WEIRTON - Doug Jackson first heard Erin Burkett and Friends while visiting a winery two years ago.
"First I heard these amazing musicians and then I heard Erin Burkett sing and I was transported to heaven. And then I heard Erin say, 'youins' and I knew she was from the area," related Jackson.
Burkett, a native of Pittsburgh readily agreed to make the trip to Weirton for the Marland Heights Pool fundraiser Saturday evening that included an auction, a wine tasting contest and two hours of Broadway songs along with jazz and blues.
CHATTING AT THE PARK — Doug Jackson, president of the Marland Heights Community Association chats with Broadway star Erin Burkett Saturday evening during a wine tasting event and two-hour concert by Burkett and friends. The evening was arranged to raise funds for the Save Marland Heights Pool campaign. -- Dave Gossett
ERIN AND FRIENDS — Erin Burkett of Pittsburgh and friends performed a variety of Broadway tunes, jazz and blues Saturday evening during at the Marland Heights Park. The three-hour-long event was arranged to raise funds for the future of the park and the Marland Heights pool. -- Dave Gossett
"Doug called me and his passion for this project was so enthusiastic and exciting that he made me excited to be here. He has such a drive for saving the pool and park that he pulls everyone together," Burkett said prior to the concert.
"I am very pleased with the number of people who came here tonight. It is a beautiful evening to spend time at the park and we are fortunate to have Erin Burkett here bring class to the park," Jackson declared.
The Weirton native has been actively supporting efforts to save the pool for the past two years.
"The Marland Heights Community Association believes if you turn your back on the youth then you turn your back on the future. This park has been a gathering place for the community youth for so many years we cannot let it die," remarked Jackson.
"This pool was my babysitter when I was growing up. It's where everyone went," he commented.
"I sit on several corporate boards and I know when a company is looking to invest in a community the first thing they look at are the schools, and third are family recreational activities. With the help of Smitty's Carpet and the First Choice America Federal Credit Union we have renovated the miniature golf course at the park's entrance. We want to keep the park as nice as it was when we were kids growing up in Weirton," said Jackson.
Iris Himmelrick of the association agreed saying, "it does my heart good to see people walking around the pool again."
"This park is the most beautiful place in Weirton. I grew up on Marland Heights and came here every day when I was a kid. My mother would pack me a lunch so we could come here to swing and play and then go swimming. The pool was here for me when I was growing up and I want it to be here for future generations. The pool was always here for me and I want to see it here for my grandchildren and their children," Himmelrick related.
Barbara Trushel grew up in downtown Weirton and recalled, "walking the path up the hill to the pool. You could ride the bus up the hill for 10 cents or you could walk up the path."
"I would like to see the pool saved. It was home for children for so many years and could be used again," she added.
"This pool has a lot of personal memories for me. This pool is an architectural gem. And it is one of the last truly historical places left in Weirton. It would not take that much funding to preserve the pool. It would actually take very little to get the pool back in operations. We want to maintain the pool and the park for the entire community," stated Association member Gaston Blanc.
Mayor George Kondik called the Saturday night event the first of many efforts to save the pool.
"We will see more events like this because we have an outstanding association with great leaders who will do what they have to do to make their campaign a success," cited Kondik.
And as Erin Burkett and Friends prepared to entertain the audience, Jackson showed off three baskets available for the auction, "including something we all can remember. This is one of the baskets from the pool we used to put our clothes in while we were swimming."
"What's the basket number," someone asked from the audience.
"Its number 33. And if you don't have enough cash with you I will advance you an IOU. I want your money for this wonderful project," laughed Jackson.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)