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Sebak slated to enhance Stockdale dance series

| Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, 7:45 p.m.

The past will meet the present when another in a series of popular All Oldies, Only Oldies dances (record hops) is presented Saturday, April 6 at the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department's social center and banquet hall.

And the presence of award-winning Americana documentary producer Rick Sebak as a meet-and-greet guest will enhance the event.

“We are very pleased that Rick will be with us,” said Al Marcy, assistant fire chief and entertainment chairman of the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department. “It's fitting that he will be our special guest, because his television documentaries on WQED in Pittsburgh and nationally on PBS focus on various aspects of life and often reflect on our past. The dances at Stockdale attempt to do the same thing – that is, they remind us of special times, people and places in our lives.”

The Stockdale Oldies dance, which has become one of the largest and most popular of its kind in western Pennsylvania in recent years, will run from 8 p.m. to midnight.

Ralph Trilli. longtime area disc jockey and co-host with Bill Chappo of the Crusin' Sunday show on WJPA (95.3 FM, 1450 AM, noon to 6 p.m.), will spin the music. Trilli was a longtime associate of the late Jim “J.D. the D.J.” Dudas and hosted a memorial tribute to Dudas in October 2011. Some 550 people attended the event to honor the memory and achievements of Dudas, who was the DJ at Stockdale for several years.

“Ralph has a great ear for and knowledge of the music that Oldies afficionados request and appreciate,” Marcy said. “He worked with Jim for many years and is helping perpetuate the Mon Valley Memories music with the show on WJPA.”

The April 6 event, which is open to the public, again will carry a BYOE (Bring Your Own Everything) format. Patrons are invited to bring their own food and liquid refreshments. The fire department will provide refreshments (not pop).

Admission is $10 per person, and reservations and additional information are available at 724-330-5002. Checks are payable to Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department and should be sent, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope, to Dance, P.O. Box 416, Roscoe, PA 15477. Those ordering tickets are requested to include their name, address, telephone number and email address.

Sebak will make a presentation at the April 6 dance and then be available for autographs and photos.

Sebak has produced, written and narrated 18 individual special programs that make up what is called the Pittsburgh History Series including a very popular program titled “Kennywood Memories” about the venerable amusement park, a show called “Pittsburgh A To Z,” and another often- imitated documentary titled “Things That Aren't There Anymore.” Several of his shows have featured people and places in the Mon Valley.

In 2003, after the death of Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers” fame, Sebak rewrote an earlier documentary he had made into a new program titled “Fred Rogers: America's Favorite Neighbor.” For his work on the new program, he was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards — one for outstanding writing for nonfiction programming and another for his work as one of the producers for outstanding nonfiction special.

PBS stations around the country often rebroadcast Sebak's programs because audiences respond so favorably to the quirky blend of Americana, places and personalities.

A native of Bethel Park and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sebak celebrated his 25th anniversary at WQED last December.

Before coming to WQED, Sebak worked for 11 years at the South Carolina Educational Television Network in Columbia, S.C. His work there included the awarded-winning documentaries “Shag,” about the official state dance of South Carolina, and “The Slightly Wacky Aussie Doco,” a travelogue about Australia.

Marcy said the past/present theme is symbolized in numerous ways at Stockdale.

“Many of the people who come to our dances and similar oldies events in the area attended the original Stockdale record hops,” he said. “They return to rekindle fond, old memories and to create new ones. Mere words really can't express our gratitude to them for their continuing support.”

The original dances were among the biggest in western Pennsylvania in the 1950s and early 1960s. Crowds of 1,000 or more teenagers were the rule during the heyday of those events, which featured many of the top recording artists of that era in live performances on the Stockdale stage.

A belated 50th anniversary dance was held Feb. 16, 2008, at Stockdale and drew more than 1,100 people (nearly twice the population of the town), some coming from as far away as California, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Canada.

Attendance has been limited to 600 since that event, and capacity crowds have attended the ensuing dances.

“Judging from the inquiries for the April 6 dance has been growing at a steady pace,” Marcy said. “This one will mark the start of our sixth year of the current series of hops and will perpetuate the legacy of the dances that started in 1957 and will be a great way to welcome spring.”

He also emphasized that Stockdale “has been blessed with some outstanding disc jockeys ever since the inception of the original dances.”

“Terry Lee, Jim Dudas and John Barbero have hosted some of the biggest dances ever in the Pittsburgh region, and Porky Chedwick has been with us on several occasions as a special guest,” Marcy said. “We are extremely proud to add Rick Sebak to that group of people who have written chapters of success here.”

Ron Paglia is a freelance writer.

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