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St. Alexis festival features new games

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
File photo | Randy Jarosz | For the North Journal
Olivia Gronsky (left) and Addalyne Gronsky spin around on a ride during the 2012 St. Alexis Parish festival in McCandless. This year's festival is July 31 to Aug. 3, 2013.
File photo | Randy Jarosz | For the North Journal
Juggler Kenny Wills tosses some rings in the air last during the 2012 St. Alexis Parish festival in McCandless. This year's festival is July 31 to Aug. 3, 2013.

Visitors to the 21st annual St. Alexis Parish festival next week can enjoy the live music while playing new games of skill or chance.

The four-day festival begins Wednesday and runs from 6 to 11 p.m. each night.

The Candy Wheel is a new game in which players are guaranteed to win a prize, but the size of it depends on where the wheel stops, said Leslie Johnson, games committee chairwoman.

The wheel will have “all the favorites,” said Johnson, of Franklin Park.

“It will be a variety of small, medium, and king-sized candy bars,” Johnson said. “There will be other spaces with smaller candy, but they're all treats.”

The Dime Toss is a new game in which players try to win prizes by throwing a dime into the container that corresponds to the prize they hope to win. Glass and plastic receptacles will be used, and as the prizes increase in value, the containers get smaller in size, with the smallest being a shot glass, Johnson said.

The final two new games let players compete against each other in making soccer goals or throwing basketballs into a hoop. Prizes for those games are sports-related, Johnson said.

“Other festivals in the area don't have these games,” Johnson said. “I think there is something for everyone at this year's festival.”

Festival organizers try to keep the entertainment fresh and interesting by mixing new acts in with long-standing favorite entertainers, said Amy Lapinsky, entertainment chairwoman.

Among the new acts this year is a martial-arts demonstration by Young Brother Tae Kwon-Do on Aug. 2, and the Gerri Michaels Band will perform jazz and pop standards on Wednesday night, said Lapinsky, 36, of Allison Park.

The opening act of the festival is a quartet of four boys called Rocktopus. Ranging in age from 10 to 13, the band members play covers of classic rock songs, said Nacol Sharkins, music teacher at St. Alexis School and the mother of Rocktopus guitarist and lead singer Brooks Sharkins Werries, 13.

“There are four boys in the band, so they have a total of eight hands with which to create music,” said Sharkins, 41, of West Deer Township “They are a team of eight hands, like an octopus has eight tentacles.”

Brooks, a seventh-grade student at St. Alexis School, has been around music his whole life, “even in the womb,” Sharkins said.

“I always get excited to perform because it's so much fun, and you kind of feel a rush,” Brooks said.

Rocktopus formed in the fall of 2012 when Brooks, who also attends Rock School Pittsburgh, wanted to start a band and was teamed with three students from the Mars Area School District in Butler County.

The four students immediately became friends and have since performed twice at the Hard Rock Café in Pittsburgh and even at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The boys are getting close to writing their own original songs, Sharkins said.

Rocktopus will perform covers of eight rock songs at the festival, ranging from the Ramones to the Rolling Stones.

“I'm nervous that I might forget the lyrics, but it's also exciting to be performing with my friends,” Brooks said.

The festival has so much to offer visitors that any one activity is just a “piece of the pie,” Lapinsky said.

“There's good food to eat, fun rides to go on and great entertainment,” Lapinsky said. “All in all, it's something fun to do that's for a good cause.”

Melanie Donahoo is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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