Moments after staff turned on the bubble machine, a stream of tiny white bubbles poured from the spout and a group of summer camp kids rushed into the growing pile of white foam.
A brief downpour and winds that whipped chunks of bubbles into the air like blizzard only added to the fun Tuesday afternoon at the Farmin' Fun Day Camp at Salomon Farm Park.
"Best day ever!" one boy, who was covered in white foam, yelled as he waded out of the pile of bubbles.
Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department staff first saw a bubble machine in action while attending the Indiana Parks and Recreation Northern District meeting in May 2016 in Bluffton, said Chuck Reddinger, the local parks department's deputy director of recreation.
He and Steve McDaniel, the parks department's deputy director of asset management, both thought parks staff could make a bubble machine and that it would be a fun addition for youngsters in park programs, Reddinger said.
Last fall, they gave the idea to maintenance technician Kevin Richardson, who began working on the project when he had down time from his normal job duties, said Dennis Hamilton, parks department supervisor of facilities and trades.
Hamilton isn't sure how much it cost to build the bubble machine because they just used old parts and pieces of equipment they had laying around, such as pumps, blower motors and a small trailer with a water tank.
"It took a little bit of trial and error," Hamilton said of figuring out the final design.
The machine uses four gallons of blue Dawn dishwashing soap per 150 gallons of water, and then can pump out bubbles for a few hours, said Kellie Adkins, parks department manager of outdoor recreation. The Dawn soap is safe for children to play in and also safe for the environment, Adkins added.
For the safety of children, they set up the machine in a grassy area, and youngsters also must wear shoes while playing in the bubbles.
The bubble machine made its debut Tuesday morning at farm camp Salomon Farm Park, and a different group of campers got to play in the bubbles Tuesday afternoon, Adkins said. The camp will have the machine Tuesdays and Wednesdays so all of the approximately 100 campers ages 4-17 will have a chance to play in it.
On other days, the bubble maker will go to other parks department summer camps and neighborhood programs, she said.
It works out really well at the farm camp, Adkins said, because camp counselors lead their groups on a creek walk before going to the bubble machine. After playing in the soap bubbles and then getting rinsed off with water from a hose, campers don't go home full of dirt and smelling of creek water.
"The kids smell good when they are done," she said, grinning.