Each Saturday morning for the past 18 summers, the Fairfax County Park Authority has hosted puppet shows, classical music concerts and storytellers in four of its parks.
But now some families fear the future of the 'Arts in the Parks' performance series may be in jeopardy. Its long-time corporate benefactor, McDonald's Family Restaurants of Fairfax County, is withdrawing its support.
"It would just be a sin if this program ended," said Lori Barnes, a Chantilly resident whose three children have attended Arts in the Parks performances for six year. "It's so well received. All these families love it so much."
Judy Pederson, park authority spokeswoman, said she does not anticipate that Arts in the Parks will end.
"We are not going to cancel the program," said Judy Pederson, the Park Authority's spokeswoman. "But we've got to find a new sponsor. We're going to make this work somehow."
Since 1989, McDonald's Family Restaurants has contributed $100,000 to fund the performance series, which is held at 10 a.m. in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly, Mason District Park in Annandale, Burke Lake Park in Burke and Lake Fairfax in Reston.
For the program to continue, Pederson said the Park Authority will need to find a new sponsor to chip in between $5,000 and $10,000 each summer.
Arts in the Parks was originally designed to offer Fairfax County children an alternative to Saturday morning cartoons. Since it began, more than 180,000 children and parents have attended Arts in the Parks performances.
Barnes said Arts in the Parks fills a valuable niche in Northern Virginia, as it features free cultural performances for residents of all ages and income levels.
"Everyone just has a rollicking good time every Saturday morning," she said.
In an official statement from McDonald's Family Restaurants, spokeswoman Carla Tucker did not say why the company had withdrawn funding from Arts in the Park. She did say, however, that the company receives numerous fundraising requests each year and opted instead to back another arts program, the McLean Project for the Arts.
"We wish Arts in the Parks the best and have enjoyed our partnership with the organization," Tucker said in the written statement. "In the future, McDonald's Restaurants of Greater Washington, D.C., will continue to support initiatives that connect us with the community."