The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Chip Minemyer

October 23, 2011

Chip Minemyer | Next landmark in spotlight: Roxbury Bandshell?

— Mary Borkow has always had big dreams for the Roxbury Bandshell.

And they’ve generally come true.

The Roxbury Bandshell Preservation Alliance saved the Johnstown structure from demolition more than six years ago. The team of volunteers has raised money to pay for repairs and ongoing costs at the edifice, and developed a successful summer concert series at Roxbury Park.

But the work of the alliance and its leader is never done.

Last month, upon seeing lights shining off the city’s historic Stone Bridge, Borkow began to envision a similar illumination opportunity at the other end of town.

“I really want to light the bandshell,” she said. “I think it would be so awesome to do.

“It would be a nice complement to the Stone Bridge, a nice tie-in.”

About $1.2 million was raised through private and public sources to clean, repair and light the Stone Bridge.

That presents a financial hurdle, although the bandshell is much smaller than the bridge.

Still, you can never count out the bandshell folks just because money seems to be an obstacle.

They’ve raised more than $300,000 since 2005, when the city announced plans to level the structure for parking space at the park.

That money has been invested in preserving and enhancing the structure, which dates to the late 1930s.

“We have no debt, so we’re in really good shape,” Borkow said.

And although the 2011 concert series is in the past, the bandshell effort remains ever active.

A Christmas tree-lighting ceremony will be held there on Dec. 4.

Annual events to benefit the site include the Fat Friday fundraiser in early spring and the Bandshell Bark dog walk in the fall.

And Borkow and Company are beginning to line up performers for the 2012 summer concert series. AmeriServ will return as the lead corporate sponsor, Borkow said. The concerts attract several hundred people to Roxbury on Sunday afternoons.

“There’s a lot going on behind the scenes,” she said.

The alliance’s website– www.roxburybandshell.com – lists nearly 90 groups and individuals who have taken the stage there in recent years.

They include every style imaginable, from folk to rock to jazz to country.

Applications to perform in 2012 are available on the website. The deadline is the end of December.

“This an opportunity for them to throw their hats into the ring,” Borkow said.

And, like everyone else working to protect and improve the bandshell, the performers volunteer their time and talents.

“If I had to pay every performer ...,” she said. “It’s really amazing. They set up their own sound equipment. They spend a couple of hours setting up. They play for two hours. Then they tear down, which also takes a couple of hours. All they get is our thanks, the gratitude of the community and a free T-shirt.

“And they do get the exposure.”

A looming major project for the alliance is the moving of the roller-hockey rink – now situated squarely in front of the stage – across Roxbury Park to a spot near the recycling area.

Borkow said she has been working with city officials to gain approval for the project – which will be funded through private donations raised by the alliance.

Some features of the current skate rink – including sides and bumpers – will be re-used at the new location.

But, essentially, Borkow said, “We just need to build a new skate park.”

She added: “It really does impede our ability to host performances – the seating, the sound. We’re just waiting for (the city) to give us approval.

“Right now, we’re working to help support funding it.”

Borkow said the alliance members aren’t looking to keep skaters away.

“We don’t want this to be controversial,” she said. “I don’t want to make this project a political thing or annoy people. The kids need a place to play. And it may take a couple of years, but we’ll get it done.”

And what else?

Well, maybe another campaign to raise money to light the Roxbury Bandshell.

You can bet that if Borkow and the alliance want it to happen, they’ll find a way.

“Sometimes,” she said, “I have to pinch myself to realize that it’s come this far.”

Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5091.

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