Athlone’s CBD had a festive air to it on Youth Day, with music, singing, and other public entertainment.
Athlone SAPS and its youth desk organised the event. Youth desk chairwoman Jamie Lakay said they wanted to get the heart of Athlone buzzing again.
Getting people to rediscover a CBD that had once been a vibrant part of the community’s heritage would hopefully attract investment, she said.
“Our aim is to reach out to youth and the whole of Athlone as we want to get everyone involved in bettering the area. People need to see that Athlone is not the dangerous place that they think it is,” she said.
There was music, a jumping castle, a hairspray stand, a dog show, a car show, and live singing. And children drew colourful chalk drawings in the road.
Athlone police spokeswoman Sergeant Zita Norman, said the police were there to support the community and children need not fear them.
“The youth desk is trying to show our youth that there is a different way of moving forward in life. This event is to uplift the community, and it is the youth desk’s first event.”
Bokmakierie Primary School principal Michele Pinto said the youth desk was there to support children – something many parents failed to do, instead expecting schools to play both teaching and parenting roles.
“Communities do not support their children and expect everything to come from the school and we do it but we cannot do it alone,” she said.
David Morkel, owner of Braudes pharmacy in Lawrence Road, said many businesses had left the area because of poor foot traffic.
“Covid-19 had a huge impact on businesses, and because of the crime and the lack of hygiene in the CBD, many people don’t shop in the CBD anymore so they did not support the businesses that were here which forced them to move. Hopefully this event is part of a bigger project and will have a ripple effect on other areas as well.”