Carolyn McKnight was not expecting to dance when she arrived at Saturday’s block party in Melrose East.
But there she was, doing the “Wobble” line dance with a group of about 15 people in the middle of the basketball court at Saia Park on Rembrandt and North Donmoor avenues.
“I’m still learning how to do it,” McKnight said afterward with a laugh.
McKnight, the East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission superintendent, joined about 40 others at the BREC park’s pavilion gym on Saturday for a festive day dedicated to bringing Melrose East community members together.
Lloyd Benson II, founder of the David Paul Learning Enrichment Center and one of the event’s organizers, said the gathering served as a way to connect the public with the resources available in the community, as well as offer information about summer programs for kids.
“We really want to see Melrose East revive,” Benson said. “We want to see this area become the bustling business area it once was back when the mall was here.”
McKnight said programs for kids such as summer camps can keep them active and steer them away from trouble.
“If you don’t have positive programs for kids, they’ll find things to do that are not so positive,” she said. “This is just one more thing that we’re doing here in the community to reach out and to bring kids in here and to help have positive activities.”
The party included music, dancing and free food scattered among messages about the importance of faith and togetherness.
The Baton Rouge Revolution, a drum line for kids and adults, delivered a thunderous performance that filled the pavilion with waves of sound.
The drummers stood at the back of the court, slowly banging their instruments. As they marched toward the front, their clamor grew louder.
Before they knew it, they were bouncing to the rhythm of their own beat.
Rev. Kelvin Fealing, the director of the drum line, said the group travels all around the state delivering performances tied with faith lessons.
“The ministry is all about showing other kids ways they can stay off the streets and to give them a new avenue for their gifts and talents,” he said.
The action also featured plenty of gospel and hip-hop music, including one local rapper who spread a message about turning his life around through faith.
Ivan Toldson, also known as Love-N-Pain, laid down rhymes telling people they can find success no matter what they’ve gone through.
“I feel like if God can love me and turn me around, he can do it for anybody,” he said.
Dancing was prominent among both the people attending the event as well as performers.
James Drake donned a pair of white gloves and an “I Love God” T-shirt while performing a gospel dance routine which he said thanked God for giving him the ability to dance.
“Whether your gift is singing, dancing, playing the drums, you’re a doctor, lawyer — we all have some kind of obligation to praise God because that’s what he created us for,” Drake said after his performance.
During breaks in the action, the children roamed around, either eating snowballs and hot dogs or shooting some hoops on the court.
Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis, whose district includes Melrose East, helped serve food to the hungry customers.
Before the food was served, Collins-Lewis spoke to the crowd, encouraging children and youths to be active during the summer months.
“Get involved in something positive this summer,” she said. “Bring a friend with you wherever you go, and stay safe.”
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