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Martens Center hosts resource-rich Extension Day with Illinois Extension

Groups of people looking at booths at a resource fair

CHAMPAIGN, Ill — University of Illinois Extension and the Champaign Parks District threw open the doors to the Martens Center on Saturday, May 11, for Extension Day. Nearly 300 people attended the event and got to take advantage of the wonderful resources from Extension, the Park District, and more local community organizations.

Many community members had heard of Extension, but this event aimed to showcase its programs and services. It was also a chance to welcome everyone to the Martens Center, a hidden gem on the North end boasting a commercial kitchen, full gym, indoor track, garden area, and multiple play areas for children – all with free and reduced-price memberships available.

Extension Day featured booths from all eight Extension program areas: 4-H, Family Life, Finances, Nutrition and Wellness, SNAP-Ed, EFNEP, the Master Gardeners, and the Master Naturalists. It also featured booths from community partners such as the Champaign Parks District, the Housing Authority of Champaign County, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, OSF Healthcare, and the Trauma and Resilience Initiative.

But it wasn’t all learning! The event was a fun-filled day for the whole family with engaging activities and crafts. The first 120 guests enjoyed free Kona Ice, while cotton candy kept everyone sweet. Foodies and families also got to participate in a free cooking demonstration. Participants got to create a flavorful dish called Fiesta Quinoa Salad.

“It was tasty,” said cooking demo participant and mother Regina Blackmon. “My son never eats things like this. That’s why I’m just so happy to let him enjoy it. I’d love to make this again. It’s perfect for summer.”

"We wanted to bring the community together for a large family-oriented event where adults could receive valuable information and children could explore,” said Illinois Extension SNAP-Ed Educator Tracy Bowden. “Our main goals were to highlight the various sectors of Extension and open up Martens Center to the public for greater visibility.”

The turnout and community engagement exceeded expectations, creating a joyful and informative atmosphere for everyone involved.

"I enjoy seeing people smile. I love to hear children's laughter and know we had a small piece of that happiness. We can't wait to host another one next year," said Bowden.

To learn more about Illinois Extension, visit or call 217-333-7672.

Photo Caption: Attendees look at the booths at the resource fair at Extension Day, hosted at the Martens Center on May 11, 2024.

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.