The Puppet Wagon is a free program that promotes health and wellness by providing an active way to engage the imaginations of children, from toddlers to elementary school students. Shows are performed throughout the week during the summer and are held in Eagan’s Parks. By hosting the program in a park, the city offers a chance for all residents to participate and play, no matter what age, race, income, or physical ability. In 2014, over 4,000 children attended. Each week has a theme, that ranges from health to science. The “ask a puppet” time and other opportunities encourages audience participation.
Access to sports and recreation have been identified in a study in Australia as a priority for newly arrived young people and the settlement process. Eagan’s population now includes large numbers of Somali, Indian, and Pakistani communities. To strengthen engagement with these diverse communities, the Parks and Recreation Department created space for cricket and soccer matches. “We see a lot more demand for things like, wide open soccer fields or space for cricket,” reflects Mayor Maguire. Soccer is one of the fastest growing sports in the country and its benefits are multiple: improves fitness & health, teaches teamwork & cooperation, develops improved coordination, increases focus & attention, and boosts self-confidence & self-esteem. Efforts to increase the numbers of members from new immigrant groups who use the park system are also on-going and run parallel to diverse offerings.
Eagan has been among Money Magazine’s top 20 small cities in America for five consecutive times. Part of the reason is that Eagan has made a concerted effort to create walkable neighborhoods and pedestrian-friendly spaces within an urban environment. Additionally, they have reconsidered housing density and mixed use development to accommodate a more diverse population, breaking away from the homogenized single-family dwelling in suburban cul-de-sacs and striving for options such as multigenerational housing and affordable housing. Eagan has close to 24% people of color, many new immigrants. By prioritizing and investing in pedestrian infrastructure and reconsidering density and zoning laws, Eagan is creating a built environment that strengthens the arts, businesses, and sense of community, promoting the health of all residents.
The Eagan Market Fest is located at the Eagan Community Center and is accessible by multiple bus routes. Rated the #1 Farmers Market in MN and a top 20 market nationwide, the Eagan Market Fest is open year-round and attracts more than 34,000 attendees. As the market accepts SNAP/EBT food assistance cards, low-income households have an incentive to buy local produce and healthy foods. Theme nights highlight the community’s diversity while people gather for picnics on the large, open grassy lawn in the warm months. “The audience you see at Market Fest is a different audience than the one you see when you go into a City of Eagan Council meeting,” said Mayor Mike Maguire. Bridging cultural, ethnic, and economic differences, the market is a space for residents to connect and strengthen the unique character of Eagan.
Eagan Market Fest
Photo credit: City of Eagan Staff