By Joel Hall
Riverdale, which began as a rural, farming community, is -- one hundred years later -- teeming with people from all walks of life and experiencing growth. This week, residents and city officials will celebrate the city's birthday, and the progress it has made since it was founded July 8, 1908.
This week will be the kick-off for a month's worth of activities, highlighting the past and future of the community.
The activities will begin today at 6 p.m., with a groundbreaking ceremony for a new athletic park at 971 Wilson Road in Riverdale. The park is aimed at avoiding the loss of public amenities during the construction phase of the city's new Town Center project, slated to be built on the grounds of Travon Wilson Memorial Park.
"The reason we are doing it first is because, when people came to the town hall meetings [regarding the Town Center project], we heard what they said," Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon emphasized. "It will become a regional park, instead of a pocket park. It will offer more amenities."
Wynn-Dixon said local athletic coaches were brought directly into the discussion with developers to make sure the needs of those using the fields were addressed. She said the new park will include handicapped-accessible bathrooms, two combination football and soccer fields, two tennis courts, two baseball fields, picnic areas with barbecue pits, bike trails, and walking trails which lead to downtown Riverdale.
"It comes with a little pain, but it's always a blessing when we get newness and expansion," said Wynn-Dixon.
On Tuesday, July 8, the city will host a birthday party for itself. The party, which will take place on the grounds of Riverdale City Hall from 7-10:30 p.m., will feature a birthday cake, along with music from 5 Men On A Stool, a rhythm and blues and jazz quintet.
Participants are asked to bring their lawn chairs.
"We wanted to be inclusive and we wanted to be family friendly," said Lonnie Ballard, assistant city manager and the event's organizer. "Everybody can participate in a birthday party."
On July 12, at 9 a.m., the city will host a "Centennial Parade," which will start at Riverdale High School and end at the Travon Wilson Memorial Park. It will feature floats illustrating Riverdale's past and future. Participants will include representatives from local groups, elected officials, and candidates campaigning for office in Clayton County.
At 11 a.m., immediately following the parade, the city will host its centennial day ceremony featuring U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga) as the event's keynote speaker. The ceremony will include commentary from State Sen. Valencia Seay and Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell.
It will include performances by the Metropolitan Atlanta Community Band and the combined choirs of New Macedonia Baptist Church and Lakewin Christian Center.
On Aug. 1, the city will break ground on the new multi-purpose center at Travon Wilson Memorial Park. On Aug. 2, the city will host the "Riverdale Family Reunion Jamboree" to celebrate the "rebirth" of the park, said Mayor Wynn-Dixon.
"Whenever you do anything, you have to plant your stones, so you remember where you came from," the mayor added.