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Festival fun abounds in Lower Burrell, New Kensington

| Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 1:46 a.m.

Children in Lower Burrell and New Kensington have something to do this Saturday thanks to the grassroots efforts of two revitalization-minded community groups.

New festivals will be making their debuts at the Kinloch Fireman's Park in Lower Burrell and the JFK Playground in New Kensington.

Both start at noon Saturday.

Kinloch Day is the culmination of a summer effort to restore the playground off New York Avenue. The small parklet was threatened with closure because it had fallen into disrepair and disuse, but a group of neighborhood residents intervened to restore it.

A lot of donations and elbow grease have resulted in a new or repaired pavilion, playground equipment, and landscaping.

Melanie Nanni, one of the residents spearheading the Kinloch Unites effort along with Alison Conway, said they wanted to celebrate their success and maintain the momentum they've created.

“I think everyone has realized it's not just about the park, it's the community,” Nanni said.

Nanni said the park has given children somewhere to play through the summer.

“We have gone from not being able to get anybody at that park, to at least eight kids being down there everyday,” she said. “It really has revitalized these kids.

“We thought, ‘We need to celebrate this,' ” Nanni said. “Alison came up with the idea of doing the festival.”

The event will include a variety of activities geared primarily for children, including a presentation by John Lege, “That Guy with the Birds”; a bounce house, pony rides, magician Nick Gentry, and Monsterz marble creator Chad Parker.

Nanni said there also will be things to interest adults, including bingo, raffles, a pie-eating contest and oil changes.

“Hopefully there will be a lot of stuff to keep people's attention,” Nanni said.

Nanni said the Kinloch Unites group has more plans in store for the playground. Ideas include a community garden, a free lunch program and activities during winter snow days when students don't have school.

New Kensington festival

The Rock the Block party at JFK Playground grew out of a Facebook post, said Troy Owen, a New Kensington resident who runs the city's Liberty Tax Service branch.

Owen said someone posted a “remember when” comment on the social-networking site, which blossomed into a discussion of childhood memories growing up in New Kensington and Arnold in the 1980s and ‘90s.

People also lamented that some of the community events and spirit they appreciated as children seemed to be lacking. That sparked Owen and several others to step in.

“Maybe nobody's done anything because we're the adults now and it's on us to do this,” said Owen.

The block party will include an “Old School” talent showcase, in which participants are encouraged to incorporate ‘80s and ‘90s pop culture into their acts.

The talent show will be followed by the Chris Miller 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, named in memory of the Valley High School graduate and basketball standout who was shot to death in an Arnold alley in 2004.

Owen said they also will be raising money through T-shirt sales and other activities for a scholarship in Miller's honor.

Folks also will be on hand to raise money for the Maiyanna Foundation, which benefits Maiyanna Clemons-McCarthy, 3, of Penn Hills, who was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of tumor in her brain stem. She is the daughter of Valley graduate Mycah Clemons.

Other activities will include games, clowns, food vendors, music and other children's activities.

“We're hoping for a pretty significant turnout,” Owen said.

Although they had begun planning the event before the city's annual Independence Day block party and fireworks were canceled, Owen said they hope it serve as an alternate summer party for residents.

“We're looking to have a really good time,” he said.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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