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55th annual McKeesport International Village preparations under way

| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 4:01 a.m.

In its 55th year, International Village has been a tradition for many in McKeesport and neighboring communities to celebrate their heritage.

The annual ethnic food and entertainment festival gets under way on Tuesday and continues through Thursday on Stephen Barry Field in Renziehausen Park. Gates and food booths open at 3 p.m. and continuous entertainment begins at 6. Admission is $2.

Food booths representing 21 nationalities offer everything from stuffed cabbage to pizza, and a variety of goodies for an evening snack. Austria, China, Croatia, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hawaii, Hungary, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey and Vietnam will be featured.

While many people attend the Village for the food, others come for the entertainment. Entertainment coordinator Mikey Dee promises a spectacular lineup of performers on the main stage and under the Blue Top.

“We have four new groups and we will have two Concert Under the Stars,” he said.

Offering music from Turkey on the main stage on Tuesday will be Azade Aerahinova, in a Village debut. Two groups will debut on the main stage on Thursday — Ibeji African Drum Ensemble and The Folk Factory.

Under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion, newcomer Karl Lukitsch Autobahn will host a polka party on the final night. “He's been booked a couple times but was not able to play because of rain,” Dee noted.

Village veteran Dee returns as master of ceremonies for the 11th year, although he's been involved with the festival for 25 years as an entertainer and 15 years as entertainment coordinator.

The nightly entertainment lineup features:

Tuesday: William Penn Magyar Dancers, Azade Aerhinova, Bokwa Group, Lajkoniki Polish Dancers, Grecian Odyssey Dancers, opening ceremony and introduction of officials, Trafford Jr. Tamburitzans, Lebanese belly dancer, and Concert Under the Stars with Penn-Sembles Adult Tamburitzans. Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion will feature a Kolo Dance Party with Radost.

Wednesday: Austria Dance Co., ABC Dance Studio by JoAnn (Hawaiian), Rankin Junior Tamburitzans, St. Nicholas Junior Tamburitzans, Otets Paiisi Bulgarian Dancers, Jr. Tamburitzans of Duquesne, and Concert Under the Stars with Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra. Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion will feature a Variety Night with Mikey Dee Band.

Thursday: Harry Babinger (Germany), Ibeji African Drum Ensemble, Lajkoniki Polish Dancers, FAAP Philippines Dancers, The Folk Factory, PAS Slovak Folk Ensemble, and grand finale with fireworks. Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion will feature a polka party with Karl Lukitsch Autobahn.

Patrick Fisher returns as stage manager.

Heritage educational workshops will take place under the Blue Top each day from 4-6 p.m.

“This will be the fourth year for the workshops,” education coordinator Bernice Yanzetich said. “We offered general information the first year, then we did food the next year and holidays last year. This year we are offering ethnic dance workshops.”

The arts and crafts tent will feature 16 vendors offering a variety of items, including many representing the nationalities in the Village. The tent is adjacent to the Blue Top Pavilion.

There will be a souvenir booth and several informational booths including McKeesport Alliance Church (diaper-changing area), Carnegie Free Library of McKeesport, The Daily News/Trib Total Media, the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport, McKeesport History & Heritage Center, McKeesport Police K-9s, McKeesport Ministerium, McKeesport Symphony, Penn State Greater Allegheny, McKeesport Message Committee, Senior Lifestyle Connections, McKeesport Trail Commission, Striffler Family Funeral Homes, Tube City Community Media, UPMC McKeesport and Ziebart.

On the final night, two Casturo Family Educational Achievement Awards will be awarded in a random drawing. Application forms will be available at the Carnegie Library of McKeesport booth.

Reflecting on the impact of the Village, gate volunteer co-coordinator Linda Brewster said it “brings a lot of people to the city and it shows us off. This is an ethnic event and it really brings people together. We want everyone to come to McKeesport and enjoy this wonderful festival and have a good time.”

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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