EC Summer Guide (Mid-to-Late Season)

The Picklesburgh giant inflatable Heinz pickle proudly flies above attendees on the Roberto Clemente Bridge.

The Picklesburgh giant inflatable Heinz pickle proudly flies above attendees on the Roberto Clemente Bridge. (photo: Renee Rosensteel for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership)

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. And this summer is even sweeter, since last year there were many more covid-19 protocols. 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 EC Summer Guide (Mid-to-Late Season) categories include four basic summer-fun groups: Festivals and Fairs, Outdoor Music and More, Active Outdoor Recreation … and that perennial favorite, Miscellaneous. You can also check the EC Summer Guide (Early Season), which includes several attractions that run all summer long. Now let’s get started.

Rick Handler (R.H.) and Christopher Maggio (C.M.) also contributed to this Guide.

FESTIVALS AND FAIRS

BLOOMFIELD LITTLE ITALY DAYS— August 19 – 22, Bloomfield.  

Bring your main squeeze or just have a good time solo at Little Italy Days in Bloomfield.

Bring your main squeeze or just have a good time solo at Little Italy Days in 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 Billy Mancini, John Lupone, Elias Khouri and the EK Band, Earth, Wind & Fire tribute band Let’s Groove Tonight, and accordionist Hank Edwardo; celebratory urban street life transpires; bocce balls are bowled. And did we mention the food? 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 19, noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 20-21, noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 22. Along Liberty Ave. and elsewhere in Bloomfield. (MV)

PICKLESBURGH—August 20 – 22. Andy Warhol (7th St) Bridge

What would Picklesburgh be without a pickle juice drinking contest. Whoever drinks their quart of juice the fastest is named the Mayor of Picklesburgh. (photo: Renee Rosensteel for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership)

What would Picklesburgh be without a pickle juice drinking contest? Whoever drinks their quart of juice the fastest is named the Mayor of Picklesburgh. (photo: Renee Rosensteel for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership)

Sauerkraut. Kimchi. Dill-flavored popcorn. Deep-fried pickles. Pickle cocktails! It’s Picklesburgh. The six-annual, three-day, free event is at the Andy Warhol Bridge (7th Street). 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 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. Andy Warhol Bridge, Downtown. (C.M.)

THE ART FESTIVAL ON WALNUT STREET— August 28 – 29, Shadyside.

August is a great month for strolling the tree lined streets of Shadyside and enjoying the fine arts and crafts during the Art Festival on Walnut. (Photo: Rick Handler)

August is a great month for strolling the tree-lined streets of Shadyside and enjoying the fine arts and crafts during the Art Festival on Walnut Street. (Photo: Rick Handler)

“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. – 5 p.m. August 28 and 29, but you can bet that on Saturday the 28th, merrymaking will continue into the night. Walnut St. between S. Aiken and Ivy Streets with further activities adjacent, Shadyside. (M.V.)

A FAIR IN THE PARK—September 10 -12, Mellon Park

Pittsburgh artist Yelena lamm in front of her colorful paintings and clothing at the 2017 Fair in the Park. (photo: Rick Handler)

Pittsburgh artist Yelena lamm in front of her colorful paintings and clothing at the 2017 Fair in the Park. (photo: Rick Handler)

The annual A Fair in the Park will happen again this year in Shadyside’s Mellon Park after taking a year off due to covid-19 . Promoted as a contemporary fine crafts and arts show and sale, it includes art and craft demonstrations, performances, concerts, food, and children’s activities (sponsored by Blick Art Materials). The Fair is presented by the Craftsmen’s Guild of Pittsburgh and Citiparks. Musical highlights include several concerts by performers from Calliope, Pittsburgh’s Folk Music Society, and other local performers. Food trucks and local vendors will be on hand including Pitaland, Mac and Gold truck, Rita’s Italian Ices, South Side BBQ, and Zeke’s Coffee. Fair hours are: Friday, 1 – 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. -7 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Fifth and Shady Aves., Shadyside/Point Breeze/Squirrel Hill. (R.H.)

PITTSBURGH IRISH FESTIVAL— September 10 – 12, The Lots at Sandcastle

We Banjo 3 and performers from other groups jamming together at 2015 Pittsburgh Irish Festival. (photo: Rick Handler)

We Banjo 3 and performers from other groups jamming together at 2015 Pittsburgh Irish Festival. (photo: Rick Handler)

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 “30th 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 include Titanic favorites Gaelic Storm and the all-female Celtic rockers Screaming Orphans. Also on tap are local favorites like Corned Beef & Curry, Devilish Merry, Bastard Bearded Irishmen, Dennis Doyle, The Wild Geese, Weekend at Blarneys, and Donnie Irish. 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. (M.V.)      

OUTDOOR MUSIC AND MORE

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 acts in several genres. South Park has pop-rock Berlin with Terri Nunn with Donora on July 30, classic R&B soul, The Spinners with Kenny Blake  August 6, and Low Cut Connie with Milly on August 13, and Spyro Gyra with Nicole Henry August 20. At Hartwood Acres, notable headliners are Average White Band with Slam Band on August 1, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre performs on August 22, The Spin Doctors with Gene the Werewolf, August 29. 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 5, the evening before Labor Day. The Allegheny County Music Festival features The Commonheart, Sierra Sellers, Funky Fly Project, and Meeting of Important People. Allegheny County is asking a $20 per vehicle requested donation for this one which benefits the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. (M.V.)

Concerts and More in the Great Outdoors — Through September, Various locations.

During our more temperate summer months, there are many entertainment opportunities in parks, shopping districts, and outdoor music venues. Most are free, some are not. Here are several Pittsburgh-area organizations and links to their summer offerings (details are still forthcoming for several of the event series):

Pittsburgh Citiparks – concerts, line dancing, movies, farmers’ markets, foot races.

Jams on Walnut – concerts on Walnut Street in Shadyside with food and drinks.

Market Square Night Market and Concert Series – music, crafts, art, food, drinks, vendors.

Squirrel Hill Night Markets – music, food trucks, art, crafts, activities.

SouthSide Works Music on the Mon – local and national performers.

Pittsburgh’s Syria Shriners –  summer rock and blues concerts.

Narcisi Winery – wine, music, food.

Vinoski Winery – wine, music, food.

Baja Bar & Grill – indoor/outdoor bands, food, drinks, and DJs.

Carnegie Museum of Art – Inside Out events with local artists and arts organizations, art-making, DJs, food trucks, local brews, and kid-friendly treats.

The Pavilion at Star Lake – national touring music acts and local openers. (R.H.)

Free Outdoor Movies    

The City of Pittsburgh is screening a free series of films officially called Dollar Bank Cinema in the Park.

Meanwhile, Allegheny County offers two movie viewing locations, with screenings Saturdays at South Park and Hartwood Acres on Wednesdays. Both locations start the movies at 7:30 p.m. Late season highlights include Lilo & Stitch, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Raya and the Last Dragon. (R.H.)

ACTIVE OUTDOOR RECREATION

Moraine State Park Regatta — August 6 – 8, Moraine State Park, South Shore.

Kayakers enjoying the Regatta at Lake Arthur.

Kayakers enjoying the Regatta at Lake Arthur.

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 Get Moving! Moraine 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. Entertainment acts are to be announced. 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. (M.V.)

PedalPGH (group bike rides, other activities)—August 26 – 29, South Side and beyond

PedalPGH has group rides for all ages, fitness levels, and senses of humor.

PedalPGH has group rides for all ages, fitness levels, and senses of humor. (Photo: Murphy Moschetta)

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 28th 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. This year riders can choose to ride in the main event on the August 29 or on their own beginning on August 26. (M.V.)

Allegheny Land Trust Green Spaces — conserved nature areas region-wide

Sycamore Island is a 'Green Space' haven river-bound and close to town.

Sycamore Island is a Green Space haven that’s river-bound and close to town. (Photo: Lindsay Dill)

Speaking of Pittsburgh’s best-kept secrets: Have you heard of Allegheny Land Trust?  The nonprofit maintains Green Spaces across the city and into the suburbs and exurbs. There’s a bunch of them, open daily for activities ranging from relaxing walks to biking, birding, and even camping. Wingfield Pines, south of Downtown, is a reclaimed strip-mining area. Audubon Greenway in Sewickley is notably bike-able. Emerald View Park on the slopes of Mt. Washington offers wooded trails with, as the name implies, great views. And Sycamore Island—in the Allegheny River, just a few miles upstream from the Point—is singularly cool. Reachable only by boat, it’s a patch of undisturbed nature where one can camp overnight (get a permit in advance) almost within shouting distance of the city limits. But don’t shout; check it out. The Land Trust has over 20 Green Spaces. (M.V.)

Swimming and More: Sandcastle, State Parks, and Other Beaches  

Look beyond the city to find wide-open beaches at state parks. This is one of several on the big lake at Pymatuning.

Look beyond the city to find wide-open beaches at state parks. This is one of several on the big lake at Pymatuning. (photo: Kathryn Hamilton)

It’s going to be a great summer for sunning and swimming at your favorite pool. City and Allegheny County pools will both be open, as is the historic Dormont Pool, and the Crawford Pool in Shaler Township. Swimming in the rivers? Pittsburghers have done it for generations, but more than a few have drowned, so we are not up for recommending it nor for posting a list of precautions. (One hint, though: Swimming while intoxicated is an insanely bad idea.) 

We can’t forget that the water wonderland known as Sandcastle is now open. 1000 Sandcastle Dr., West Homestead. Also, state parks are already open, and several within striking distance of Pittsburgh have lakes with sand-beach swimming areas. They have other attractions as well, so you can make it a “swimming plus” jaunt. Here’s a quick look at four popular parks. 

Raccoon Creek State Park—31 miles and about a 35-minute drive from Gateway Center, Downtown—has a swimming beach on a tiny lake, plus hiking/biking trails and a campground. 3000 PA Rte. 18, Hookstown. Moraine State Park, 40 miles and 40 minutes from Gateway Center, has two swimming beaches on manmade Lake Arthur, about 29 miles of hiking trails, and limited biking trails. The lake is a meandering, multi-armed one of middling size (about five square miles total) that’s often a close-to-town choice for sailing, canoeing, and other forms of boating. 225 Pleasant Valley Rd., Portersville. Pymatuning State Park is farther—89 miles, about an hour and a half drive—but offers more, and has plenty of campground for multi-day stays. Pymatuning Lake is a truly spacious body of water: over 26 square miles, with several islands. There’s a big sand beach plus mid-sized to small ones; sailboats and kayaks abound. Numerous small towns ring the lake, and though dedicated bike trails are few, the surrounding terrain is popular for road biking, with scenic roads that roll through farmland and countryside. Park office: 2660 Williamsfield Rd., Jamestown. The lakes at Moraine and Pymatuning enforce a 20-hp limit for motorboats, which means you’ll have relative quiet and no speedboats. Laurel Hill State Park also has a nice sand beach and amenities at Laurel Hill Lake and is about an hour and twenty minutes from Pittsburgh in the Laurel Highlands. While there also enjoy beautiful hiking along creeks and hemlock trees. 1454 Laurel Hill Park Rd., Somerset.

Finally, going ‘way north to Erie (132 miles, two hours and change), Presque Isle State Park isn’t really an island but a peninsula reaching into Lake Erie. Attractions here: multiple sand beaches, the only real opportunity for “surf swimming” (when the wind kicks up the lake), and all sorts of boating with no horsepower limit. There’s a 13.5 mile bike-and-foot trail within the park. Privately operated campgrounds are nearby. 301 Peninsula Dr., Erie. (M.V.)

North Park Swimming Pool and Trails — from early June (for the pool) and trails any time.

The Pittsburgh area has many beautiful public parks. Let’s zoom in on a couple of great features at just one. North Park is the largest in the Allegheny County park system, and so popular that some parts get quite crowded on weekends. Yet it has under-appreciated assets—notably the North Park Swimming Pool. Opened in 1937, this is one of the largest public pools anywhere, 50 meters wide and 105 long. And it’s not a wave pool, so you can swim 50-meter laps crosswise, bring children to make their own waves (how creative!) in the shallow end, and bask in the gorgeous traditional setting. Also somewhat out of sight, except to those in the know, is the network of multi-use trails in North Park. Over 40 miles of trails wind through the hills and woods, very suitable for biking, running, or hiking. They include a Braille Trail with special markings added. Consult the online maps at Trail Pittsburgh … or just park someplace in the park and find a trailhead. Pool days and hours info is still pending; trails are always open. North Park’s main entry is 303 Pearce Mill Rd., Allison Park. (M.V.)

MISCELANEOUS

Carrie Furnaces, Amazing Former Industrial Site, Open for Tours.

At Carrie Furnaces, modern urban art may mingle with majestic remains of industrial history.

At Carrie Furnaces, modern urban art may mingle with majestic remains of industrial history.

Archaeologists are excited to find well-preserved ruins of former times. Pittsburgh has such a treasure in plain view. The Carrie Furnaces site—twin blast furnaces towering above the Monongahela River, with auxiliary structures close by—is rare on a global scale, and astounding to visit. Not many old industrial facilities stay intact when they close. These immense furnaces, which boiled iron ore down to molten iron for U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works for nearly a century, were judged too much trouble to demolish after shutting in 1978.  And the sheer size of all that is left testifies to the brute-force nature of Pittsburgh’s historic industry. Just random details, such as massive heat pipes held together by bolts as big as human heads, can trigger awestruck imaginings of what it was like to build the furnaces—and to work there. The Carrie Furnaces site is open for public tours May through October under management of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. Advance reservations are required, so make them at the web link above. Carrie Furnace Boulevard, Rankin. (M.V.)

Photos not credited are provided courtesy of the individual organizations.

Mike Vargo is a Pittsburgh based freelance writer who covers theater and art for Entertainment Central.