St. Teresa of Avila festival has something for everyone

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

The annual St. Teresa of Avila Summer Festival in Ross Township has been around for nearly 50 years because organizers try to have something for people of all ages, said Connie Stewart, festival entertainment chairwoman.

This year's festival begins Monday and runs through Aug. 24 at the parish grounds at 1000 Avila Court in the Perrysville neighborhood.

“There are so many different attractions,” said Stewart, 49, of West Mifflin. “Everything from the flea market to the dinners to the free entertainment makes this a fun family event.”

This year, festival organizers wanted to include more new acts that are fresh and different. Bob the Amazing Juggler will open the festival Monday evening by juggling all sorts of things, including fire, Stewart said.

“We're excited to see what he can do for us,” Stewart said.

“It's different from a musical act and should be fun for all ages.”

And closing the festival on Saturday night is the Back in Time Band, which performs popular songs from the 1950s and 1960s, Stewart said.

“We think the band will get a good reaction from the St. Teresa crowd,” Stewart said.

“I hope this isn't their only appearance at the festival, let's put it that way.”

The German-themed dinner will be served on Saturday evening instead of during the week because it always has been the most popular dinner, and having it on the last night of the festival means more people will attend, so the fest will “go out with a bang,” said Shirley Gorwick, festival co-chairwoman.

Some other new features are games in which two players compete in timed matches to make hoops or score goals. A Chinese auction features items such as a 46-inch flat-screen high-definition television, an iPad tablet and a Kindle e-reader, Gorwick said.

But the most popular festival feature always has been the flea market, which draws crowds mostly because of its reputation for reasonably-priced “quality junk,” Gorwick said.

About 60 volunteers work all through July to collect, sort and price donated items, and everything is neatly displayed, as if in a department store, Gorwick said.

The flea market's opening day is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, two days before the festival starts. Gorwick said that when the doors open, as many as 600 people already are in line outside and about 6,000 people visit the flea market during its run.

Parish officials do not disclose the amount of money made at the festival, but almost all of the proceeds go to St. Teresa of Avila School to help keep tuition costs down. One-third of the total amount raised comes from flea market sales, Gorwick said.

Although the festival is late in the summer, it's one of the largest parish festivals in the North Hills, and it takes about 700 volunteers to run everything during festival week, Gorwick said.

“It's a big community event for us,” Gorwick said. “Our stewardship is outstanding, and people come and volunteer their time and it's a real camaraderie.”

Melanie Donahoo is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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