The afternoon showers didn’t put a damper on Todd Siekman’s 8th birthday party Saturday at William L. Welch Community Swimming Pool.
In fact, Todd said, swimming combined with the rain made it “more fun” on the first day the Centre Region Parks and Recreation-operated pools opened to the public. CRPR also oversees the Park Forest Community Pool, in Patton Township.
Twenty-five kids and eight adults attended the Star Wars-themed event that guests said was a success despite the rain that lasted about an hour.
“It really turned out to be a beautiful day and it’s been a blast for us,” said Nicky Siekman, Todd’s mother.
Shawn Lelko, lifeguard manager, said things started slowly when the pool opened for adult lap swimming at 10 a.m. By noon, when the pool opened for general swim, it got more crowded, Lelko said.
“I actually think it’s been a little slower today than the past because it was a little cooler than usual,” said Lelko, who’s been a lifeguard for seven years.
In the Centre Region, temperatures reached 73 degrees with scattered showers, according to AccuWeather.
But the rest of Memorial Day weekend is expected to be a little busier, Lelko said.
“It’s supposed to warm up, and that combined with the holiday will make things busy,” Lelko said.
Todd and his friends said they’re looking forward to hitting the pools more often once school ends. Todd, a Gray’s Woods Elementary School student, added that his favorite pool attractions are the whirlpool and racing down the slides.
During the 100-day season, the pools attract about 102,000 visitors annually, said Ron Woodhead, CRPR director.
“Right now it’s kind of teasing the kids because they want to be out and about, but still have a couple weeks of school left,” he said. “Once school’s out for the summer, then things will really pick up.”
And lifeguards are ready for whatever the season brings.
Last June, three lifeguards made the biggest rescue of the season at Welch pool when they saved then- 83-year-old Gerry Brault from the lap pool.
Brault became unconscious while swimming laps after suffering cardiac arrest.
“Hopefully there is nothing major,” Lelko said. “But we’re prepared for anything.”
Lelko said that on any given day, there will be 10 lifeguards on duty with one manager.
He added that leading up to the season opener, lifeguards — both rookie and veteran — had to go through a refresher class and get recertified.
The pools will also hold a series of special events each month that include a free Father’s Day event for all dads accompanied by a child, family nights every Wednesday starting June 25, a “dive-in movie” Aug. 20 and the second annual aqua dog day Sept. 7.
“We’re excited that people are finally out of the winter slump and ready to get outdoors for the summer,” Woodhead said.