Editor’s note: This story was produced in conjuction with the Record-Journal's Latino Communities Reporting Lab.
MERIDEN — Laughter and joy filled the air at the water park at City Park as Eva Kim Marquez, park attendant, watched children playing with a smile on her face.
She loves to look after the children on hot summer days, especially since Gov. Ned Lamont advised residents Sunday about a heat wave expected to impact Connecticut this week. Temperatures may even come close to 100 degrees throughout central Connecticut, according to Gary Lessor, a meteorologist at Western Connecticut State University. He advised residents who don’t have an air conditioner to look for a cooling center by calling 2-1-1.
But some chose to cool off at the Lions Club Water Park at the corner of Franklin Street and Park Avenue Monday. Children filled the park as soon as the gates opened. Families unpacked their coolers, towels, blankets, and chairs from their cars and set their belongings down under the huge tree providing shade during the 90-plus degree weather.
Wanda Nieves, a city resident who lives on Hollis Drive, has come to the park every day during the summer for the last 12 years. She was accompanied by her brother, niece, and two nephews.
“They love it! Look at the kids laughing. They never get tired of coming everyday and they're having a great time. Even I had to get in because it was so hot!” Nieves said as she was sitting on the bench drying off.
The sun was so intense that Marquez offered sunscreen to those who didn’t have any. She also gave her grandson, 5-year-old Brysyn Rosado, a blanket to sit on so that his skin wasn’t touching the hot concrete. He grabbed the blanket and sat on top of it while eating his snacks.
“I love kids and I want to make sure they are taken care of when they are here with me,” said Marquez. She stated that with this heat wave, she gives the children food and water 5 to 6 times a day in order to stay hydrated. In addition to her snacks and beverages, Meriden Food & Nutrition Services comes Monday to Friday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
On hot summer days, Marquez says she likes to extend her hours so everyone can have a chance to cool off from the heat.
Usually the park opens at 12:30 p.m. and closes at 5:30 p.m. everyday, but on hot days like these, she closes the gates at 6:45 p.m.
“The kids here are like my children,” she said. “I watched some grow up and start their own family. Here, they are safe.”