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Concert strikes dual chord in Arnold

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 1:06 a.m.

Lou Downard remembers spending summer days in his youth in Arnold's Roosevelt Park.

“It was the place where you went when you were a kid,” said Downard, 56, now of Lower Burrell. “Roosevelt Park was kind of a hub; you'd meet your friends down there.

“If you were sitting in the house watching TV in the summer, you'd be shooed outside. It was a different time.”

On a pleasant summer day a few years ago, Downard noticed the park was void of playing children.

The city couldn't afford to pay full-time park monitors. So, what was once a constant sign of summer, was only open once or twice a week.

“You'd see kids looking through the fence,” Downard said. “They wanted to be in there.”

So Downard, along with his wife, Cindy, and other members of the New Kensington Arnold Social in the Park — an event held every fall in New Kensington's Memorial Park, to raise money for that park — approached the city about opening the park for the summer.

Out sprung the Rockin' Roosevelt Benefit Concert.

The second-year event, which takes place on Sunday, raises money for the city to hire monitors to keep the park open from noon to 8 p.m., five days a week.

The event, starting at noon, will feature 12 bands, six food vendors and countless activities for young and old alike.

Downard said Kinloch Meals on Wheels will be at the event to collect nonperishable food.

Admission is $5.

“Everyone's donating their time and talent,” Downard said. “There are so many talented people in this area.

“It's amazing,” he said. “We have so many people that want to volunteer, but we don't have enough jobs for them.”

Members from the local arena football team, the Pittsburgh Power, will be on hand to greet attendees.

“They'll be selling $35 tickets for $20,” Downard said. “They're going to donate $5 from every ticket sold to us.”

Arnold Mayor Larry Milito said having the park open is vital to his community.

“It gets kids off the street and gives them something to do,” he said. “It helps the parents a little bit. Sometimes you need that break after getting off of work, and you can take the kids to the park and let them play.”

Milito said it takes about $9,000 for the city to keep the park open during the summer.

Downard said the event raised $4,000 at the gate last year. The Arnold Lions Club donated $2,000 and the rest of the money came from other donations.

The mayor said Rockin' Roosevelt is a city treasure in its own right.

“It's great for everybody,” he said. “It gets the community out and brings them together.

“For too long, people have closed their doors, their eyes and their minds to what's going on in our neighborhoods.”

Downard said he hopes people make Rockin' Roosevelt a family event.

“What we love to see is families coming and putting blankets down and staying to enjoy everything,” he said.

“We want everyone to have fun and help the park.”

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.

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