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July 20, 2024
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Gilroy dedicates Donald ‘Elvis’ Prieto Park

Rotary Club donates inclusive play equipment

The City of Gilroy celebrated two milestones for its newest downtown popup park in the past week. 

On June 22, city officials, local residents and friends and family of the late Donald “Elvis” Prieto gathered for a ceremony to officially name the park—located on Monterey Street between Sixth and Seventh streets—in honor of the popular local icon. 

Then on June 24, local Rotary Clubs and city officials visited the park to celebrate the installation of new inclusive play equipment that allows people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the park together. 

Prieto, who died May 1, 2021, was a beloved Gilroyan artist and performer who was known as a convincing Elvis impersonator. 

“As an Elvis tribute artist, Donald spent his life sharing what he loved by spreading love and joy through his music and entertainment,” reads a plaque at the park designating its dedication to Prieto. “He was known by the community for his selfless nature and endless contributions to local causes.”

Prieto had been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 7, and received two kidney transplants later in life. “He fought his battles with God’s grace, gratitude, strength, faith and most of all, love,” the plaque continues. 

Mayor Marie Blankley said of the Prieto dedication, “Remembering Donald in this way, as our local Elvis performer doing what he loved and sharing his talent with the whole of our community, honors a legacy we all cherish.” 

In a recent letter to this newspaper, Gilroy City Council member Fred Tovar said his colleague, Council member Dion Bracco, was instrumental—along with other community members—in proposing the dedication of the park for Prieto. 

“To Donald, who is watching from heaven, and to the entire Prieto family: Donald, your kindness, talent and spirit were a guiding light in our community,” Tovar wrote. “Your legacy will continue to inspire and bring joy to all who visit this park. Your memory will forever be a part of Gilroy, touching lives as you did in person.”

The downtown popup park features a flat stretch of grassy area with permanent picnic table and bench installations, as well as moveable cornhole game equipment and small play equipment. 

The Gilroy Rotary Club donated an array of inclusive sensory wall panels that were recently installed by city crews at the park. Those panels were acquired and installed with the help of a $10,000 grant to the Rotary Club from Amazon Web Services. 

The panels include a communication board that advises onlookers how to communicate in verbal and non-verbal ways; a design featuring movable oversized glass marbles; a pair of hand drums; and a representation of a vehicle’s steering wheel and gearshift. 

The panels are placed so that people in wheelchairs can reach them. 

Gilroy Rotary Club member Kelly Ramirez, who wrote the local organization’s grant application for the equipment, said at a June 24 celebration of the equipment the club hopes that more local organizations will join efforts to bring even more inclusive recreational opportunities to Gilroy. 

Ramirez said the downtown popup park was chosen for the sensory panels because it is centrally located for widespread access. 

“The purpose of inclusive equipment is so that able-bodied people and children with disabilities can play together,” said Ramirez, who is the Gilroy Rotary Club’s incoming president. “That’s something that has not been able to happen in a number of communities.”

Inclusive playgrounds and facilities also promote healthy lifestyles by helping to reduce the probability of obesity; and increase opportunities for community members to achieve understanding and celebrate diversity, says a press release from the Rotary Club. 

A new plaque at the downtown Gilroy popup park has been installed in honor of longtime resident Donald “Elvis” Prieto. Photo: Michael Moore
Michael Moore
Michael Moore
Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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