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Brackenridge street fair takes different route, moving inside because of rain

| Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Josslyn Graham, 7, of Tarentum, throw a beanie bag at a stack of cans to win a prize as her sister, Miranda, 3, looks on as they play at the Brackenridge Street Fair that was moved in to the Brackenridge fire station (Pioneer Hose) due to the inclement weather on Saturday, September 21, 2013.

A fledgling Brackenridge group's first attempt at a street fair Saturday ran into the unavoidable pitfalls of Mother Nature.

But the rain that fell steadily all afternoon didn't deter members of the Brackenridge Improvement Group, who moved their fair into the garage and social hall at Pioneer Hose.

There, music was played, hot dogs were cooked, caricatures were drawn and the aroma of baked goods filled the air.

Brackenridge Avenue, which the group had planned to close between Locust and Morgan for the fair, remained open — and wet.

“We never expected to get washed out,” said Paul Valasek, the group's founder, chairman and treasurer. “Am I disappointed? Yeah.”

Although many vendors and crafters decided not to come, canceling was not an option. “There was too much arranged,” Valasek said.

That's when Pioneer Hose stepped in, in part by moving their fire trucks out.

“I was born and raised here. I believe in what BIG is trying to do,” said Bob Jones, the chief engineer and director of Pioneer Hose.

The fire company originally was just going to have its doors open for people to use the restroom, and take a truck up for kids to see.

Jones said he and Valasek talked about what was going on with the rain, and he offered the use of the hall, tables and chairs. Kids still got to check out the fire trucks.

“We stepped up and offered them our space so they can continue to have it,” he said.

The group, formed in June, tried to get the word out that the fair went on, only in a new and dry location.

Anastasia Rogers of New Kensington was raised mostly in Brackenridge. She still came with her home-based home decor business, PartyLite.

“We can't control Mother Nature,” she said. “I'm glad they decided it still had to go on. Nobody wants to see their neighborhood turn into a ghost town.”

Bob Polaski of Harrison, the man behind Caricatures by Bob, was having a good enough time listening to Andy Mangini sing and play guitar, even before he had a single paying customer.

“It's their first deal. I'm local. I like to support local improvement groups,” he said.

“I haven't made a nickel yet, but that's OK,” he said, just before his first two customers — Dominic and Natalie Chifulini — walked up.

Although the weather dampened the street fair, it didn't do the same for the group's enthusiasm. Valasek said they will continue to meet and plan ways to better Brackenridge, starting in the flats before moving up the hill.

Plans include planting flowers, placing garbage cans and sprucing up Brackenridge Avenue.

“My main goal is to get a supervised, gated playground,” Valasek said.

It plans to be active in Make A Difference Day, a national day of community service on Oct. 26. It is pursuing nonprofit status.

And there's hope the street fair will come back next year. And that it won't rain.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or

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