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Hundreds help celebrate Cherry Park's 25th birthday

Cherry Park celebrated its 25th year Thursday night, and hundreds showed up to say "Happy birthday."

Though Beverly Carroll, vice chair for the Parks, Recreation and Tourism commission, pointed out that the yearlong celebration began with the first day of sports events last fall, Thursday's celebration kicked off with words about the park from city officials.

"Does Cherry Park look like it's 25 years old?" Carroll asked the crowd. "It remains beautiful, more beautiful today than it was 25 years ago."

The 68-acre park opened Sept. 8, 1985, with five lighted softball and baseball fields, four additional fields, five multipurpose fields, 1.5 miles of walking and biking trails, picnic shelters, a control tower and playgrounds. It became a draw for residents and visitors from across the nation.

Mayor Doug Echols told the crowd to think back over the events the park has seen: Easter egg hunts, weddings, family reunions, softball games and more.

In 1986, the park had 230,000 visitors. Now, it sees an annual average of 360,000 and has generated more than $120 million in economic impact for the city.

"Thousands of people of all ages have enjoyed Cherry Park over the last 25 years," he said.

The park was the result of a vision from city leaders at the time: a top-notch athletic facility in a park-like setting, something that was better than it had to be - a goal Echols is confident has been achieved.

"I'm certain you would agree that we've accomplished that over the years," he said. "It's been a model and example for many other facilities in other cities.

"This park, I think, with its multiple daily benefits, is a prime example of a progressive community's investment that has paid and will continue to pay dividends in the lives of citizens, visitors and area businesses."

The land had originally belonged to James Milton Cherry, a Rock Hill businessman for whom the park is named. Descendants of Cherry were at the celebration.

One of those descendants, Cathy Rose Beaty Hicklin, said Cherry would have been proud of what it has become.

After the presentation, people snacked on cupcakes and ice cream and listened to band Se7ven play.

Harris and Caroline Vaughan, ages 11 and 8, made sure to grab some of the treats with their father at the park.

Harris Vaughan said he rides his bike on the trails, and Caroline Vaughan is a cheerleader at the park.

"It's a staple of our community," said father Brian Vaughan. "It shows the involvement of not only the city but the community, the school district and Winthrop."

Siblings JaMond and Jyra Carothers, ages 6 and 5, arrived with their mom to grab some treats, too.

The two come with their mother, Kiaudra Carothers, whenever they can.

"They love the playground," she said. "It's where they're trying to get to now."

Others headed out to the fields for games of adult softball, youth football, youth soccer and a punt, pass and kick competition.

Youth football coach Cookie Massey was busy warming up his team, the Sunset Park Trojans, for their game against the Lesslie Hornets.

"The facilities here are second to none," he said. "There's no problem there. Just to be here is a privilege."