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Band Blast brings big fun for a low price

| Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Blues singer Miss Freddye Stover.
Alle-Kiski Valley band Jimbo and the Soupbones
Courtesy of All My Monsters
All My Monsters band members are, from left, Jason Godek, Mike Vasey and Rick Phillips.

Eric Swierczewski has fond memories of playing in New Kensington's Memorial Park as a young boy.

“I was originally from Aluminum City Terrace, and I spent a lot of summers at the park,” he says. “To get there, my buddies and I would slide down the steep hill on our butts. That was nothing — it was climbing back up that was the problem. It was enough to wear out a 10-year-old.”

Swierczewski of New Kensington, who performs as an Elvis impersonator, is one of several local entertainers who will perform at Band Blast from noon to 8 p.m. Sept. 14. The event is being organized by the New Ken/Arnold Social in the Park Committee to raise funds for needed improvements at Memorial Park.

Lou and Cindy Downard of Lower Burrell are among the 14 members of the committee, which was formed in 2011 by New Kensington native Rob Greb. He lost his fight with cancer a year later but won the sentiments of other native sons and daughters in the Alle-Kiski Valley. They continue to carry out his commitment to improving the community.

“Most of us have known each other for 30 or 40 years,” Lou Downard says. “Some of us grew up in the same neighborhood.”

The committee has dedicated itself to refurbishing the same parks where they played as youngsters: Roosevelt Park in Arnold and Memorial Park in New Kensington.

In May, the group held its second Rockin' Roosevelt Benefit Concert to raise money to staff the Arnold park and keep it open for the summer. Lou Downard says 700 people attended the concert featuring 12 bands; $4,500 was raised.

Now, it's Memorial Park's turn for some attention — and a concert of local performers that are willing to donate their time and talents to help the cause.

The committee has had three other Social in the Park events, but Lou Downard says this benefit concert is a first for Memorial Park. Pavilions A and B are in disrepair, he says. The goal is to renovate them.

Band Blast will include a variety of music from 11 area bands, including Jimbo and The Soupbones, Miss Freddye Stover & Her Blues Band, Lenny Colinni 4Pak, Mia Z, The Hackers, Heidi and The Hellcats, All My Monsters, Six Pack Social Club, The WannaBeatles (AKA Andy Mangini and Friends) and Flux Capacitor, along with special appearances by Ozz PA, an Ozzy Osbourne impersonator, and Swierczewski as Elvis.

Swierczewski, who has been performing at local events and private parties for more than four years, is happy to help. His “Tribute to the King” is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

“I grew up here, and I've always loved New Kensington,” he says. “I welcome any opportunity to become involved in any charity event for the city. I'm glad someone's stepping up to keep the parks maintained for our children and grandchildren. To see the community pull together is a wonderful thing.”

Lou Downard says he is impressed by the number of quality entertainers who are taking part. “The level of talent in this area is incredible,” he says. “They're all top-notch performers. For a $5 admission charge, you can't go wrong.”

Those attending should bring lawn chairs and blankets for festival seating at the event. The Kinloch Meals on Wheels will be accepting nonperishable food items.

Other activities include a corn hole tournament sponsored by the New Kensington Busy Beaver store, Lowes Kids Clinic, KidsKardio, the Pittsburgh Bullets Basketball Team, raffles and drawing and food vendors. Fat Cat Subs will donate $2 to the committee for each sub sold at the concert.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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