New musical playground at Big Ole central Park offers sweet sounds

It should be open by the weekend.

Alexandria Rotarian Larry Zilliox (demin shirt) checks on the progress of the new Alexandria Community Musical Playground as Bitzan/Ohren Masonry employees (from left) Randy Robb, Kraig Rydberg and Colby Larson, look over and measure the instruments. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

Several years ago when Larry Zilliox was a district governor for the Rotary organization, he took part in a dedication for a musical playground in Minneapolis.

That sparked the idea to construct a similar playground in Alexandria.

And this week, the Alexandria Rotarian’s idea came to fruition.

Construction on the new Alexandria Community Musical Playground, located at Big Ole Central Park, is in full swing. Weather permitting, it should be ready for use by the end of the week, Zilliox said.

A dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony was set to take place on Thursday, June 25.


The Alexandria Community Musical Playground consists of six different musical instruments. Zilliox said that Greg Donahue, another Rotarian who has a musical background, visited the company, Freenotes, that makes the instruments to listen to each of them. Afterward, he provided a list with his recommendations to Zilliox.
One of the instruments is an imbarimba, which is a pentatonic instrument that delivers resonating sounds, according to the company’s website. The inspiration for this instrument combines two African classics, the marimba, a resonated xylophone, and a kalimba, which is a thumb piano.

Another instrument is the serenade, which allows users to play songs using the color-coded chimes and attached songbook. This instrument has 15 chimes that are diatonic and provide a pleasant, sweet sound, the website noted.

All the instruments can withstand the elements and be used year-round, said Zilliox.

Fundraising for the project began in January, he said, with about half the funds coming from the Alexandria Rotary club and the rest coming from various donors within the community. The cost, although not final yet, will be between $30,000 and $33,000.

An addition to the park area that is not a musical instrument is a bench that was donated by the family of Jim Bill, a former Rotarian, who passed away several years ago. Zilliox said Vicki Bill, Jim’s wife, donated the bench for the park.

When asked why a musical playground, Zilliox said he’s seen similar ones like the one in Minneapolis and that they are always being used – but both adults and kids.

“The kids who are using them are always having one heck of a time,” he said. “And this (pointing to Big Ole Central Park) is a park and there should be things to do in a park.”


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The "Griffin" (middle) is one of six musical instruments at the new Alexandria Community Musical Playground at Big Ole Central Park. Producing rich, full tones, the Griffin is a resonated metallophone that has anodized aluminum chimes. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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