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Natrona offers families a full slate of fun for the summer

| Sunday, May 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
(back, left to right) Natrona Comes Together president Bill Godfrey, treasurer Pat Walters, board member Helen Strzesieski and assistant art director Cheryl Yunecko organize an arts-and-crafts project for Grayson Neal, 3; Tazzae Clay Jr., 2; Sean Andrew Williams, 4; Madalynn Seeking, 4; and Steven Seeking, 7, at the Natrona playground in Harrison.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Rey McBurney, 4, concentrates on an arts-and-crafts project as his mother, Leeann, watches on at the Natrona playground in Harrison.
Lamb at petting zoo

It's the best summer ever in Natrona, say those in the Harrison neighborhood, and dedicated residents want to share the community's good fortune with people of all ages.

Members of the neighborhood revitalization group Natrona Comes Together Association are hosting a number of events and activities that they hope will not only create summertime fun for those in the small river town, but also will welcome others from in and around the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Among the activities for kids are sports camps and educational programming. For grown-ups, a summer concert series will again take place at the neighborhood's park.

In addition, a canoe and kayak launch not far from the Brackenridge-Natrona border will be accessible by midsummer.

The events are the fruits of the Natrona Comes Together Association. Since it began nine years ago, the group has successfully worked to reduce crime, clean up the community and offer activities for children.

“We've been planting the seeds of a lot of wonderful projects that we hope will evolve into something really special,” says Bill Godfrey, association president.

From basketball to birds, programs in Natrona for kids this summer offer something educational and entertaining catering to everyone's interests.

The Natrona group decided to focus on three areas that bring education and entertainment together. With the help of several grants, they are providing an action-packed summer for youngsters.

“We saw a desperate need in this community to have fun, educational activities for children,” says Pat Walters, association secretary.

Arts, sports and literacy have been the main focus of Natrona's children's programming, which has been offered through for several years. It is entirely volunteer-run and — before receiving grants — operated on a shoestring budget.

The children's activities kicked off May 11 with a sports camp offered through Fun and Freedom Youth Sports.

Open to everyone from 5-year-olds to teens, the camp includes flag football, basketball and whiffle ball, just to name a few of the sports involved. It runs through Sept. 14 at Natrona's park.

“It's about using sports to positively impact youth,” says Patty Babinsack, a Natrona Comes Together volunteer.

Other events starting soon are programs from the Pittsburgh Zoo, the National Aviary, the Backyard Petting Zoo and Carnegie Science Center. The programs are free and open to the public.

Summer activities also include a trip to the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum in Tarentum and a summer reading program.

Concerts to canoes

The stage is also set in Natrona for a mix of summer concerts.

Evening performances will be at the neighborhood's park, which, upon renovation, has quickly become the center of Natrona activity.

The series kicks off June 8 with Brazilian drum group Timbeleza. The following week, local blues artist Miss Freddye will perform. July will see a doo-wop trio and in August, Natrona will host a country rock outfit and a salsa and rock band.

Bringing variety to the stage was one of Natrona Comes Together's aims.

“We were trying to find enough different groups with a diversity of music so we can sort of touch a lot of people, (the series) goes from country to blues to oldies — the whole music industry — and we're bringing little bits and pieces to Natrona,” Godfrey says.

The shows will run 90 minutes to two hours. Foods like nachos will be available for a few dollars. Those attending are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets to use on the park's green. Seating near the stage is also available. All concerts are free.

Taking to the water will be another opportunity for those in and around Natrona. Groundbreaking took place about a month ago, and construction of a kayak and canoe launch along the Allegheny River is under way.

For Godfrey, whether it's heading out on the water on a sunny summer day, relaxing and listening to music for a cool evening or heading out to the park for children's programming, everyone is welcome.

“We'd just like to share our good fortune with whoever wants to come down,” Godfrey says.

Julie Martin is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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