Jasper’s Backyard gears up for third event

Kids gathered to watch the movie "Boss Baby" during Jasper's Backyard first outdoor movie in 2017. The group aims to offer events to promote family bonding and create a greater sense of community. Jasper's Backyard's third outdoor movie event is planned for Aug. 25. (Herald file photo)



JASPER— Local nonprofit Jasper’s Backyard is gearing up for its third outdoor movie event, and founder Shaun (Witte) Skerbitz is still just as excited as she was on day one.

Jasper’s Backyard provides free outdoor movie events with entertainment preceding the movie. Skerbitz brought the idea with her to Dubois County when she and her family moved to Jasper from the Salt Lake City, Utah, area. There, Skerbitz and her family attending outdoor movies through Millcreek Venture Out that included vendors with low-cost activities. When Skerbitz learned that Dubois County didn’t have anything like that, she decided to start it herself. She talked to her cousin, Lori Wigand, and the two set up a five-person board to get the project going. That was in 2017. Since then, Jasper’s Backyard has held two events, one in August 2017 and one in May, and is gearing up for their third.

“It’s everything we dreamed of,” Skerbitz said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to keep people wanting to come back and spend an evening with us.”

On Aug. 25, the group will show Pixar’s film “Up” at the Jasper High School softball field at dusk. Pre-movie activities will begin at 7 p.m. and will include face painting, coloring tables, a prize raffle, Zumba, live music from The Jasper Music Factory and the Kona Ice Truck, an ice cream and Hawaiian shaved ice truck from Evansville.

Jasper’s Backyard aims to give families a safe event where parents can let their children play without having to constantly have an eye on them. Skerbitz compared it to the “old school” way when kids would bike around the neighborhood together doing their own thing. That vision really came to life at the May event at Jasper Middle School’s football field, she said, when Jasper’s Backyard showed “Wonder,” a movie about August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time. The movie didn’t hold the children’s attention, Skerbitz said, so they ended up playing in the end zones while the adults watched the movie.

“It was really a pleasant surprise,” Skerbitz said. “That’s exactly what Jasper’s Backyard is all about.”

Although Jasper’s Backyard held two successful events in its first year, going forward the group plans to stick with just a fall event. They want to establish the last weekend of August as their weekend. The spring event had about 500 attendees, Skerbitz said, but it still had to compete with several sports events and a few dance and gymnastics competitions. Plus, focusing on one event each year will help Jasper’s Backyard save some money and deliver a high quality event each year. As a nonprofit, the organization is 100 percent community funded, relying on donations from local businesses and community members to pay for the rights to show the movies, the equipment rental and any cost associated with the pre-movie entertainment. So far, funding has not been an issue.

“It’s humbling and just overwhelming to have the sponsors from the businesses and community,” Skerbitz said.

Anyone wishing to donate or volunteer can contact Skerbitz at 805-315-5894.

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