Woodchase Park had only been open a couple of weeks when it hosted its first large-scale activity. A Halloween event drew more than 500 kids and adults for an evening of fun with costumed characters, trick or treating, a haunted house maze, pumpkin bounce house, face painter, balloon twist artist and food trucks. The event exceeded the expectation of Parks Programming Director Louis Jullien, who has been planning activities at the park since before construction began in September 2020.
Jullien learned a lot from the team at OJB (Office of James Burnett) who designed Woodchase Park. “They spearheaded our early community meetings and have experience with programming in other parks,” said Jullien. “They have a depth of knowledge that we were able to tap into in planning our events.”
He also spent time reviewing Westchase District’s pre-construction surveys of neighborhood residents, conducting additional community engagement, researching the neighborhood demographics, speaking with possible vendors and reviewing successful programming at other parks.
“Woodchase Park was designed and built with programming in mind,” said Jullien. “We have the large activity lawn, the covered pavilion and plenty of electrical outlets to power up our activities. We wanted to host the kind of events that would bring people back to the park time and time again.”
Regular events and special events
With a $30,000 budget, Jullien has engaged programming partners, which include Four Dragons Tai Chi, Tropa Z Fitness and Young Audiences of Houston. Weekly boot camps and Zumba classes attract the outdoor fitness crowd. Weekly instruction from Young Audiences Houston features art, music, dance and culture programs for all ages.
Jullien continues to experiment with the programming and scheduling to figure out what works best. For example, Tuesday morning Tai Chi classes were not well attended. Now, Tai Chi classes are offered at 6 pm on Tuesdays and they are finding an audience of people who want to engage in the Taoist art of relaxation and restorative healing.
“After a couple of months, we noticed that our least attended events were in the morning. Our busiest days in the park are Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday,” noted Jullien. “But seasonal changes play into this as well.” Jullien found that there wasn’t a lot of demand for outdoor chess during the winter months. But Sunday afternoon chess club meet-ups returned in March.
Even when there are no scheduled activities in the park, Westchase District’s guest services attendants are on duty from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends. They set up the lawn games, book cart and other activities that can be enjoyed by all park guests.
Spring break play
Jullien has planned four special events at Woodchase Park throughout the year: Spring Break, the Summer Spectacular, Halloween and Christmas. Spring Break brought out hundreds of kids and parents each day to enjoy programs offered by the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Harris County Master Gardeners and Young Audiences of Houston. They enjoyed a face painter, balloon artist and caricature artist, plus free popsicles each day for the first 100 guests.
The fun will continue all summer long. Expanded programming hours (9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily), plus four family-friendly movie nights will highlight the summer activities. Houston City Council Member Tiffany Thomas will be hosting a wellness event on June 25th. And Quillian Center ambassadors will visit the park to lead games for kids.
Sponsors pick up the tab
All of the special programming is made possible by sponsors who have contributed more than $50,000 for the park’s 2022 activities. “We’re grateful to our sponsors who have contributed funds that allow us to pursue high quality programming in the park,” said Jullien.
Sponsors include: Phillips 66; Smart Financial Credit Union; Binkley & Barfield; Kuo & Associates; Westco; Gauge Engineering; Houston Community College, NEC Signage; SMC Landscape Services; Associated Testing Laboratories, Inc; The Plaza at Westchase; Walnut Bend Association; and Lakeside Improvement Association.
Outside groups welcome
Woodchase Park is open to private parties and outside groups who would like to host their events at the park. “As long as the event is free and open to the public and does not conflict with our scheduled activities, we’re happy to have outside groups use the park,” said Jullien. The covered pavilion and other spaces are available for rent for private parties and events.
Woodchase Park is located at 3951 Woodchase Drive. Visit woodchasepark.com for more information.