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Teens construct library golf course
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Thien Vu, 17, of Largo adds some detail to a castle “wall,” part of a mini-golf course Largo library’s teen volunteers are organizing as a fundraiser Saturday, Aug. 9.
LARGO – Since September 2013, teen volunteers at Largo Public Library have been constructing 27 layouts in different themes to turn the library into a miniature golf course.

The whole project will come together for Book Maniacs’ Mini Golf, an inaugural fundraiser for the teen program Saturday, Aug. 9, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the library, 120 Central Park Drive.

“We have tons of themes,” explained teen volunteer Nicole Harrison, 18, of Largo. “Music, Candy Land, Quidditch, under the sea, bugs, fantasy, Seven Wonders of the World, space or astronomy.”

Nine of the holes are designed to be easy for younger participants, set up in the children’s area as the Toddler Tee-Off Course. The rest of the 18 holes are for older children and adults in the Family Fairway Course.

“Everything for the putt-putt, because we’re doing it in the library, is book-themed,” said Julie Gonser, library youth services assistant. “That’s not hard to do just because there are books about everything.”

The library will be open to regular patrons during the event, which will raise money for the library’s Teen Room. A vendor shopping area will feature local businesses such Coldstone Creamery, Ready Set Yo, local crafters and Massage and Wellness, which will be offering chair massages.

A couple of staff members will pull Renaissance- and Western-themed carts around the library to sell snacks like kettle corn and cookies. Staff also will be selling 50-cent chance tickets for a drawing for gift baskets loaded with donated goodies like massage gift cards, free haircuts and facials, board games, pet supplies and pool lounges.

Since this is the first event like it, Gonser said she isn’t sure how much the teens will raise. Past fundraisers, such as the teens’ anime conventions, brought in $1,500 to $2,000. So far, just the idea of library mini golf has garnered a lot of interest.

“People are having a hard time with a miniature golf course inside the library,” Gonser said. “I think we’re going to have a lot of people here just because they want to see what it looks like.”

Free tickets were given to children 12 and younger who were successful in the library’s summer reading program.

“If they completed their summer reading, they received a free ticket for the golf. Hopefully that’ll bring their families in,” Gonser said.

The project has been a lot of work so far. The Greater Largo Library Foundation donated the golf balls and holes for the course, and the local Lowes donated several items the teens used in construction of the layouts. But Gonser has been gathering materials – saving boxes, Styrofoam and packing materials from shipments of books and materials to the library – since June of last year.

“It’s been a long time coming,” she said.

The Teen Library Council helped brainstorm themes and ideas for the different layouts.

“We tried to go by the area of the library (to decide) what the theme was,” Gonser said. “Of course, now they’ve rearranged a lot of the books, so it might not make sense.”

Still, a mystery-themed hole has been designed near the fiction section. The fantasy theme was supposed to be featured near the fantasy section, but those books have been integrated into the regular fiction section.

One of Gonser’s own projects was a 3D rendering of the Largo library made out of a poster, cut out and glued onto the spines of old books. The library will be featured on the first hole of the course.

The teens wanted to build an anime-themed layout for the Teen Room itself, as manga posters decorate many of the walls in the area. Harrison built the Pokémon Pikachu out of three cinder blocks and papier-mâché before the teens ran into a problem.

“We couldn’t think of anything else for it,” Harrison explained.

So the theme was changed to the board game, Candy Land.

“There’s more that you can do with candy than you can do with anime,” Harrison said.

A week before the event, the teens were still painting pool noodles in bright, candy-themed colors for the layout. They had already built the kid game pieces and Harrison papier-mâché a Gloppy the Molasses Monster to replace the bright Pikachu.

“It’s been fun, coming up with ideas,” Gonser said. “They’re having a good time.”

About 20 teens have worked on the project off and on since its launch. Gonser hopes about 10 teens will be able to make it out on Saturday to volunteer during the event. Just the creating of the event has been beneficial to them, she said.

“It brings out their creativity whether they know they have it or not,” Gosner said.

Harrison said she is no stranger to crafts. Papier-mache animals are just the beginning of her contributions to the golf course. On her own time, she constructed the buildings for the Seven Wonders of the World: an Egyptian pyramid, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Eiffel Tower.

“You should see my bedroom. I have a huge bin of just newspapers, and I’ve got heating lamps all over the place,” Harrison said.

The former home-schooler has graduated and is attending classes at St. Petersburg College. But she stuck around to continue volunteering this summer because she wanted to see this project through. She’s been a teen volunteer since she was 13, and has helped out with the library even before then.

“I’ve always liked to volunteer. I try to do as much as I can to give back to the community,” Harrison said.

Gosner set up the mini-golf layouts in a trial run two weeks before the event, to make sure everything worked. From there, it was all about fine-tuning the pieces and finishing the painting.

“I know it’s not going to be perfect the first year. You want it to be as interesting and as flawless as you can get,” she said.

Gosner said she hopes to make mini golf the teen’s major fundraiser for the next four or five years. Each year, the teens will make upgrades and repairs and maybe add another layout or two.

The event should be beneficial for the library itself.

“We’ll be all over the library,” Gosner said. “There are people – it’s funny – they don’t even know we have a second floor, and we’ve been here almost 10 years.”

The library will be almost fully staffed on Saturday.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a good response and everybody will have a good time,” Gosner said. “The kids are looking forward to it.”
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