St. George’s Park was ‘a sizzlin’ on Saturday afternoon as residents from the area gathered for the 6th annual Georgestock Open Mic and BBQ Party in the Park.
Known as one of the largest neighborhood parties of the year, there was something for everyone, from face painting, games, potato sack races, good food and great music at the event, hosted by the St.George's Park Neighbourhood Group.
The local fire department also made its annual appearance for any kids desperate for a chance to sit in the fire truck.
One of the oldest neighbourhoods in Guelph, hundreds of area residents came together in celebration of their community.
“It means so much, being a part of this neighbourhood,” says Jennifer Duggan, youth program organizer with the St. George’s Park Neighbourhood Group.
“Working with the neighbourhood, connecting neighbours together, that’s what it’s about. This is where my kids are growing up and these are their memories.”
St. George’s Park Neighbourhood Group provides services, events and programs to community members living in the St. George’s Neighbourhood area.
The group is a member of the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition.
Volunteers works together to decide on upcoming events and programs to best suit the needs and interests of their community.
“Our youth programs are really big. We organize a soccer league with about 110 kids and a free ball hockey drop-in for all ages that runs into the fall,” Duggan said. “In the winter, we have the gymnasium and library.”
The group also offers a variety of other activities such as basketball, yoga, karate, crafts and fine arts clubs, life gears, cursive club and musical theatre.
It’s all about the kids,” Duggan says. “And we have so many outside partners as well so that we can offer things like after school programs at King George Public School and John Galt Public School.”
The group also takes pride in their annual Easter Egg Hunt which is complete with an Easter Bunny and about 125 registered children ready to hunt.
“But we are always in need of more volunteers to help fuel the fire,” Duggan said.
As members of the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, St. George’s Park Neighbourhood Group recently received funding to help in their efforts including funds toward new hockey nets and of course, this year’s main event, Georgestock.
For neighborhood resident, Miranda Vandenberg, the event offers a great opportunity for community members to get to know one another.
“It’s so great to be able to get to know more about the people in your community,” Vandenberg says. You think you might know everyone, but you don’t.”
Volunteers young and old were ready to lend a hand.
For 15-year-old Chelan Watts and friend, Adamina Veenstra, the event is an ideal time to catch up with everyone and meet others who are new to the neighbourhood.
Busy handing out beverages, the two were eager to take part in the festivities.
“I just like seeing all of the kids smiling and laughing,” 14-year-old Veenstra said.
For community members and avid volunteers Terry O’Connor and Kathy Watts, it’s clear that their love of the community runs deep as they busily run the barbeque.
“This is such a great gathering that lets us focus on our new neighbours and on getting to know each other,” O’Connor said.
“And the open mic tonight, gives everyone the opportunity to highlight their talents.”
For Chet Skibinski and his wife Pat, the area holds a history and a sense of community that they are so proud to be a part of.
Skibinski sits on a bench with accordion in hand and plays his favorite tunes, old and new for all to enjoy.
“I’ve been here since 1990. We are old timers here. And I play this music to remind people of who lived in this neighbourhood years ago and so the young too, might appreciate some of the history,” Skibinski said.
His wife Pat looks on and eagerly and says hello to all that pass.
“It’s just so nice to see the community come together,” she says. “You get the old, the new and everyone is together.”