You could here the music for blocks away from McKinley Park, and a little closer, you could smell the food and hear the children laughing and playing. And it stayed that way all day and into the night as Beltzhoover celebrated Friends and Family Day.

FAMILY AND FRIENDS—Beltzhoover residents socialize and line up for burgers, dogs, funnel cake and cold drinks during the June 30 Family and Friends Day festival at McKinley Park. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Malik James, executive director of Friends and Family Day, and also a member of the Beltzhoover Civic Association, said the idea was to bring people together in a positive and enjoyable way to celebrate Beltzhoover.

“We just wanted to celebrate there’s not a lot of places to get together, and it’s great for the whole family,” she said.

The June 30 festival also allowed the civic association, social service agencies and health care organizations to alert the community to upcoming events.

Raymont Conner, assistant to James, said the civic association is also sponsoring a two-day revival meeting at McKinley Park, July 4 and 5, featuring a special sermon by Bishop Loran Mann of Pentecostal Temple COGIC in East Liberty on July 6.

“We also want to let families who are struggling know that we serve hot meals every third Friday at the Warrington Avenue Recreational Center,” he said. “And when school starts back up we will be having teen dances at the center once a month, with pizza provided by Youth Places. It’s a safe fun environment for our youth.”

There was the Friends and Family Day celebration, with carnival rides, a Lil Dribblers Hoop Tournament, music by DJ E, dance performances by Knaka, Caution, Diamond Girls and the South Side Soul Steppers, free photographs, free face painting, free hair cuts compliments of Big Cuts By Stu, and free blood pressure and cholesterol screenings thanks to Community College of Allegheny County. The South Side Baptist Church and the Three Rivers Adoption Council also had informational booths.

But with temperatures in mid-90s, the most popular place was the inflatable water slide, which had a steady stream of kids, and some parents, lining up all day long.

Rhonda Williams, who was there with a huge clan of sisters, nieces, nephews, sons, daughters and grandchildren, most dripping from the water slide, praised the event.

“It’s a great idea, it’s positive for the community and it’s fun for everyone, young and old,” she said.

After the water slide, the second most frequented spot to beat the heat was Abdula’s handmade lemonade stand.

“Yes, I’m very popular today because it’s the best lemonade you’ll ever have,” he said.

But there were also booths selling funnel cakes, burgers ribs, wings, hot dogs and cheese fries. Other vendors included Traci Lynn’s Fashion Jewelry and ArieBella Couture custom shirts, sweats and accessories.

Voices against Violence founder Rich Carrington, who sponsored the event along with the adoption council, Highmark, Riverset Credit Union, PNC, Citiparks, Duquesne Light and the Hilltop Alliance, called the event a success.

“It’s a good representation of what Beltzhoover is all about and it’s really good for the community,” he said. “Nowadays, we have a huge influx of young kids in the community. I have 80 kids under 7 in my summer camp and more signing up. So unlike the Community Days celebration in late July, it’s great to have this event geared toward the little kids. People forget that these 7-year-olds will be 18 soon enough, and we need to reach them now.”

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