, is filled to capacity.

Zumba has emerged as one of the most popular dance/exercise programs in the world, providing a 'feel good' workout to Latin dance music.  It combines dance and aerobic exercise with other popular influences such as martial arts, belly dance, and Bollywood.  The Rec Department class is taught by Lansing native Katie Bruno.

"Katie Bruno is doing a great job with that," Colt says.  "The class grows exponentially every week.  This session is going to run through the end of December, and I can almost guarantee we're going to run another session or so.  The time is kind of quirky from 3:45 to 4:45, but for those who can make it it's really good because you can get in, get it done, and you're still home at a decent hour."

The skiing program is always a popular offering.  This year presents a special organizational challenge since Greek peak has taken over the registration process, offering an online sign-up.  But that means the Rec Department doesn't know who wants to ride the bus to the slopes.  Colt is now scrambling to get people to sign up for the bus so he knows how many to provide.

"It's always better to operate with the bus full than empty," he says.  "The price is the same and we like to be able to cover our costs."

On the parks side, pavilion rentals and camping reservations for Myers Park start in January.  The Parks and Recreation Department will begin taking pavilion reservations January 3rd, and Colt expects a real rush on January 9th when camping reservations start.  In fact, the first day of camping reservations is a bit like Black Friday with 10 cars parked in front of the town hall at 6:30am waiting for the office to open at 7:30.

"Last year I got a 'take a number' machine," he says.  "When we unlock the doors they take a number and sit in the large courtroom, and we deal with them on a first come, first served basis.  That worked out very well last year, so that will be the procedure this year."

Colt says that there is always a rush on camping reservations on the first two or three days, and then it gets crazy again when the warm weather comes.

For this month, though, the winter recreation programs are keeping the department busy.  Many of the programs are popular returning programs along with the new Zumba and Spanish offerings.  The returning programs include Karate, youth gymnastics, skating, and skiing.

Colt hasn't shied away from breaking out of the traditional recreation department mold.  The karate program has been a huge success, as well as summer camp, and a variety of non-sports offerings like cooking classes and music for pre-schoolers, or lower impact (than traditional sports like soccer and football) physical sessions like cardio step classes and Zumba. 

"This is what's fun," Colt says. "Getting out of the mainstream, getting away from the traditional 'roll out the ball and play' things.  These are things that still are recreation. It allows us to reach out to more people.  It's about opportunities for kids and adults, and it can be things outside of the box.  That's what I like about it."

Colt says he is open to any ideas people want to bring to him for non-traditional programs.

"I'm game to try anything, because you never know where it's going to take you," he says.