Residents, out-of-towners flock to Wilmerding festival
Wilmerding Community Days brings residents and visitors from nearby towns together for games, food and fun.
“I heard about it on Facebook and we came with our very good friends and brought our two boys,” Monroeville resident Nikki Tiani-Moroney said on Friday evening. “It's nice. We used to come all the time when I was younger. It's a lot smaller than I remember, but the kids are having a great time. It's still magic for them.”
Tiani-Moroney's sons, Hayden, 5, and Drexyl, 2, enjoyed games and a car ride.
“We were here last year,” Turtle Creek resident Megan Cain said after her daughter Nevada Toomey, 5, rode a ride. “We like it. The rides are really nice.”
The 30th annual installment of the June festival kicked off on Wednesday with a giant parade — and rain.
“People still came out and sat on the streets to watch the parade. It was amazing,” council vice president Sandy Smith said. “We thought we could get in and get out before (showers began), but once it started to drizzle it was constant all night long. It never let up, but people stayed.”
Friday's activities were cloaked in sunshine and blue skies.
Smith said attendance has been steady.
“It's been pretty busy. It's been an even flow,” she said. “They've brought in more rides, and they've brought in more games (than previous years), but they've held the cost of the ticket the same as last year. Bingo had an exceptional night (on Thursday). We're hoping Friday and Saturday surpass that.”
Each ride costs one ticket. Tickets are $2.50 each or $20 for 10.
“I think it's going pretty good. Everyone seems pretty happy and excited,” council president and event chairman Stephen Shurgot said. “I think it's pretty similar (to previous years). A couple times over the past 25 years they had an all-class reunion for people who went to the (former Westinghouse Memorial High School) and we had really huge crowds the years that they did that. Other than that, we're comparable or a little bit ahead (in attendance). A lot of people come for the entertainment, the bands and a couple other local foods ... The kids come for the rides and the games.”
Those on the event committee are Shurgot, Smith and Councilmen John Thomas and Bill Pricener.
Wilmerding Community Days replaced George Westinghouse Days, which was organized by former mayor and George Westinghouse Castle operations manager Geraldine Homitz.
Westinghouse Days ran for 28 years, ending in 2012. Activities were moved inside the Castle in 2012 because of electrical problems. The borough took over the event in 2013 and changed the name to Community Days.
“The first year was a little bit rough because we didn't have any contacts,” Shurgot said of organizing the festival. “This year wasn't that bad at all. You line up your entertainment, and you have your booth and fair vendors. The hard part was finding a ride guy to come in. Some ride vendors want a guarantee of ‘x' amount of dollars or they won't come. With a small budget you can't do that. This is Lam Enterprises' second year here and they've been great.”
Foods include funnel cakes, candy apples, shaved ice and other fair essentials. A variety of games include a money wheel from the Wilmerding Volunteer Fire Department.
Holy Angels Parish and its Polish/American kitchens were the most popular food booths.
“The crew is good because they donate so much of their time and energy,” the Rev. Michael Reed said. “The food is good because everything's made from scratch. We don't buy any processed food. We make the pierogies. We make the stuffed cabbage. We make the haluski all from scratch. We buy chicken and marinate it ourselves. The fries we cut fresh from the potatoes pretty much as fast as we sell them.”
Holy Angels Parish has been involved in the event for the past 12 years.
“It's really fun. It's a way to meet the people in the community,” Reed said. “It's a way to have fellowship amongst ourselves. I think we enjoy one another's company and get to meet new people each year.”
Community Days concludes Saturday. Final activities begin with a pancake breakfast by the Lions Club from 8-11 a.m. The event ends with a performance by 8th Street Rox at 7:30 p.m.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or firstname.lastname@example.org.