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Kids take over International Village for a day

| Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, 11:56 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Katie Glessner, 9, of Elizabeth Township and Austin McHenry, 6, of North Versailles Township are crowned the princess and prince of the Village for Kids by co-chairs Dexter Hairston and Alison Piccolino with state Sen. James R. Brewster and McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko at the Lions Bandshell on Monday.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Families flocked from McKeesport and surrounding communities to Renziehausen Park for the fifth annual Village for Kids on Monday. The free event included food, games and activities for children of all ages.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
McKeesport Area elementary reading coordinator Amy Dellapenna distributes free books to Village for Kids attendees on Monday afternoon.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Jennifer Antkowiak, a KDKA anchor, shared her love of Zumba fitness with children at Monday's Vilage for Kids festivities on the Lions Bandshell grounds at Renziehausen Park in McKeesport.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
As Gregory Gibson Kenney prepares to play the role of Jackie Robinson, the Rev. Darryl Knopp explains McKeesport's message of 'Respect, Dignity, Hope and Love.'
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Making bookmarks with Altrusa Club of McKeesport members Diane Kolesar and Julie Cooper are young McKeesporters, from left, Chase Mitchell, 12; Andrew Clawson, 13; and Jade Clawson, 7.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Avionna Menifee, 9, of McKeesport teaches her 2-year-old cousin Chy'mir Smiley to blow bubbles at a Village for Kids booth sponsored by Faith Lutheran Church of White Oak.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Village for Kids volunteer Natalie Washowich introduces McGruff the Crime Dog to siblings 4-year-old Karly and 7-year-old Kole Sporio of Clairton.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Samantha Farally, 3, of McKeesport, offers a taste of her blue raspberry snow-cone during Monday's Village for Kids.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
McKeesport Area High School student Dalyn Jackson holds her 9-month-old sister Davaya Stephenson up to socialize with another of the Village for Kids youngest guests 8-month-old Alayna Palochko, held by her mother Rosie Palochko.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Sisters Anna and Emma Koval, 6 and 9 respectively, of Munhall walk away from the Carnegie Library of McKeesport booth with handmade paper flowers.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Veronika Johnson, 18 months, of Clairton takes her first romp in a bounce house at the Village for Kids on Monday afternoon in Renziehausen Park.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Members of the Wilmerding YMCA are served snacks at the Auberle booth during the Village for Kids on Monday in Renziehausen Park.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Mason Jobes, 3, of Liberty tries his hand at the LaRosa Boys & Girls Club baseball toss with help from James Barry III.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Dipping Jaedyn DiPasquale of Glassport's fingers in ink, McKeesport Sgt. Terry Brownfield helps parents keep fingerprint records of their children with packets that can be kept on hand at home.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
McKeesport Area High School students, from left, Ryan Jacobs, Jason Mols and Nathan Menard send T-shirts into the crowd at Monday's Village for Kids with a machine made by their AMP'd Robotics team.

McKeesport welcomed hundreds of children from across the Mon Valley to Renziehausen Park on Monday for the fifth annual Village for Kids.

The day of activities, games, learning opportunities and, of course, food is an introduction for youngsters to the city's best-known summer tradition, International Village.

The 54th edition of the annual ethnic food and entertainment festival takes place in the park on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3-10 p.m.

“It was a beautiful day, and it was very successful,” co-chair Alison Piccolino said.

Piccolino was on the Lions Bandshell stage with co-chair Dexter Hairston, state Sen. James R. Brewster and McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko to crown a prince and princess, who will be honored at the festival proper on opening day.

Katie Glessner, 9, of Elizabeth Township was named princess, and Austin McHenry, 6, of North Versailles Township was named prince. Their selection was based on short essays that children submitted during the festival.

“I want to go back to school and tell everyone how awesome my summer was,” Austin said. “This is great.”

The day's festivities included everything from crafting paper flowers with Carnegie Library of McKeesport staffers or bookmarks with Altrusa volunteers, to enjoying snacks provided by Auberle staff and Lions Club of McKeesport.

Many children gravitated toward a row of bounce houses set up by the Elizabeth Township-based Family Tent Rentals.

Sheyeanne DeCicco, 11, of Irwin and Cheyanne Sita, 10, of McKeesport said the bounce houses were their favorite part of the Village for Kids.

“All of the children had so much fun in there,” Sheyeanne said.

“There were so many things to do and so many people,” Cheyanne added.

Sindy Yoder, who has brought her three children to the Village for Kids every year, said everyone should make an effort to attend.

“My kids are ecstatic every year. They can't wait,” she said. “It's free, and it's safe. Most importantly, they enjoy it.”

Elijah Wanzo, 10, of McKeesport said the Village for Kids was appealing to every family in the area, regardless of household income, because everything was free.

“It's an opportunity for some people to come out and do things they couldn't have,” Elijah said. “Not everyone has a lot of money, and this is a nice thing to do.”

City administrator Matt Gergely said he was proud to see so many local organizations and community groups donate time and materials to make the day possible.

“It's great that these organizations take the time to come out and create a tremendous event for our city,” Gergely said. “Everything was entertaining and educational.”

Cherepko encouraged children to pay close attention to special guest Gregory Gibson Kenney, who portrayed Jackie Robinson.

At the invitation of the McKeesport Message Committee, which is emphasizing the concepts of respect, dignity, hope and love, Kenney shared the story of Robinson's success as the first black player in Major League Baseball.

“We do have hope here in McKeesport,” Cherepko said. “You can be anything you want to be if you put your mind to it. You have to work toward your goals, whatever they may be.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.