Many Local Churches Hosting Fun Summer FestivalsJul 01, 2017 10:24PM ● By Shari Berg
Entertainment options in the Pittsburgh region are plentiful during the summer and fall months, providing residents with a variety of carnivals, events and activities from which to choose. Among the rich traditions are the many festivals hosted by area churches, featuring ethnic foods, attractions for all ages and spectacular music.
One of the must-attend festivals in July is the Annual St. Sebastian Parish Festival, running from July 10-15 on the church grounds at 311 Siebert Road in Ross Twp. Mario Grana, festival co-chair, said the festival is one of the best places for “friendship, food, fellowship, faith and family fun” this summer. It is the 27th year that St. Sebastian is hosting the festival, which raises funds for the school and numerous parish ministries.
Grana said the festival annually draws crowds of more than 12,000 parishioners and visitors. Attractions that draw visitors to the festival each year include Big Bob’s Famous Ribs, thrilling rides and plenty of games for visitors of all ages. Nightly entertainment and local celebrity guests–including Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup team member and former center Tyler Kennedy and KDKA-TV weekend news anchor Paul Martino–will also be on hand.
“People really enjoy the great rides from Powers and Thomas, the awesome festival food, the Kids Zone activities and the chance to enjoy all of it with their families and friends,” said Grana.
The festival runs from 6:30 to 10 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and from 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturday. Guests can use a complimentary shuttle service from the parking lots at the McKnight/Siebert Shopping Center, the McKnight Road Post Office and the lower church lot to travel to the upper church lot where all festival activities except bingo are being held. Bingo will be held in the lower lot.
All Saints, located on Dewey Street in Etna, has been hosting a festival for three decades. The festival has experienced its share of ups and downs, but has remained one of the more popular festivals in the region. “It originally was just a couple of days, then we lost everything in a flood in 1986,” said John Clark, festival co-chair. “We rebuilt everything and it went to six days; now we’re back to four days. Even after losing everything, we rebuilt from scratch and continued a widely beloved tradition.”
From July 19-22, attendees at the All Saints festival can look forward to homemade dinners nightly between 5 and 7 p.m., followed by entertainment. Other attractions include kiddie rides, games, instant bingo and nightly raffles.
The St. Alexis Festival is another long-running event, according to John Carpenter, co-chair for this year’s festival. More than 60,000 people attend the four-night event each year.
“It’s definitely a community event that is far-reaching,” said Carpenter, adding that the church’s central location to many areas helps to draw in a large crowd. “We’re really convenient to a number of locations.”
The rides are the festival’s number one attraction, according to Carpenter. “We have an arrangement with C&L Shows and have always been impressed by their well-maintained, well-built rides,” he said. “People really seem to gravitate to them.”
Another popular staple of the festival is its indoor and outdoor food selections, many of which are homemade. “In the outdoor food booth, we feature a special every night, usually Asian and Italian dishes, as well as wings and meatball subs," said Stephanie Fanelli, outdoor foods organizer. "Every night we feature Monte Cello’s pizza as well.”
Outdoor entertainment is also a huge draw for visitors. “Every night is jam-packed with quality entertainment,” said Carpenter. The festival runs nightly from Aug. 2-5 and proceeds benefit St. Alexis School.
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, located at 2930 Beaver Road in Ambridge, also hosts an annual festival. This year’s event is from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. from July 18-22.
“The festival is our largest fundraiser and brings in proceeds to help us defer the everyday operating costs at the church,” said Connie Barlamas, festival co-chair. “We are in our 100th year of existence as a church and will turn 101 in October.”
Barlamas said the festival attracts more than 2,000 people. “Our food is prepared by the members of the church. We have food, pastries, novelty items and entertainment throughout the festival,” he added.