Can Garyville revive community center? Many say ‘Yes!’

Published 12:11 am Wednesday, October 26, 2016

GARYVILLE — To hear Joan Frederic LeBouef tell it, there was a time when “Garyville ruled.”

“It was the place to be,” the longtime resident said.

According to LeBouef, the hub of the small St. John the Baptist Parish community was the old Garyville gymnasium.

Located just off Church Street, in the center of the town, the blue and white metal building was built sometime in the 1970s, with help from the V.F.W. (in exchange for an upstairs loft, which served as their office).

The Garyville gymnasium is located just off Church Street.

The Garyville gymnasium is located just off Church Street.

That gym once was where all the action was. While outside, teams would be playing softball or cabbageball, inside there would be dances, volleyball games, even roller skating.

Over the years, various teams continued to use the fields for adult leagues and practices.

It also once was the site of the annual Tulane-LSU wheelbarrow parades, during which fans of the loser would push the fans of the victor to a party at the gym.

“We had all kinds of events here,” LeBouef said.

These days, however, the metal gymnasium has become a neglected relic used mainly for storage and to host the annual garage sale for Perry’s Posse, which provides assistance and support to local cancer patients.

The building ceased to be “a hub” sometime in the 1980s.

LeBouef and some her friends are hoping to change that by reviving the Garyville Recreation Organization with hopes of restoring the gym to its former multi-purpose glory.

Many are hoping to revive the Garyville Recreation Organization.

Many are hoping to revive the Garyville Recreation Organization.

The first step toward that end is a meeting of all past and present stockholders to be held at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 9 at the old Rectory Building on Anthony F. Monica Street in Garyville.

Longtime Garyville resident and business owner Emma Roccaforte has been tagged by LeBouef to help with the project, along with her cousin Tanya Roccaforte.

Emma Roccaforte has big dreams for the site, including refurbished ball fields, a sand volleyball court, health track, splash park and a renovated gym that can be rented out for a wide variety of events.

“My idea is to have a state-of-the-art facility once we get through with it,” Emma Roccaforte said. “It will be a place where people and families will want to come. We have a lot of great ideas but we need support. It starts small. I’m one of those people, if there’s a will there’s a way. We can find a way to make it happen.”

The group hopes to build on the success of the annual Sings and Strings Jam Fest, which takes place in April, and the ongoing restoration of the Timbermill Museum and historic downtown area.

“This was the prime thing in Garyville back in the day,” LeBouef said. “We just want to bring it back.”