June 21, 2010

Even crippling heat and humidity couldn't keep thousands of people from pouring onto the new runway at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport on a recent Sunday. Given the opportunity to be the first to use the new landing strip, walkers, joggers, skaters and cyclists showed up in force for a little fun in the sun during 2nd Sunday.

Fayette County's Second Sunday is an expansion of the statewide event that happens each October. Organized by UK Cooperative Extension with the help of community partners, Second Sunday is designed to promote physical activity on the second Sunday of October. Fayette County expanded the notion by offering an event on the second Sunday of each month.

"Second Sunday sends a message that Kentuckians want access to safe and improved places to be physically active," said Diana Doggett, Fayette County family and consumer sciences extension agent. "When provided with local infrastructure, Kentucky families are taking advantage of the opportunity to explore ways to be more active."

With Second Sunday, family and consumer sciences extension personnel are hoping to encourage local counties and communities to re-examine their built environment to make it easier for people to get out of their homes and exercise. This could mean providing bike lanes on local roads, having stores within walking distances, or going as far as building trails for pedestrians and cyclists.

Organizers of the event said it takes out-of-the-box thinking to open new venues for pedestrians and cyclists.

"Two characteristics of leadership in the 21st century are innovation and stewardship," said Lexington Fayette County Councilman Jay McChord during the news conference that preceded Fayette County's event. "Looking at things creatively with a different view and using what you already have-that is what Second Sunday is about."

Community partners are an important part in making Second Sunday a success.

"We're excited about the opportunity," said Blue Grass Airport executive director Eric Frankl during the news conference. "This is a great way for the airport to interact with the community."

Doggett said that at the conclusion of Second Sunday in October 2009, several business owners and agencies stepped up to say they wanted to help sustain it throughout the year. That began a monthly 10-mile police-escorted bicycle ride from downtown Lexington.

"We have 200 to 300 people who have joined efforts with that right now," Doggett said. "The local 2nd Sunday coalition continues to seek out other very creative venues, such as this airport, to generate and sustain interest in physical activity. As citizens continue to come out to experience an expanded built environment, we hope to develop a physically active culture."

And come they did. Police estimated 15,000 people attended the event at Blue Grass Airport, ranging from newborns to senior citizens. Small children pedaled tricycles, families walked their dogs, elderly couples strolled along the concrete, and tandem bikes seemed to be all the rage. Planes and emergency vehicles were parked on the runway, and children lined up to climb into the cockpits, clamor over the fire truck or sound a police motorcycle's horn. As they made the circuit, participants walked past signs that encouraged them with messages such as "Walking one hour a week will reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by 51 percent."

"That is what's unique about Second Sunday," Doggett said. "There is this overall template, but community partners plan and design an event that is relevant to their local needs. That is one of the reasons the Second Sunday statewide initiative has been so successful."