‘Rockin’ Roosevelt’ helps keep Arnold’s ‘jewel’ open for summer
Crystal Ritzert visited Arnold’s Roosevelt Park on Sunday for the first time.
She came with her son and daughter, Chase, 7, and Evie, 2. They had come by before but found the park closed and went to other parks instead.
“It’s bigger than we thought it was,” she said as the kids played. “It would be nice to walk somewhere rather than drive to a park.”
The sixth annual “Rockin’ Roosevelt” held Sunday was meant to help keep the park open during the summer. Proceeds from the daylong music event go toward paying for a monitor at the park, which is open from 1-8 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays while school is out.
The New Ken/Arnold Social in the Park Committee stages the event — which started with a different purpose, and in a different location.
The group was founded in 2011, two years before its first benefit in Arnold, with an event in New Kensington’s Memorial Park. It was just a get-together, without bands, with the idea of “taking Facebook out of Facebook,” said Lou Downard of Lower Burrell, one of the committee’s dozen members.
Downard, 60, grew up in Arnold and played in Roosevelt Park. It’s the size of a city block and fenced-in, with tall trees and amenities such as a band shell, pavilion, kitchen and bathrooms. Memorials stand there.
But Roosevelt Park had been closed because the city didn’t have the money to pay for a monitor, who is there to ensure it isn’t abused, damaged or vandalized.
“That doesn’t happen because I’m here,” said Jean Wroblewski of New Kensington, who has been the park monitor since 1995.
Wroblewski said the park last was redone in 1997. Because it’s guarded, nothing is broken, and everything is in good condition, she said.
“It’s a beautiful park,” she said.
There were two years the park didn’t open .
“I was driving past here. I didn’t realize the park was closed,” Downard said. “We decided to do something to get the park open.”
First held in 2013, Rockin’ Roosevelt raises about $4,000 each year, Downard said. It all goes to the city. Two years ago, the group also got a grant that helped redo the tot lot. With the city now able to support the park, Downard said they’d like to see it kept open longer, have ice skating come back and offer more events, such as movie nights.
He called Roosevelt Park “the jewel of the city.”
“We were able to keep the park open the whole time the city didn’t budget a dollar to it,” said Downard, whose grandson was playing in the park Sunday. “It feels good to keep it open. I want to keep it going for his kids.”
Previously held in May, the event was moved to June this year in hopes of better weather. Downard said they probably will stick with a June date, although a threat of storms caused it to be rescheduled from June 10 to Sunday.
Admission was $5.
Eight bands were scheduled to perform. The music was joined by the rustling of leaves in the brisk breeze, and the scents of grilled hot dogs and barbecue from vendors were tempting.
Nick Rodites, 65, owner of Ice Cream Heaven on Freeport Road, was tending to hot dogs on his grill. He grew up on Leishman Avenue and remembers both roller skating and ice skating at the park.
He also remembers the pond that was there, which had fish in it, before it was filled in.
“You didn’t have the problems you have now,” he said, adding he’s happy it’s open. “If you don’t have things around for the kids to do, you’re going to have problems.”
Mindy Hannaman of Arnold was enjoying the swings with her son, Malachi, 1.
“We’re right up the street. We like the swings,” she said. “We like to come down. We have a yard, but it’s not that big.”