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Rain or shine: Summer Kickoff is this weekend

Don’t go to the beach just yet.

School is out and summer is in, and the Brookhaven Exchange Club is welcoming the change with its annual Summer Kickoff Fair this weekend. The three-night event will take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and will feature all the trains, swings, Ferris wheels and belt-driven spinning contraptions Brookhaven youth have enjoyed for generations.

“The kids are coming straight out of school, and this is just something to help them kick the summer off with a nice, family-fun activity,” said Steve Smith, club vice-president and incoming president.

The gates of Exchange Club Park on Exchange Park Circle — just off West Congress Street — open nightly at 6, with rides starting up at 6:30 p.m. The event lasts until 10 each night. Fair food will be sold throughout the event, and armbands for unlimited rides are $10 each.

Umbrellas may be appropriate. Weather forecasts for the weekend call for 60 percent or greater chances of scattered thunderstorms all three days of the Summer Kickoff, but Smith said “scattered” is not a problem.

“Most of the time a light shower does not bother us, and does not hurt us,” he said. “If it rains at 6:30 and quits at 7, we’re back open and ready to roll.”

Smith said the event would run all three nights regardless of weather the previous day. If downpours ruin all three nights, the club may try to reschedule the event a few weeks later.

“Otherwise, we’ll just look forward to the fair,” he said.

If the rain holds off and the crowds come in, the Summer Kickoff could raise close to $10,000 over three days, Smith said. The club uses the cash to fund local scholarships, and some goes back into the maintenance of the park.

Keeping the park up is more important now than ever, as numerous other local groups and non-profits rely on the rides to generate cash for their own causes. Other groups who host their own fundraisers at the park include the Brookhaven Animal Rescue League, Mississippi Loggers Association, the Relay for Life of Copiah-Lincoln and Socks for Heroes.

“We want people to use our park, to come back to our park,” Smith said. “It’s an old park, but it’s a Brookhaven tradition, and we want to be able to use it for the public. It’s just a great place, and we have fun doing it.”