People have been enjoying Lions Park in downtown St. Paul for several years now, but the park was officially opened with a celebration on Saturday.

Local harpist Natalie Beland played to open the proceedings, followed by a performance by the Kita No Taiko drummers from Edmonton. 

The drummers performed their music and spoke about their Japanese drumming techniques and their traditional costume. At the end of their performance they invited audience members to take part.

The St. Paul and District Lions Club has been setting up a Christmas tree and stringing lights at the location, which is owned by the Porozni family, for years. In 2017, St. Paul Champions For Change envisioned developing the space into what Amil Shapka calls a downtown living room for the community.

That vision has taken shape as downtown park with benches, public art, decorative plants in the summer and a skating rink in the winter. Outdoor performances are accommodated on the park’s Bert and Aline Pratch Stage, built by the Pratch Family Foundation.

Penny Fox of Champions For Change says the Lions Club is responsible for creating 17 parks in St. Paul, but the club hasn’t named any of them after themselves. She said Champions For Change wanted to recognize their commitment by naming the downtown park Lions Park.

Champions For Change also participated in the unveiling of two new works of art on the ain street. The Riddle, a diamond willow creation by Hans Rohner of Elk Point, is installed in front of the Xtreme Oilfield building.

Be The Light is a stained-glass work by Eric Spoeth of St. Paul. It is installed near JMD Group.

A drummer from the Kita No Taiko group entertains at Lions Park. MELANIE BROADBENT
Hans Rohrer with The Riddle. MELANIE BROADBENT