New Kensington may get block party
New Kensington's annual Independence Day block party won't occur this year, but a city business owner and some volunteers are hoping to offer a replacement in August.
Troy Owen, who runs the Liberty Tax Service branch in New Kensington, approached council on Tuesday about hosting an “Old School Block Party” at JFK Playground beside city hall on Aug. 17.
Owen and fellow organizer Barbara “Anne” Ross said they began planning the event before they learned the Fourth of July party and fireworks were canceled. They noted it could help fill the void this summer.
They tentatively are planning a basketball tournament, a talent show, art contest and other events at the 11th Street playground from noon to 3 p.m. If it rains, they'll bump the event back to Aug. 18.
Owen and Ross said they've run into many people who are nostalgic for the city's atmosphere from the 1980s and ‘90s, which prompted their “old school” theme.
Councilman Doug Aftanas said he thought it was a great idea and noted they were the second group to express an interest in hosting events at the playground this summer. A YMCA-sponsored basketball league also was approved.
Owen said he isn't certain how many people will attend, but he'd love to pull in the same size of crowd that the Independence Day block party usually garnered.
He said they would like to block off 11th Street from Industrial Boulevard to Third Avenue in front of the playground to provide room for vendors. They plan to rent portable restrooms and have volunteers to direct traffic and clean up afterward.
The Clemons family also will have a fundraising booth for Maiyanna Clemons-McCarthy, the 3-year-old girl who is battling a rare type of brain-stem tumor.
Council approved the event as long as Owen presents proof of liability insurance coverage for the event.
Next year's fireworks
Meanwhile, Assistant Fire Chief Ed Saliba and Kim McAfoose, executive director of the city's redevelopment authority, volunteered to lead the fundraising efforts to bring back fireworks in 2014.
Aftanas said illness prevented his two most active volunteers on the recreation commission — Kathy Males and Robin Laird — from organizing the event this year.
Aftanas said the commission, which also organizes the city's Christmas parade and related activities, has basically been defunct for several months. He encouraged volunteers to come forward to ensure such events continue.
Councilman John Regoli praised the efforts the women have made in the past, especially in raising the estimated $13,000 for the fireworks display.
He said city officials couldn't justify spending that amount of tax money on what he called a “luxury.”
Regoli noted officials have made an effort to maintain and create events for the city, including the inaugural winter festival last fall and the mayor's annual Christmas dinner on light-up night.
“Don't lose sight of the things this mayor has done for the community,” he said.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.