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Roaming Social is out to save Pittsburgh's ethnic, private clubs

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, 8:57 p.m.
The Kollar Club on Pittsburgh's South Side is one of the ethnic clubs that the Roaming Social Club will visit in 2018.
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The Kollar Club on Pittsburgh's South Side is one of the ethnic clubs that the Roaming Social Club will visit in 2018.

These places need to be remembered.

That's why the Roaming Social Club was created. It's a group of individuals who will tour many of Pittsburgh's private ethnic and social clubs throughout 2018.

The first stop is 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Kollar Club, formerly known as the John Kollar Slovak Literary and Library Society on Pittsburgh's South Side.

Frequently hard to access, the clubs were a mainstay of the city's diverse ethnic communities, some dating back to the mid-19th century.

The venture is the brainchild of Deutschtown Music Festival co-founder Ben Soltesz and Stephanie Brea, who helped organize Pittsburgh's Bayardstown Social Club.

The Kollar Club, a longtime Slovak mainstay, has been in existence for more than 100 years.

Other upcoming venues include:

• The Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 23 in Lawrenceville in February.

• The German heritage-based Teutonia Mannerchor on the North Side in March.

• The Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center in West Homestead in April.

“I've been going to and buying memberships to some of these places for years, and have helped stage some events for them,” says Soltesz, of Spring Hill. “Many of the clubs are just getting by, and their membership is not getting any younger.”

He says these clubs are “the crown jewels of the city,” and finds that their current members are receptive and appreciative to the younger crowds. Most of the 12 stops this year will feature live entertainment and include a brief history lesson from existing members.

The Roaming Social Club operates on a membership basis with either six events for $60 or 12 events for $120. Day of admission will also be available to each event for an additional fee.

“The benefits of being member are that you are joining our big, happy, roaming family,” says Brea, of the North Side, in a news release. “We are hoping to widen and expand the sense of community that exists at all these great clubs.”

Soltesz says they plan to give a prize at the end of the year to the person or people who end up with the most memberships at the individual clubs.

“I really want people to come,” Soltesz says. “There is no use having events like this if no one comes. We are trying to offer a nice mix of places from all over the city. We hope to visit some outdoor venues in the summer. There is so much history here in these places … and if people don't go there then they won't be there any longer … once they are gone, they are gone.”

Details: roamingsocialclub.com

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-853-5062 jharrop@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.

Other ethnic clubs

Even if you don't join the Roaming Social Club, there are plenty of ethnic clubs throughout Western Pennsylvania to help support by joining or visiting. A few (find details of most of them on Facebook):

Ukrainian Club, 315 Dorothy St., Derry: 724-694-9601

Yukon Croatian Club, 109 Union St., Yukon: 724-722-4100

Marconi Club, 135 River Ave., Leechburg: Named after Marchese Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the Marconi wireless telegraph, and built as a haven for Italian immigrants to the U.S. 724-845-2680

Bari Society, 329 Sycamore St., Vandergrift: Italians from the Bari area of Italy founded it. Sponsors of the annual Festa Italiana di Vandergrift. 724-567-7761

Hungarian Club, 474 Evergreen Road, Gilpin: 724-842-4081

Avonmore Polish Club, 501 Indiana Ave., Avonmore: 724-697-4921

Avonmore Italian Club, 426 Westmoreland Ave., Avonmore: 724-697-4621

East Vandergrift Polish Club, 306 McKinley Ave., East Vandergrift: 724-568-1763

St. Joseph's Polish Club, 8621 Walnut St., Westmoreland City: 724-863-9892

Hilltop Social Club, 619 Southwest Ave., Greensburg: Located in a neighborhood that was primarily Italian in the early 1900s. 724-834-9160

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