Summertime is undoubtedly the fastest time of year. It goes by much faster than, say, January, February, and March. We are now in the back half of summer. Maybe you’ve been enjoying summer fun since the start, maybe you’ve been tied up with work and other activities. Well, either way, it’s time to squeeze every last bit of juice out of the summer season. Before we know it, pumpkin spice will soon be appearing everywhere. You may have your own list of summer faves. We have also put together a curated list of some of the Pittsburgh region’s longtime stalwart summer events, plus a few more unique events. We also live in a beautiful natural region and have included several picks in that realm too.
Our Late Summer Short List categories include four basic summer-fun groups: Festivals and Fairs, Free Outdoor Music, Active Outdoor Recreation … and that perennial favorite, Miscellaneous. You can also check the Early Summer Short List, which includes several attractions that run all summer long. Now let’s get started.
Mike Vargo (MV) made substantial contributions to this guide. Christopher Maggio (CM) contributed as well.
FESTIVALS AND FAIRS
MOUNTAINFEST MOTORCYCLE RALLY—July 25-27, Morgantown, West Virginia.
The classic rock group Steppenwolf in its song “Born to Be Wild” sing the lyrics, “Get your motor runnin’ / Head out on the highway / Lookin’ for adventure / And whatever comes our way.” If that sounds good to you, then head south on I-79 to Morgantown, West Virginia, for the 15th Annual MountainFest Motorcycle Rally. It’s one of the nation’s premier motorcycle rallies. Some bikers are wild, and some are mild, and you don’t even need a motorcycle to enjoy the festivities. The event features several well-known bands and performers including Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick, Charlie Daniels, Jackyl, and Jason Bonham. Other activities are motorcycle rides, a blessing of the bikes, a parade of bikes, daredevil motorcycle performers, vendors, food and beverage offerings, and yes, even Mountain Man axe throwing. MountainFest is produced with the cooperation of the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau and proceeds benefit Mylan Park and its programs. 500 Mylan Park Ln, Morgantown, WV. (RH)
PICKLESBURGH—July 26 -28, Roberto Clemente Bridge.
Sauerkraut. Kimchi. Dill-flavored popcorn. Deep-fried pickles. Pickle cocktails! It’s Picklesburgh. The fifth-annual, three-day, free event is at the Roberto Clemente Bridge. If you can’t find it, look for the giant inflatable Heinz pickle, which resembles the company’s famous pickle pin. The festival recalls the city’s pickling history, which dates back to the 1800s, while also looking forward to our revitalized riverfronts and internationally recognized food scene. Enjoy free samples from area farms and restaurants, all of them offering their own take on pickled foods, before making the pickling purchase that’s right for you. Other “pickled” merchandise includes balloons and books. Chefs demonstrate how to pickle and can, and local musicians provide a pleasant soundtrack to your culinary wanderings. There’s a Lil Gherkins Activity Area for children. And, yes, the pickle juice drinking contest returns. Picklesburgh was recently voted the No. 1 Best Specialty Food Festival in America in a USA Today readers choice contest. The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership organizes the event with the help of numerous sponsors including Kraft Heinz. Noon – 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Noon – 6 p.m. Sunday. Roberto Clemente Bridge, Downtown. (CM)
RAIN DAY FESTIVAL—July 29, Waynesburg.
Most events prefer it not to rain on their parade so to speak, but that’s not the case in Waynesburg for their annual Rain Day Festival. The genesis of the event occurred in the late 1800s when an unknown farmer said to Waynesburg pharmacist William Allison that it always seemed to rain on his birthday, July 29. That interested Allison, and he started keeping a record as to whether it rained on that date or not. He subsequently passed the task on to others, and a rain record has been kept ever since. It has rained on that date 115 out of 145 years. If rain drops keep falling on your head on July 29, why not have some fun with it? And that’s exactly what Waynesburg did. In honor of their July 29 liquid sunshine, they hold a festival in Downtown Waynesburg each year.
The day kicks off with a buckwheat pancake breakfast and continues with the best in area entertainment capped off by a performance by the Nashville, Tennessee, honky tonk trio The Eskimo Brothers (7 p.m.). Other activities include an umbrella contest, town selfie with the mascot Wayne Drop, kids activities including a petting zoo, dunk booth, judo and dance performances, and a diaper derby. Miss Rain Day will also be holding court. Plus food and beverage offerings. Also see the Umbrellas Over Rain Day Sky Project art installation. Every year the mayor of Waynesburg, currently the honorable Brian D. Tanner, bets a local or national celebrity a hat that it will rain. If it does, then the celebrity has to give a hat to Waynesburg. If it doesn’t rain, the mayor gives a hat to the celebrity. This year’s hat bet is with KDKA TV Sports Director, Bob Pompeani. Hopefully climate change won’t disrupt the wonderful Rain Day tradition. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Rain or shine, preferably rain. Downtown Waynesburg. (RH)
(CANCELLED) EQT PITTSBURGH THREE RIVERS REGATTA— August 2-4, Downtown.
Traditionally, regattas were high-society affairs that featured rowing or sailing races. The EQT Three Rivers Regatta goes ’way beyond tradition. River sports of many sorts are done here, while all kinds of people attend and many participate. Fearsomely fast Formula One powerboat racing is an aquatic version of that form of auto racing. Locals with kayaks, canoes, and standup paddleboards are invited to enter the Pittsburgh Paddlesports Championships. In the category of the comically bizarre, we have the Anything That Floats Race. (When you watch people paddling things that look like homemade stage sets, or floppy lashed-together inflatable contraptions, you learn why life jackets are more than a good idea.) Other attractions range from live music on shore to fireworks in the sky. And, though money is involved in staging various events—for instance, Alcosan sponsors Anything That Floats, while the paddle sports raise money for cancer research—just coming on down to the Regatta is absolutely free. Is that socialism? No, it’s a PARTY. Noon to evening Aug. 2-4, Point State Park and North Shore. (MV) Unfortunately this year’s Regatta was cancelled on July 30.
FRESH FEST BEER FEST—August 10, Nova Place.
Pittsburgh boasts many firsts, including the nation’s first black brew festival. The second annual Fresh Fest Beer Fest, which spotlights African-American-owned breweries from around the country, returns to Nova Place, the former Allegheny Center Mall turned office space in the North Side. Black Brew Culture, an online magazine, and Drinking Partners, a podcast, organized it. There will be more than 150 drinks on tap, and the lineup includes Black Frog Brewery, in Toledo, to Thunderhawk Alements from San Diego. The event will also feature ciders, spirits, and collaborative beers, such as For the Culture 2.0, an imperial brut IPA created by Black Brew Culture and East End Brewing Company. Food trucks and local musicians will be present too. There’s early admission tickets and VIP tickets. The latter includes a viewing of a live Drinking Partners podcast and additional events on Fri., Aug. 9 and Sun., Aug. 11. These additional events can also be bought separately. 5 – 9 p.m. 100 S. Commons, Allegheny Center. (CM)
BLOOMFIELD LITTLE ITALY DAYS— August 15-18, Bloomfield.
Ah, Bloomfield. Only in Bloomfield does a summer festival begin with a free concert and a celebrity bocce tournament. This East End neighborhood is known for many things. Long ago, it was home to native people affiliated with the Lenni Lenape. Johnny Unitas played quarterback for the semipro Bloomfield Rams before his storied career in the NFL. In springtime, runners laboring through mile 22 of the Pittsburgh Marathon get an astounding energy blast when they find Bloomfield’s main street lined with screaming spectators and blazing rock bands. And in mid-August the blast is called Bloomfield Little Italy Days. Immigrants from Italy’s Abruzzo region began to arrive around 1900. Their descendants have given Bloomfield great Italian food markets, an active Catholic parish … and a locale that’s now blooming with modern art galleries, eateries of multiple ethnicities, and more. Musical acts at Little Italy Days range from oldies to opera to hip-hop. Featured entertainment this year includes The Italian Granati Brothers, Jeff Jimerson, The Magic Moments, Earth, Wind & Fire tribute band Let’s Groove Tonight, John Vento’s Italian Invasion Band, Mia Z from “The Voice,” and Bloomfield’s own Marty Picker; celebratory urban street life transpires; bocce balls are bowled. And did we mention the food? 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 15, noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 16-17, noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 18. Along Liberty Ave. and elsewhere in Bloomfield. (MV)
THE ART FESTIVAL ON WALNUT STREET— August 24-25, Shadyside.
“Hip”—as in “Get hip,” rather than “Get a hip replacement”—is one of the oldest American slang terms still in wide use, and Shadyside’s Walnut Street is perhaps the longest-running hip district in Pittsburgh. Incredibly, it gets even hipper during the Art Festival on Walnut Street in late August. The Festival is popular, in part, because there’s so much art. The Walnut biz district is closed to motor vehicles and packed with booths where artists and craft people display paintings, prints, ceramics, handmade jewelry, and so forth ad infinitum. In addition: Some Walnut Street merchants bring out selected goods for sidewalk sales. Exotic food vendors descend. Established restaurants, coffee shops, and night spots operate in peak mode. And, music being the food of love and other good things, musicians play on. Official hours for the art and craft booths are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 24 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 25, but you can bet that on Saturday the 24th, merrymaking will continue into the night. Walnut St. between S. Aiken and Ivy Streets with further activities adjacent, Shadyside. (MV)
PITTSBURGH IRISH FESTIVAL— September 6-8, The Lots at Sandcastle
Two rules of Irishness: (1) You do not have to be Irish to enjoy Irish things. (2) You might be more Irish than you think. This year’s Pittsburgh Irish Festival is billed as the city’s “29th Annual Celtic Celebration”—and since scholars say the ancient Celts populated lands from Austria to Portugal, this takes in everybody from Sigmund Freud to Cristiano Ronaldo. They’d both have a blast at the Festival. Irish and Irish-ish musical acts perform constantly through the weekend. Headliners from out of town include Gaelic Storm (who trace their Irish roots to Santa Monica, California), traditional Irish folk band Doolin’ (from France), and the all-female Celtic rockers Screaming Orphans (actually from Ireland). Also on tap are local favorites like Corned Beef & Curry, Devilish Merry, Bastard Bearded Irishmen, and Cahal Dunne, plus at least three pipe bands (there is no such thing as too much bagpipes), and many more. In addition to music and dancing, the Pittsburgh Irish Festival has storytelling, arts and crafts, experts on Irish/Celtic culture and genealogy, etc., along with Irish foods, Irish whiskey, stout, and mead. The Festival is Irishness writ as large as it can be writ. Come one, come all. 4-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. The Lots at Sandcastle, 1000 Sandcastle Dr., West Homestead. (MV).
FREE OUTDOOR MUSIC
ALLEGHENY COUNTY FREE CONCERTS— Friday & Sunday eves, South Park and Hartwood Acres Amphitheaters.
As we’ve said before, crowds don’t lie. When people start bringing their lawn chairs in broad daylight to stake out spots for evening outdoor concerts, it’s because the music is free and the music is good. Such is the case with the Allegheny County Summer Concert Series, staged summer-long at two locations: Friday evenings, 7:30 p.m. at South Park Amphitheater, and Sunday evenings, 7:30 p.m. at Hartwood Acres Park Amphitheater. The lineup for the second half of this summer includes big-name vintage acts in several genres. South Park has South Side Johnny & The Asbury Jukes on July 26, indie rockers Tonic with special guest Anger the Ant on August 2, and Foghat with special guest The Matt Barranti Band on August 16. At Hartwood Acres, notable headliners are Guster with special guest Meeting of Important People on August 4, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre performs on August 18, and The Manhattan Transfer on August 25. 3700 Farmshow Dr., South Park Twp., and 4070 Middle Rd., Allison Park.
Closing the Allegheny County summer season is a special 5 p.m. concert at Hartwood Acres on September 1, the evening before Labor Day. Headlining is Uprooted—featuring Michael Glabicki of Rusted Root—with two former bandmates also performing earlier sets with their bands: Jim Donovan & Sun King Warriors, and Jenn Wertz. Allegheny County is asking a $20 per vehicle requested donation for this one which benefits the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. (MV)
ACTIVE OUTDOOR RECREATION
Moraine State Park Regatta — August 3-4, Moraine State Park
Pittsburghers have two regattas to choose from during the first weekend in August (Not this year). While the EQT Three Rivers Regatta is held in the city, the Moraine State Park Regatta—without powerboat races, and featuring a wide range of participatory events—takes place in Moraine State Park. Lake Arthur is about six miles long and over a half-mile wide in places, with several coves branching off. It’s popular for sailing and paddling, two of the many activities in which the Regatta’s “SummersCool” (as in “summer school,” got it?) offers try-it and learn-it sessions. The Moraine Sailing Club takes visitors on sailboat and catamaran rides around the lake. Other groups lead hands-on (and in some cases, feet-on) intros to kayaking, standup paddleboarding, fishing and fly casting, and even yoga. There’s also a children’s activities tent, scavenger hunts, birdhouse painting, nature hikes and more. Spectator events include sailboat races, a classic car cruise, and concerts. Saturday’s musical headliner is The Dorals (8 p.m.) and Sunday’s is Jim Donovan & Sun King Warriors (4 p.m.). Fireworks top things off Saturday night at 9 p.m.
All but a couple of attractions are free. And, while all the gear you’ll need is provided, the Regatta at Lake Arthur is also a fine time to bring your own kayaks, hiking shoes, or whatever and explore Moraine State Park. 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday. Also Crescent Bay Marina at Moraine State Park offers various types of boat rentals. 225 Pleasant Valley Rd., Portersville. (MV)
OHIOPYLE STATE PARK (green nature, white water, more)—ongoing, Ohiopyle.
Ohiopyle State Park, southeast of Pittsburgh, is wild and scenic. In the 1800s the area drew city dwellers who’d come just to stroll and enjoy the beauties of nature. That pastime is still popular, along with more activities today—notably, white water boating on the Youghiogheny River, which snakes through valleys and gorges here. Within the parkland, two stretches of river offer different experiences. The so-called Middle Yough, from upstream into the town of Ohiopyle, is the gentler ride: a mix of fast-moving flat water and moderate (“Class I and II”) rapids. Kayakers and standup paddleboarders who first have mastered steering on calm water often use this stretch to learn the game of zipping through chutes and dips without mucho upsets. The Lower Yough, from Ohiopyle down, has the bigger, bouncier rapids. Expert kayakers love it, as do visitors who take the guided raft trips, paddling in (relatively) stable soft rafts with guides who know the way. Major outfitters, alphabetically, are: Laurel Highlands River Tours, Ohiopyle Trading Post, White Water Adventurers, and Wilderness Voyageurs.
Other attractions include tours of the nearby Frank Lloyd Wright house, Fallingwater… plus good mountain bike trails right in the state park, the Great Allegheny Passage trail for hybrid and road bikers, and the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. Park office is 124 Main St., Ohiopyle. (MV)
PedalPGH (group bike rides, other activities)—August 25, South Side and beyond
Pittsburgh, always likable, is growing ever more bikable. New bike lanes and trails keep being added, cyclists and motorists keep learning to coexist, and new riders are finding that hills aren’t a drawback; they’re fun. The nonprofit organization Bike Pittsburgh (stylized BikePGH) does a lot to move the evolution along—one part of which is putting on the big annual bike-a-palooza called PedalPGH. This is the day with mega-multiple group rides, from a 10-mile “local loop” to a 62-miler that goes all around the region. It’s the day when you see people on bikes freakin’ everywhere. PedalPGH is sponsored by UPMC Health Plan. This year marks the event’s 26th anniversary, and although biking at any time is free, registering officially for PedalPGH buys you a ton of perks. You’re in on the group ride of your choice, with “amazing snacks” at rest stops. There’s a t-shirt and merch; there’s a festival at the start/finish line. Above all, your fee helps BikePGH continue its work in bicycle advocacy and education. 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. South Side Riverfront Park, 1 S. 18th St., South Side. (MV)
Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Race Weekend—July 20-21, Schenley Park
Drivers will start their engines and fans will lower their tailgates for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix race weekend in Schenley Park.The event is one of America’s largest vintage race events. Saturday will see race qualifying heats with over 150 vintage racers, and Sunday is race day. Both days’ action goes from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Other highlights include car shows featuring international and British cars, a vendors marketplace, food offerings, and track rides in MINI Coopers. The Shelby & Mustang is the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix’s Marque of the Year 2019. Race heats are on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Gates open at 9:30 a.m. Look for Vintage Grand Prix events throughout Pittsburgh in the run up to the race. Charities benefiting from race proceeds are the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Valley School. Free. (RH)
Photos not credited are provided courtesy of the individual organizations.
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.