First annual Tina Ross Afternoon in the park honors beloved late commissioner

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On Saturday, the first annual Tina Ross Afternoon in the Park took place in front of Town Hall.

Art vendors and sponsors set up around the fountain in front of Town Hall.

Formerly known as “Sunday Afternoon in the Park,” the event sponsored by Atrium Health and the Arts and Science Council in conjunction with the Town of Mint Hill was renamed this year as a tribute to the late Commissioner Tina Ross in honor of her love for both the arts and the Town of Mint Hill.

“The event was Tina’s baby,” said Town Manager Sheryl Smith.  “She did everything from soliciting vendors to laying out the park.  The Town supported the effort, but it was not managed by the Town. I was in the process of helping her with the event last summer, but after her passing, it was decided to take a year hiatus and bring it back for 2019.”

Mint Hill arts offered free rock painting for kids.

This year’s event featured approximately thirty vendors, many from Mint Hill and Pottery 51.  Vendors displayed and sold everything from paintings and photography to weavings, pottery, jewelry and handmade wreaths.  Several food trucks were set up opposite Town Hall, and members of the Charlotte Symphony performed.

Maria Frey from Pottery 51 demonstrates her work.

Although it may seem counterintuitive to hold an “Afternoon in the Park” in front of Town Hall, the name doesn’t actually refer to the former location of Wilgrove Park.  “The event was formerly called Afternoon in the Park after the famous painting ‘Afternoon in the Park’ by Alfred Stevens,” said Smith. “We changed the name in Tina’s honor, but kept the ‘Afternoon in the Park’ because that is what Tina had named it.”

The change in location was due in large part to the success of last December’s Chamber-sponsored Pop-Up Christmas Market, which took place around the circle in front of Town Hall.  “It was decided with the new fountain that it would be the perfect place for the event,” said Smith.

Caleb Betts was excited to frolic in front of the foutain.

In addition to a change in venue, this year also brought a change in date for the “Afternoon in the Park.”  Formerly held in August, the event was moved to October this year in an attempt to beat the heat. Ironically, the first week of October this year featured record-breaking temperatures in the high 90s.  The highest temperature of 2019 (99 degrees at 3:37 pm) was actually recorded at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Wednesday, October 2 – a stark contrast to October’s normal highs in the mid-70s.

Fortunately, October 5 brought a reprieve from the oppressive heat of the past few weeks with cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-60s.  “We’ve been baking here for how many days?” Mayor Ted Biggers asked the crowd in his welcome.  “It’s been miserably hot. Then all of a sudden at midnight last night it changed,” he continued, painting a picture that made everyone smile: Tina, elbowing God and telling him her people in Mint Hill need some good weather for “her” event.

The event was a beautiful tribute to Tina, featuring the presentation of a donation to Servant’s Heart in Tina’s honor from a group of her friends and former classmates.  Servant’s Heart Founder and Executive Director Kim Rhodarmer thanked Tina’s friends for their gift, musing on the many “arts” Tina had mastered: the art of living, the art of giving, the art of a strong work ethic.  “Thank you so much for giving yet another gift from Tina to help us help the community in which we live,” said Rhodarmer.

Tina Ross’ friends presenting a donation to Servant’s Heart

Additionally, event Sponsor Atrium Heath created “Tina’s Tree,” a bare tree painted on canvas to which everyone was invited to add a thumb print and “leave their mark,” just like Tina did.  The tree was hung in Town Hall immediately after the event and will be moved to a permanent home in the new Chamber of Commerce office.

Atrium Health invited everyone to leave their mark on Tina’s Tree.

The event featured one last tribute to Tina, a memorial bench that will reside at Mint Hill’s Park on Wilgrove.  Present at the bench’s dedication were Tina’s family, including her husband, children, and grandson. “We hope that when you visit the park, you will sit on her bench and reflect on Tina’s life and her many legacies,” said Biggers.

Tina’s family unveiling her memorial park bench

“The town is better off for Tina Ross and for the time and effort she gave to this town,” said Tina’s husband.  “We will keep Tina memory in our hearts for many many years.”

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