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New Ken Community days brings people out to Memorial Park

| Sunday, June 22, 2003

NEW KENSINGTON: Rain was a constant threat, but it didn't deter people from crowding Memorial Park for the city's annual Community Days.

Many people, wearing boots, jeans and sweatshirts, came prepared for the chilly weather and occasionally muddy ground. But others donned shorts, tank tops and sandals, determined to celebrate the official start of summer regardless of the weather.

Some attendees even preferred the 60-degree temperature.

"Last year it was about 90, and the sweat was pouring off everyone," said Joe Kwiatek of Arnold. "I think I like this better."

His wife, Raquel, said the park was less crowded than usual, making it easier to see the vendors' booths.

"I like looking at all the crafts," Kwiatek said. "I bet it will be crazy here (Sunday)."

Today's forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high temperature near 80 degrees.

Elayne Dolny of Brackenridge also came out to peruse the crafts.

She said this year is the first time she and her family -- husband, Ron, and son, Ron Jr., -- have visited the festival, sponsored by the New Kensington Volunteer Fire Department.

"I was never even aware of this," Dolny said.

Although Dolny didn't find the handmade soaps she was looking for, plenty of other crafters were set up along the tree-lined walking path ringing the park. Everything from hand-painted benches to Native American-inspired knickknacks were available.

But many freely admitted the real reason they braved the overcast sky:

"I'm here for the food," Joe Kwiatek said, having finished his gyro. Raquel Kwiatek said she was looking forward to her cotton candy.

Brad Kwiatek of Saltsburg and Jodi Henkiel of Lower Burrell said they went in an unsuccessful search for fried dough.

"We didn't find it, but at least this isn't as muddy as the Rib Fest," Brad Kwiatek, a Lower Burrell native, said, referring to the ongoing Pennsylvania Rib, Wing and Music Festival in Greensburg.

Ron Dolny Jr., 9, licked the powdered sugar off his funnel cake plate as he sang praises for the honey sticks one vendor was selling.

"I love 'em," Dolny said of the small tubes of flavored honey.

Aside from the rides, which she avoided due to the mud, Kayla Hurt, 5, of New Kensington, said the food was what she looked forward to. She dug through a plate of fries drenched in cheese and ketchup as her older sister, Jadelyn Hurt, 9, munched on a funnel cake.

The girls' mother, Vicki Hurt, said she was glad people came out to support the city.

"I think it's nice for the community to get together," Hurt said.

Barbara Cobb, also of New Kensington, agreed.

"People want to enjoy themselves, Cobb said. "We want to be peaceful.

"It's all about family, not that nonsense like what happened last week," Cobb said, referring to Monday's drive-by shooting on Constitution Boulevard.

"We need to show people we're not all crazy," Hurt added. "That's the minority of people who live here. The people here, we're the majority."

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