09-24-2023  12:19 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
Crowd gathered at last year's TKO Fest
Saundra Sorenson
Published: 23 August 2023

Last year’s music event attracted hundreds of people for a day of music that put “TKO Fest” on the map as one of the best-bet summer festivals in Portland. But there was also an aspect of public input that may shape what the under-used George Park in St. Johns may become.

“People kept saying this feels like the pass-over park,” organizer Donovan Scribes told The Skanner. “It’s surrounded by four different schools – two elementary schools, Roosevelt High School and George Middle School – and once the sun goes down there, people say essentially that half of that greenspace goes dark. It doesn’t feel safe for people.”

In fact, Scribes added, people who live near the park or used to live across the street have told him they’d go a bit further for a park with better facilities. The TKO Fest organizers hope that won’t be the case for long.

“Outside of the lighting, people very clearly said they want a basketball court there,” Scribes said. “Outside of that, people want something more substantive in the park.”

tko fest fullMat Randol and Donovan Scribes
The playground equipment, though clean and colorful, is minimalist at best – and too small to hold childrens’ interest for very long. It lacks the sprawling, interactive set-up that has become standard in newer parks throughout the Portland Metro area.

The fest will also be an opportunity to prepare kids for the coming school year. Haircut vouchers will be available, and LaQuisha Minnieweather of Tenacious Rose will be on hand helping to give out free backpacks filled with necessary school supplies.

“I remember being in high-school and not having the funds or resources to have my own graphing calculator. It was embarrassing,” she said. “Now it is a passion of mine to make sure our students have what they need to be and feel successful.

"Last year, we handed out 70 backpacks. I look forward to doubling that amount.”

The organizers are working in tandem with Portland Parks and Recreation’s Summer Free for All program to bring a music line-up that features Yawa, formerly known as Amenta Abioto, who performs a self-described blend of “synthy, rocky, soul, hip-hop.” C’est La, as well as wordsmith and event co-founder Mat Randol, will also take the stage.

“Both artists are multi-talented and bring unique styles to the stage this year from the rapping, singing and producing aspect,” Randol, who grew up across the street from George Park, said.

Nikki Brown Clown will also be entertaining kids, and reports having to bring a much higher volume of balloons this year – she nearly ran out during the inaugural TKO Fest.

Scribes told The Skanner the initial push to put out a community survey, and to solidify a vision for George Park, was slated to launch in 2020. While the pandemic had other plans, in 2021, Scribes's and Randol's creation of Friends of George Park group, and their ongoing efforts to engage community on the park space, garnered them a U.S. Banks Parks Champion Award.

“We’re trying to reimagine George Park as a space for the community, by the community, in St. Johns,” Scribes said.

“I think in terms of seeing equity, not just in terms of geographic lines of where people have been pushed to, but seeing it as where people have been pushed away from, is what we’re trying to do here.”

Scribes also said that in place of a community survey this year, organizers of TKO Fest would report back on what they had done with the more than 100 surveys gathered last year – and that there might be a surprise in store.

“By implementing this, it’s more than just getting more playground equipment – which is something we’re absolutely going to move on – but it’s also creating (a space) representative of one of the most unique places in Portland,” he added.

The KidzOutside Festival is Saturday, Aug. 26, 2 to 4 p.m. at George Park (7240 N Fessenden St, Portland). Free, all ages. 

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random