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Rebranded festival returns to Monroeville, features entertainment, food, shopping

| Thursday, May 1, 2014, 1:57 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Folk Festival is taking on a new name and attitude this year.

Organizers renamed the 57th festival Celebrate Pittsburgh as part of their rebranding initiative.

Karen Hall, the festival's board president, said organizers hope to draw a younger crowd in addition to those who have attended the ethnic festival in previous years.

Also, the festival, scheduled for May 9 at the Monroeville Convention Center, 209 Mall Blvd., will be just one day rather than two or three days, as in past years.

Hall, 55, of Hopewell said this year's festival length is not financially related. The board canceled the festival in 2009 because of funding issues.

“The reason we are taking it down to one day is that we are close to our 60th anniversary, so it's a combination of our rebranding process and preparing for the 60th anniversary,” Hall said.

“We wanted to just put our toe in the water a little with rebranding and reformatting because we can't reformat everything in just one year. We have to see what works, what doesn't work and how we can tweak little things going forward.”

The festival still will feature entertainment, food and drink, and shopping opportunities that reflect the many cultures of people who live in the Pittsburgh area.

Part of the festival's rebranding initiative will be to have headliner entertainment near the end of the night with Christina Chirumbolo and the 40-piece Metropolitan Italian Symphonic Band, which is directed by Anthony DiIanni. They will perform at 8:15 p.m.

Chrirumbolo, 29, of Peters Township, is an Italian folk fusion singer who learned Italian folk songs at the age of 3 from her grandfather, who emigrated from Italy to Western Pennsylvania. She has toured throughout Europe and founded the Accelerando Music Conservatory, a music school in Canonsburg.

“I'm so excited to expose my home community and my students to Italian folk music,” Chirumbolo said. “With Pittsburgh having such a rich melting pot of cultures, it's so exciting to share Italian culture. This is authentic Italian folk music that young and old alike can enjoy and be captivated by.”

The festival also is bringing back some of the ethnic entertainers it has featured in the past.

The Grecian Odyssey Dancers of Ypapanti Presentation of Christ Greek Orthodox Church in East Pittsburgh first performed at the 26th festival in 1981. Six of this year's dancers had parents who performed in the group's festival debut.

“In that way, it's sort of a homecoming and anniversary for us,” choreographer Mary Doreza, 74, of Churchill said. “We perform as Greek folk dancers from various regions of Greece.”

Five dance groups from the Hindu Jain Temple of Pittsburgh in Monroeville also will perform, two for the morning program for students, one for the afternoon program for senior citizens and two more for the evening program that is open to the public.

“I've been closely connected with the festival, and it's always a cultural blast, as if the whole world's cultures come together in so many ways,” said Sumedha Negpal, a choreographer for the dance groups.

Negpal, 43, of Upper Saint Clair, said the temple also will have a food booth to serve authentic Indian cuisine.

The festival will take place in three parts.

Programming from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. will be for schoolchildren. School officials and parents of home-schooled children should preregister for the event by May 5 at

Admission will be $5 per child, with one chaperone for each 15 students admitted for free. Admission for each additional chaperone is $5.

Hall said the decision to return to the Monroeville Convention Center after having last year's event at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood was prompted by teachers preferring the center's parking availability and security.

“It's secure in the sense that they can see where their kids are and keep track of them,” Hall said.

Senior citizens from nursing homes or who use wheelchairs or walkers and other people with disabilities will have the event to themselves from 1 to 3 p.m. Admission is $5 for them, but nursing-home staff members and other chaperones will be admitted for free. People must call 412-561-0321 by May 5 to register for the afternoon session.

The festival is open to the general public from 4 to 10 p.m. Admission is $5, with children ages 12 and younger and members of the military admitted for free.

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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