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International Village fares well on opening day in McKeesport

Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - McKenzie Winter, 12, of Elizabeth Township and Rebecca Marflak, 13, of White Oak encourage International Village attendees to stop at Circleville United Methodist Church of North Huntingdon Township's Mexican booth for burritos, tacos, fried ice cream and churros. The heritage festival continues through Thursday from 3-10 p.m. at Renziehausen Park in McKeesport.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>McKenzie Winter, 12, of Elizabeth Township and Rebecca Marflak, 13, of White Oak encourage International Village attendees to stop at Circleville United Methodist Church of North Huntingdon Township's Mexican booth for burritos, tacos, fried ice cream and churros. The heritage festival continues through Thursday from 3-10 p.m. at Renziehausen Park in McKeesport.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Ed Poturich of Versailles portions barbecued lamb for more than 50 hungry guests who flocked to the Rankin Jr. Tamburitzans' Croatian booth as International Village openes in Renziehausen Park on Tuesday. The event continues through Thursday from 3-10 p.m.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Ed Poturich of Versailles portions barbecued lamb for more than 50 hungry guests who flocked to the Rankin Jr. Tamburitzans' Croatian booth as International Village openes in Renziehausen Park on Tuesday. The event continues through Thursday from 3-10 p.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - With help from grandparents Annette and Herbert Wichmann, Max Wichmann, 2, of North Versailles Township samples a variety of International Village fare.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>With help from grandparents Annette and Herbert Wichmann, Max Wichmann, 2, of North Versailles Township samples a variety of International Village fare.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Cheryl Gornall of North Versailles Township displays a licitarska srca that she plans to give to her husband John. The heart features a mirror that will show its recipient a picture of someone its giver holds close to her heart.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Cheryl Gornall of North Versailles Township displays a licitarska srca that she plans to give to her husband John. The heart features a mirror that will show its recipient a picture of someone its giver holds close to her heart.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Samantha Shaffer and Dawn Dillman of North Huntingdon Township browse handmade Christmas ornaments representing traditions around the world.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Samantha Shaffer and Dawn Dillman of North Huntingdon Township browse handmade Christmas ornaments representing traditions around the world.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Preparing for International Village's opening processional, Maddie Gradich, 13, of McKeesport fastens a flower crown for Cassidy Thompson, 13, of McKeesport, who carried the Austrian flag.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Preparing for International Village's opening processional, Maddie Gradich, 13, of McKeesport fastens a flower crown for Cassidy Thompson, 13, of McKeesport, who carried the Austrian flag.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - David Spurgeon of White Oak, Betty Miller of McKeesport and Keith Sandusky of North Versailles Township serve Beulah Park United Methodist Church's famous apple dumplings.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>David Spurgeon of White Oak, Betty Miller of McKeesport and Keith Sandusky of North Versailles Township serve Beulah Park United Methodist Church's famous apple dumplings.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Jason Togyer of Tube City Almanac is interviewed during a webcast of International Village festivities.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Jason Togyer of Tube City Almanac is interviewed during a webcast of International Village festivities.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Twins Cullen and Caiden Craig, 6, of McKeesport bounce in one of many Family Tent Rentals attractions at International Village.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Twins Cullen and Caiden Craig, 6, of McKeesport bounce in one of many Family Tent Rentals attractions at International Village.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - The 54th annual International Village opened with a processional displaying flags of the 21 ethnicities represented at Village booths.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>The 54th annual International Village opened with a processional displaying flags of the 21 ethnicities represented at Village booths.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - International Village master of ceremonies Mikey Dee is happy to open another year of McKeesport's time-honored heritage festival.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>International Village master of ceremonies Mikey Dee is happy to open another year of McKeesport's time-honored heritage festival.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Even the youngest William Penn Magyar Folk Dancers learn to balance bottles on their heads for a Hungarian tradition.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Even the youngest William Penn Magyar Folk Dancers learn to balance bottles on their heads for a Hungarian tradition.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - William Penn Magyar Folk Dancers, adorned in colorful, flowing skirts, twirl across the International Village stage on Tuesday evening.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>William Penn Magyar Folk Dancers, adorned in colorful, flowing skirts, twirl across the International Village stage on Tuesday evening.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Trafford Junior Tamburitzans perform traditional Slovak songs on Tuesday evening.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Trafford Junior Tamburitzans perform traditional Slovak songs on Tuesday evening.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Lara Garrett, 5, and Paul Buczynski, 6, follow other young dancers around the International Village stage in circles during a Tuesday performance by the Lajkoniki Polish Dancers.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Lara Garrett, 5, and Paul Buczynski, 6, follow other young dancers around the International Village stage in circles during a Tuesday performance by the Lajkoniki Polish Dancers.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Grecian Odyssey Dancers get close to the Internation Village crowd during their Tuesday night performance.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Grecian Odyssey Dancers get close to the Internation Village crowd during their Tuesday night performance.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Christ Temple AME Choir members praise the Lord with song on stage at Tuesday's opening night of International Village in McKeesport.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Christ Temple AME Choir members praise the Lord with song on stage at Tuesday's opening night of International Village in McKeesport.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - McKeesport Councilwoman V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery, right, presents to Carol Waterloo Frazier of The Daily News a plaque from the city's business authority.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>McKeesport Councilwoman V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery, right, presents to Carol Waterloo Frazier of The Daily News a plaque from the city's business authority.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko give a heartfelt welcome to visitors of the 54th annual International Village in the city's Renziehausen Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko give a heartfelt welcome to visitors of the 54th annual International Village in the city's Renziehausen Park.

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Wednesday's entertainment schedule, more photos on B8

Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 4:51 a.m.
 

It's the time of year when Renziehausen Park in McKeesport is filled with the scents and sounds of International Village.

The 54th annual ethnic food and entertainment festival opened on Tuesday afternoon at Stephen Barry Field and will continue through Thursday.

Food booths feature fare from 21 countries, including Austria, China, Croatia, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hawaii, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Mediterranean, Mexico, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden and Vietnam.

The first festival stop for many is the Croatian booth, where lines formed as soon as the gates opened, and where its signature lamb sold out within a few hours.

“I've been in line at least 45 minutes,” Caroline Skrtic of Port Vue said. “I come every year and I always get lamb. I come every night and taste everything.”

There is more than lamb to tempt the palate. Among the other delicacies are pig wings and Baba Gannouj dip.

Boxty, a potato pancake that is a mainstay in the Emerald Isle, is so popular that the sign above the Irish booth where it is served reads, “Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan. If you can't make a boxty, you'll never get a man.”

The Polish booth is a favorite stop for Ed and Joyce Skweres of North Huntingdon Township.

“I come every year,” Ed Skweres said. “I gather at the Polish booth and get the Polish platter.”

“My favorites are the potato pancakes, pierogi and stuffed cabbage,” Joyce Skweres said.

Along with the variety of cuisines, there are performances of traditional songs and dances from around the world.

Wednesday evening's entertainment starts at 6 on the main stage. The Mikey Dee Band will perform under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion, also beginning at 6.

“The first night went really fast,” Dee, the master of ceremonies and entertainment coordinator, said. “This is a wonderful experience and it's an honor to be able to give back to the city I love. I'm looking forward to two more glorious nights.”

Stage manager Patrick Fisher will assume the MC duties Wednesday night.

“I always look forward to doing that,” he said. “International Village means a lot to me and I enjoy having the opportunity. When the crowd is having a good time, then I have a good time.”

The Blue Top is a hub of activity. For the second year, educational workshops are offered there from 4-6 p.m.

“We want to encourage people to come back and learn about the different nationalities,” heritage education coordinator Bernice Yanzetich said.

Tuesday's demonstrations were by representatives from the Slovakian, Austrian and Croatian booths. Cheryl Gornall of North Versailles Township was there for the Croatian segment and received a traditional red heart ornament. Licitarska srca is a 17th century traditional Croatian gift that tells the recipient the person they see in the heart's mirror is loved by the giver.

“This was really great,” Gornall said of the presentation. “Young kids need to learn about things like this. I come every year and try to learn as much as I can from the dancing and the crafts.”

The recently renovated Blue Top is adorned with flags of each of the nations represented in the Village, and there is different performer there each night beginning at 6. Opening night featured a kolo dance with Radost. A polka night is planned on Thursday.

Arts and crafts are adjacent to the pavilion. The spacious tented area is home to 12 vendors offering items from ethnic Christmas ornaments to crystal jewelry.

For younger festival-goers, there are five inflatables. Cost is $2 for one ticket, $5 for three, or $12 for a ride-all-day pass.

Although the gates and booths opened at 3 p.m., the 54th Village officially got under way with the opening ceremony. A procession featuring representatives from each food booth, wearing traditional clothing, carried their countries' flags and then gathered on the dance floor at the main stage.

Fisher credits festival chairman Dan Carr with maintaining the ethnic tradition established by the first International Village during Old Home Week in 1960.

“He likes to move forward and looks to see how it can be improved for the next year,” Fisher said. “He's willing to do what he can to please everyone while keeping the tradition of International Village alive.”

An opening night tradition is recognizing local, county and state officials.

“A couple is here tonight celebrating their 47th wedding anniversary,” Mayor Michael Cherepko told the crowd, noting that has become a tradition since they were married. “That's a small example of what International Village means to a lot of people.”

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald praised the festival.

“This is a special event in this region,” he said. “It is a community event that brings everyone together. The tradition of great food and dancing is being passed on to the next generation and that is very important.”

Several McKeesport businesses were honored with a plaque from the city's business authority, including The Daily News. Other recipients were Progressive Music, Carnegie Library of McKeesport, Edward L. Kemp Co. Heating & Air Conditioning, Willig Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Lico Inc., Hunter Funeral Home Inc., Hunter-Edmundson-Striffler Co. Inc., Minerva Bakery, McKeesport Candy Company Inc. and UPMC McKeesport.

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1916, or cfrazier@tribweb.com.

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