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Sewickley United Methodist church carnival turns 5

| Thursday, July 31, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the Sewickley Herald
Jessica Serbo looks on as Evan Serbo, 3, both of Edgeworth, reaches for a toy egg for a prize Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, during the Sewickley United Methodist Church carnival in Sewickley.
Randy Jarosz | For the Sewickley Herald
Tom Moran adjusts the form of Alexis Moran, 7, while playing a golf game Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, during the Sewickley United Methodist Church carnival in Sewickley. The Moran family is from Sewickley.

A force of volunteers from a local congregation has been busy planning a menu, doing construction and gathering support for the fifth anniversary of the Sewickley United Methodist Church Street Carnival.

As in past years, the old-timey carnival — set for Aug. 9 — promises handmade games, prizes, live music, laughs and fellowship.

Planned between Broad and Walnut streets in Sewickley, it will offer a cake walk, bounce house, dunk tank and an array of entertainment.

Members of the church will make all of the food, which will consist of sandwiches and tacos and plenty of sweet treats that are easy to tote while exploring the opportunities to socialize and play.

Among the entertainment will be the band Leap of Faith, the Pittsburgh School of Rock, Arena Centre for Performing Arts and Bethany House Academy Drummers.

According to carnival Co-Chair Sandra Lane, the Bethany House Drummers bring their African percussion stylings to the celebration as a way of saying thanks.

“Our church supports Bethany House Academy in Pittsburgh's Northview Heights, and each year, we make sure about 30 kids get the chance to come to the carnival, play games and enjoy being out of the city for a day. Some of them perform for us and we appreciate it so much. All of this is part of the reason we love doing this carnival.”

According to its website, Bethany House Academy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose aim is to reduce the impacts of poverty and “inadequate education within the impoverished community of Northview Heights. Our focus is on those whose means do not allow for extra educational endeavors.”

Keith Murphy, director of the academy, explained why it's important for children who attend the facility to make the trip to Sewickley each year.

“I personally think it broadens their world view. Lots of times, you find lots of folks who live in Pittsburgh — not necessarily in public housing, it can be anywhere — who don't venture out from where they are comfortable. They get to meet some folks from Sewickley every week when they visit. And, of course, through our continued engagement of coming out there, the kids look forward to coming there. Now, they venture, because of their comfortability, to events there, even the Jaguar parade. Their relationship with the community goes beyond the carnival,” he said.

He explained that through its bond with the church and the Sewickley Community, the children learn there's more to life beyond what they're used to. “We just want them to have a comfort zone wherever they go, that they feel welcome and bring that same type of respect with them. Some people feel that these kids can be abrasive or rough, and they're not. They're the nicest kids you'll ever want to meet.”

A trip to Ghana with some of the children led Murphy to create his drum troupe.

“They watched them play African drums there and they said, ‘Mr. Murphy, we need to bring some of these drums back.' Then they realized they didn't know how to play. They were a little bit discouraged, but another thing popped up where we found kids who came into our program angry or upset and we would take them and let them hit the drums for awhile and they would hit the drums till their hands hurt. It became a form of discipline. Later, I was able to hire some African drummers here in Pittsburgh who came and taught them the basics, and I learned with them. It evolved from a discipline tool to music and they got better and better and we decided we should be a group.

“We keep learning and playing and we were like ‘hey, let's keep this up.' It brings out that enthusiasm, exposes them to something else they can do and expand on. They've got another skill. We are always looking for ways to find what their passions are and we push all their buttons and nurture that stuff. We want to make sure they feel comfortable with what they can do and love to do, whatever that may be.”

Bethany House works with children all the way from preschool to high school, including an after-school program.

Drummers from the school are learning new skills as they prepare for this year's carnival. In addition to the Djembe (standard African drum), they are playing stick drums. “We're hoping they get good enough on that. But we teach them as long as you can find that rhythm that compliments one somebody else is playing, it'll work out. You just have to have discipline and passion,” Murphy said.

Hundreds of people are expected to attend the Sewickley U.M. carnival this year, according to organizers.

Mya Koch is a staff writer for Ttib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1403 or

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