The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 29, 2013

Large crowd enjoys annual Community Event

Frank Sojak
fsojak@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — Demichael Clarke Sr. had as much fun getting his white T-shirt painted with handprints as did the children painting him Saturday at the fifth annual Johnstown Community Event at the West End Playground along Route 56 in Oakhurst.

Painting his shirt were his children, Demichael Jr., 6, Delilah, 7, and Demarco, 4, plus other children. The children also were putting their handprints on trash receptacles as a reminder that they have taken ownership of the playground.

“I loved the event,” the elder Clark said. “The children are having fun.”

The event, sponsored by the city of Johnstown and the Johnstown chapter of Project Street Kids International, was held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It featured numerous activities, entertainment and demonstrations.

By mid-afternoon, between 2,700 and 3,000 people were estimated to have attended, said Renee Daly, director of the Community and Economic Development office for the city.

Every year, a different site is selected for the event, she said.

“This year, with the improvements that the city and Melissa Komar (land manager coordinator for the city) have done with the playground, it was an easy decision to choose the playground for the event,” she said.

PennDOT and the state Department of Environmental Resources provided the grant money to complete the playground renovations, she said.

Daly said she is thankful to the event’s other major sponsors – CTC Foundation, Somerset Trust, CJL Engineering, First Summit Bank and The EADS Group – for their support. There also were other sponsors plus plenty of volunteers, she said.

Michelle Harrington, who grew up near the playground, was at the event with her mother, Patricia, who still lives nearby, and her niece, Bailee Heider, who said the event was great.

“She (Bailee) likes it. She had her face painted,” Michelle Harrington said.

Nate Callaway of Johnstown said he went to the event with friends and the children of friends.

“I just think it’s an awesome thing what they have done for the children,” he said.

Krista Bell, who grew up a stone’s throw from the playground, was at the event with her husband, Jeff, and their daughter, Becca, and Becca’s friend, Lextyn Petz.

“We came so that the girls could participate in the festivities and so that I could reminiscence,” said Bell, who now lives in Westmont.

The city has been working to revitalize the community and the event and playground are two of many good efforts, she said.

Alexander Zidik was volunteering at the event with Sue Konvolinka at a booth sponsored by Matteo’s Herbs Galore in Morrellville.

Zidik said that after children painted a flower pot at the event, they came to their booth to plant herbs in the pot.

“I’m glad that the city is holding the event,” he said, adding that it means much to the children.

Brittany Hood, who lives nearby, was at the event with her fiance, Donald Sykes, and their daughter, Alyssa, 16 months. She said she loves the new playground and that the event was great.

John Slezak, of the West End Improvement Group, which helped to sponsor the event, said the event was an excellent one with many smiling children attending.

“They’re having a great time here,” he said.

Joanne Mekis, president of the Johnstown chapter of Project Street Kids, said the event was designed to get people excited about the city.

The organizers wanted to increase the pride that people feel about their neighborhoods, she said.

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