Northern Westmoreland students, faculty renovate Memorial Park bandshell
New Kensington and Arnold residents who attend the “Social in the Park” on Sunday should take note of the newly renovated bandshell in Memorial Park.
The refurbished stage demonstrates that it doesn't take a great deal of money to reinvigorate a weathered landscape, just a bit of dedication and ingenuity.
The “Social in the Park” committee embodied those characteristics this year when it commissioned vocational education students and instructors to renovate the band shell with money they raised promoting the third annual event.
Committee member Cindy Downard said the project was a “win-win” for everyone involved.
“The students got valuable hands-on experience, and the city had its Memorial Park stage renovated without spending a single cent of taxpayer dollars,” she said.
The committee raised $3,000 for Northern Westmoreland Career & Technology Center students and faculty to restore the bandshell in the months preceding New Kensington Community Days in June.
Downard said most of the money was raised by selling raffle tickets worth a chance to win two tickets to the Nov. 10 Steelers game against the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field. The winner will be announced at the Sunday event along with secondary winners who will take home various gift baskets donated by local businesses.
About a dozen other businesses and food vendors laid down $25 to rent park space during the event, which accounted for a significant portion of the renovation fund, said Downard.
Joe Scalise, a carpentry instructor at the vo-tech school, said 15 welding and carpentry students spent about six weeks renovating the bandshell from April to June.
The crew replaced the stage floor and ceiling, reinforced the walls, trimmed the molding and stained and painted the entire structure before their June 21 deadline for the city's Community Days.
The new look resonated with the community days attendees, according to Scalise, who hopes it's met with a similar response during Sunday's social.
“It's good for the kids to get some recognition for their hard work, and they learned a lot on the job,” he said. “They learn a lot in the shop, but there's no substitute for tackling a project that you would be working on when you're out in the real world.”
After the students finished the restoration, the committee approached Chris Moore, 35, of New Kensington to add some finishing touches.
A longtime firefighter and part-time electrician, Moore volunteered to modernize the new ceiling with recessed can and spot lighting. He also installed two open conduits that could accommodate a speaker system. The additions will give artists that use the stage an added element to their performances, he said.
Moore said he volunteered because he believes Memorial Park to be a “diamond in the rough” for New Kensington along Stevenson Boulevard.
“I remember playing in that park as a kid,” he said. “Now that I have a 4-year-old son, I can't tell you how important I think it is to have an area like that. And if I can do my part to keep it going, I'm more than willing.”
Moore's sentiment is consistent with the 12-member “Social in the Park” committee's mission. The group is comprised of people living throughout the Alle-Kiski Valley who grew up in New Kensington. It sponsors events that benefit Memorial Park.
The group was formed in 2011 by New Kensington native Rob Greb who, while battling cancer, wanted to reconnect with the people who shaped his past.
He lost that fight a year later, but the people he brought together continue his legacy by maintaining the common bond that he refused to let break.
“Rob reunited us,” wrote Stephen Paulovich in a 2012 Valley News Dispatch letter to the editor.
Paulovich, a New Kensington native who is renowned for the artwork he produces out of Louisville, Ky., sculpted a brass Rob Greb memorial plaque last year to honor his memory. Today, that plaque rests on the front pillar of the renovated band shell that's been renamed in his honor.
“Rob loved this town and the people in this town,” Downard said. “And the park, in my mind, is the best thing going in this town. I'm really hoping people will come out and support the group.”
All of the event's proceeds benefit Memorial Park. Last year's social brought about 600 people to the park.
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org