Westmoreland Arts & Heritage Festival is a diverse event
Fireworks are not needed to spark excitement for the Westmoreland Arts & Heritage Festival, which starts today, Thursday, and runs through Sunday at Twin Lakes Park, between Greensburg and Latrobe.
The festival is a mix of the performing and visual arts and cultural-heritage activities, along with a marketplace.
Adam Shaffer, executive director for the event, said the festival, now in its 39th year, frequently is scheduled around the same time as Independence Day.
“It always fell on Fourth of July, (but) we're much more than a Fourth of July festival. We're much broader,” he said.
The free and diverse summer event runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day and offers more than 160 artists, crafters and vendors, as well as entertainers, he said. It draws about 150,000 patrons annually, he said.
“It's kind of a family tradition. People come from all over,” said Shaffer, 37, of Hempfield Township.
Entertainment is available for people with a variety of tastes.
“We really try and cover bases when booking our entertainment,” Shaffer said.
Four stages are located throughout Twin Lakes Park, with many of the acts performing simultaneously. Whether it's folk, rock, Celtic, polka or bluegrass, visitors probably can catch something they like.
“There's always two or three acts going at the same time because we have 8 acres,” he said.
Shaffer said many new performers will be joining the festival this year, including country musicians The Red Roots, playing at 3:30 p.m. Friday on the Island Stage. The band consists of identical “red-headed” triplet sisters who play a “sweet, pop-country sound,” according to their website.
Another new band is Seven Nations, closing out the performance schedule Sunday with Celtic rock. That bands begins at 6:30 p.m. on the Island Stage.
Other musical choices include Wytold, a progressive classical musician at 5:30 p.m. today on the Hillside Stage, as well as the Augsburg German Band, playing at 11 a.m. Saturday on the Island stage. That band later will be followed by many other performances, including alternative musicians City Dwelling Nature Seekers on the Island Stage at 2:30 p.m.
First-time festival performers include the East Winds Symphonic Band at 1:30 p.m. Sunday on the Island Stage, said Mike Moyta, the band's concert manager. The approximately 70-piece band consists of musicians mostly from Pittsburgh's east suburbs, hence the name, he said.
The nonprofit community band ranges in experience, tastes, and age, with the youngest players in high school to the oldest, a trumpeter who just celebrated his 90th birthday, Moyta said.
“We have people from all walks of life,” said Moyta, 54, of Churchill.
With an emphasis on “serious concert music,” the band's music repertoire can include classical, Dixieland, Broadway show melodies and more. And in 2009, it received the Sudler Silver Scroll for community band excellence from The John Philip Sousa Foundation, Moyta said.
String-music aficionados will enjoy an old-time fiddlers contest, a festival favorite since 1979, Shaffer said. The event, scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday on the Hillside Stage, will feature talented fiddlers young and old, competing for a chance to be the best.
Those looking for art that appeals to the eye, rather than the ear, can check out The Westmoreland Arts Nationals, a juried fine-art and photography exhibit. It features both local and national artists, Shaffer said.
The festival's Poetry and Short Story Contest winners also will be recognized, Shaffer said.
People looking for art to take home can visit the festival's artists market, which will have a variety of pieces for sale, including sculpture, jewelry, wood crafts and glass
Shananigens in Leather of Monroeville will be selling custom-made leather-made products, such as journals, bracelets, purses and various Renaissance-era themed leatherwear and products, said co-owner Patricia Gallatin, 42. The other co-owner is her husband, Shannon, 45.
They live in Monroeville.
This is the first year they will be vendors at the festival, but they have enjoyed visiting the event in the past and decided to take a spot in the market.
“It's just a wonderful place to be. There are some fantastic artists there,” Patricia Gallatin said.
Another new vendor is Stormy Blue, a business in Murrysville selling yarns and handmade pottery, said said co-owner Kristine Keller of Murrysville. Her husband, John, is the other co-owner, and they have been visiting the festival for years even though they haven't been vendors.
They plan to feature their stoneware pottery at the festival, along with handmade jewelry made from pottery clay, said Kristine Keller, 44.
“We never miss it. We go every single year. It's one of our favorite things to do in the summer,” she said.
She said knitters will appreciate the yarn bowl, one of their biggest sellers. It keeps balls of yarn from rolling away or unraveling.
On the sweeter side of shopping is Crimson Creek Apiaries, a honey farm located in Sewickley Township, said Linda Lachimia, who owns it with her husband, Norman.
Linda Lachimia said honey-making has been passed down through her family, and she and her husband chose to keep the tradition buzzing on their large tract of land that includes a one-room schoolhouse that is more than 175 years old, which they are now restoring to hold beekeeping classes.
Their bees produce four types of raw, or unpasteurized, honey including alfalfa honey, goldenrod honey, clover honey and wildflower honey. The names refer to the types of flowers that the bees use to make that type of flavor.
She said they also will sell honey sticks and a whipped honey that is “very spreadable and it stays on your knife.”
She said festival visitors also will be able to see some of her husband's handmade beehives, which will be for sale.
Producing floral treasures in a different way is Mike Veychek, of Plant Gems Nursery in Sewickley Township.
Veychek, who owns the business with his brother, Joe, hybridizes and grows day lilies, which they will sell at the festival.
Creating hybrids involves crossing flowers, collecting seeds and producing a number of varieties, and Mike Veychek, 46, said it takes a number of years to get a successful mix to sell.
The brothers usually feature 50 to 75 different varieties at the festival, where they have been vendors for about 15 years. Buyers select a flower they see on display and the Veycheks, both from Irwin, sell them the perennial plant so it can be planted and grown in their own yard.
“There's people who come specifically to the festival each year to see what we have,” Mike Veychek said.
The festival also offers plenty to eat. Ethnic foods, fresh fruits, pies and sweets will be on sale throughout the festival grounds.
And if cookies and candy aren't enough to interest the children, Shaffer said, there will be a children's stage that will feature a variety of children's performances daily including Dewayne Hill, a magician, at times including 5:30 p.m. Friday; Temujin the Storyteller at times including 12:30 p.m. Saturday; and “Princess Games and Storytime” at 7 p.m. today.
Shaffer said the children's area also will have a tent with opportunities for activities such as yogal lessons, drumming lessons and crafts. Children also can dig for treasures in a giant sandpit or visit animals at the petting zoo.
Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.