Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Desi Arnaz Bandshell Completed

News From The Post-Journal:

In 2001, a visit by Desi Arnaz Jr. prompted Celoron village officials to plan a bandshell in Lucille Ball Memorial Park in honor of his father.

Arnaz said that, if village officials held up their side of the bargain and built the bandshell, he and his band would return to Celoron and perform at the new venue when the opportunity arose.

It’s been built — a wooden bandshell located at the back of the park just a few feet away from the Chautauqua Lake shoreline. Once the finishing touches are applied and the structure is plugged in to the grid, Arnaz will have a chance to keep his promise.

‘‘He thought that was a fantastic idea — a suitable tribute to his dad,’’ said Rick Slagle, former Celoron mayor. ‘‘He said that if we built it and he had the opportunity to do it, he would come back and play in the bandshell.’’

According to Slagle, the idea of building a bandshell first came up in the summer of 2001, when Arnaz and his sister, Lucie Arnaz — the children of famed acting duo Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Sr. — visited Celoron and Jamestown.

‘‘I met with them down in Lucille Ball Memorial Park,’’ Slagle said. ‘‘We were walking through the park talking and I mentioned to Lucie that there wasn’t a whole lot named after her father. She agreed with that.’’

They came up with the idea of a bandshell in his memory placed in the park that is dedicated to his first wife, a monument that seemed appropriate for Arnaz Sr.

‘‘Before Desi Arnaz became TV’s Ricky Ricardo, he was a musician, band leader and movie star. Back in the 1940s, you could buy his trademark song, ‘Babalu’ at any well-stocked record shop,’’ said Ric Wyman, executive director of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center in Jamestown. ‘‘This amazing bandshell is a wonderful tribute to Desi and something our entire community will be enjoying for years to come.’’

Celoron Mayor Tom Bartolo was appreciative of Ms. Arnaz, who donated $20,000 for the bandshell during a visit to the area in October 2005, and Harry Trippett of the Chautauqua Lake Fishing Association and the Celoron Moose, who led the effort.

In addition to donations from various individuals and organizations, Bartolo also secured a $25,000 grant from state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, to fund the project.

‘‘The bandshell adds to the history of Lucille Ball that we have in Celoron and Jamestown,’’ Bartolo said.

According to Vickie Strong, Celoron clerk, village board members hope to begin promoting the bandshell to attract special events to the park. They also plan to host the village’s annual summer concert series from the new venue.

Lucille Ball Memorial Park is all that’s left of the once mighty amusement park — with its ferris wheel and rollercoaster, its concession stands and hotels, its trolly stations and steamship landings, and its rides and games — that drew crowds from all around the region to the tiny village.

‘‘The ballroom burned. The docks have given way to modern marinas. And where the baseball park used to be is an apartment complex,’’ area resident Lillian Till wrote in 2002. ‘‘Only the picnic area in the grove remains as a village park.’’

For Celoron, it’s an attempt to relive a small fraction of the good old days, when thousands would pack themselves in front of the amusement park’s grandiose bandshell to watch the nightly picture shows during the summer.