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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Faces and Places: Kenney Ennis ...Star of a new park safety movie

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Photo by Emily McIntosh Kenney Ennis said he really liked being in the Mammoth Spring State Park safety movie, "Danger in the Park." Residents might recognize Kenney as the one who wears a straw hat and walks from Mammoth Spring to Thayer almost every day.
Mammoth Spring State Park has a beauty all its own, but watch out for snakes, cliffs, water and sun exposure. "Danger in the Park" an instructional safety movie created by Welcome Center Manager Adam Davis with guest actor, Kenney Ennis, tells people how to stay safe at the park. But, it's not so much the importance of safety in the movie as it is the personality brought to it through Kenney's whimsical acting.

Those in the Thayer-Mammoth Spring area know Kenney as the guy who regularly walks the two miles or so between Mammoth Spring and Thayer stopping by the park and popping into businesses to see what's going on in the neighborhood.

People usually recognize Kenney by his lumbering figure and his notorious straw hat.

Kenney said he walks five to six miles a day on his route from Mammoth Spring to Thayer.

"He's the walking legend," Davis said about Kenney. He also calls Kenney a "walking newspaper" because he knows just about everything going on around town.

Though Kenney seems normal enough, he actually suffers from autism. A mental disease that affects his learning abilities. He said he was diagnosed with it when he was little. Kenney is now about 33 years old.

Michael Ennis, Kenney's older brother, said Kenney doesn't like to talk about his condition too much. "It's a sensitive subject," he said.

Kenney and his parents, Don and Helen, and brother moved to Mammoth Spring from Michigan in 1996 right after Kenney graduated from Romulus High School (Mich.). Kenney said he has a younger brother Joey still living in Michigan. He said his family moved to Mammoth Spring because his dad liked the area and he had just retired from a brass works company.

When Kenney's family was still up north, Michael said Kenney would collect plastic soda bottles for the 10 cent refund. Michael said his brother would ride around on a bike with a basket attached to it and he'd go to the "projects" or ghettoes, places where people feared to go, to collect bottles. "No one would bother him," Michael said. He said no one gave Kenney any trouble when he came by to collect bottles. Michael said Kenney was a little bummed out when they moved to Arkansas and there wasn't a 10 cent refund on bottles.

When Kenney is not at home helping his parents around the house, he walks everywhere between Mammoth Spring and Thayer. Some of the businesses he stops at are the Mammoth Spring State Park, Hog Wild Pizza, Dairy Queen and Fun and Friends Senior Center.

Kenney used to take a pencil and note pad with him to the park and write down all the license plate numbers and where they were from. He said most of the plates came from Tennessee. Now, he's gotten out of the practice of writing down license plate numbers.

Kenney also carries a digital camera with him. "I take pictures if I see something interesting and I really like it," Kenney said. He said he currently has about 500 pictures stored in his camera.

Besides walking, Kenney has a few hobbies, too. He likes playing all kinds of video games.

He is also a savant when it comes to jigsaw puzzles. In a matter of a few hours, Kenney can have a fairly good sized jigsaw puzzle put together. He said the largest puzzle he has put together was a 3,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. When he is finished with the puzzles, he donates them to the free store or trades them at flea markets.

Kenney also likes watching old movies with his dad. Kenney said he likes all the old Walt Disney movies. Davis said another one of Kenney's talents is being able to quote movies he has seen from beginning to end.

Kenney attends the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Saturday and said he was baptized when he was 13. He said he helps out during their Vacation Bible School and cleans in the kitchen.

Though the Mammoth Spring State Park is a lovely site to see, there are some dangers, but by having a little common sense they can be avoided and the park has placed signs warning of the dangers. This safety movie helps emphasize those dangers for park employees.

Davis said he asked Kenney if he would be interested in helping him put together the safety movie for the park. "Kenney was willing to do it," Davis said.

"I liked it," Kenney said about being in the movie.

Kenney introduce himself at the beginning of the movie and tells what the movie is going to be about. "Hi, I'm Kenney Ennis. The park is a beautiful place but there's danger in it!" Kenney says.

Some of the dangers of the park Kenney helped point out during the movie were snakes and reptile bites, cliffs, swift running water, uneven surfaces on the pavement and sidewalks and even, jokingly, blowing up the cannon on display.

A special portion of the movie was set aside just for Kenney to tell about working in the sun because of his experiences with walking and working in the heat of the sun.

Kenney always wears his straw hat, recommends wearing sunscreen and drinking plenty of water.

The movie was made to point out the dangers of the park, not to scare people away from coming and enjoying themselves.

Kenney said he enjoys walking, watching the birds and visiting with people around the park.

"All the people at the park like Kenney," Davis said.