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Newly reopened fountain at Pittsburgh's Point marks start of arts festival

| Saturday, June 8, 2013, 12:29 a.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Gavriela Haley, 9, of the North Side splashes water in the newly rededicated and reopened fountain at Point State Park after the conclusion of a ceremony marking the occasion, Friday, June 7, 2013.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Jeff Shellenberger of Brentwood lifts up his three year-old daughter at Point State Park while waiting for the start of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to start during the kickoff of the Pittsburgh Arts Festival, Friday.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Ken Jakub, 46, of McCandless pets his pit bull puppies, Bonnie and Clyde, at Gateway Center during the kickoff of the Three Rivers Arts Festival on Friday, June 7, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
In the fountain at One Gateway Center, Isabella Treese, 4, of the North Side, guides a wooden sailboat through the water as part of the Mini Marina attraction, part of the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, Downtown, Friday, June 7, 2013.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Kingkarn Suesat and Jeremy Debon, both of Oakland, enjoy the light show when lasers were projected from the PPG building onto the newly reopened fountain at the Point to kick off the Pittsburgh Arts Festival, Friday, June 7, 2013.

Mother Nature spared Friday's opening of the Three Rivers Arts Festival from rain.

But Gov. Tom Corbett picked up the mantle as he flipped the switch for the renovated fountain in Point State Park and sent a 150-foot-high geyser of water into a stiff wind, drenching many in the crowd gathered for the event.

“The last time I stood at the very end of that Point, we were imploding Three Rivers Stadium and my son and I watched as the dust came over. Look at what it looks like now along the river from that point in time,” Corbett said as he gestured to the complex of stadiums and entertainment venues on the North Shore that have been built since 2001. “Now that's Pittsburgh.”

The spray did not appear to put a damper on things — an Army National Guard color guard unit that caught the brunt of drenching did not break ranks and the River City Brass Band played on.

Scores of people rushed to the fountain's reflecting pool to kick off their shoes to get wet moments after the ceremony ended.

The $11.9 million restored fountain, which had been closed since April 2009, is the culmination of a more than six-year, $39 million restoration of the park featuring reconstructed walkways and esplanades, restored planting areas and lawns, new park furniture and a cafe.

“I brought my kids and some of their friends from the neighborhood because this is a historic moment and I wanted them to experience it,” said Giannie Haley of the North Side. “Some of these kids didn't even know there was a fountain because they were too young when it was closed down.”

Erin Fox of Churchill, who had not been to Point State Park since the Fourth of July, was impressed by the renovations.

“It looks absolutely great,” said Fox, 23, as she and Ashley Alfaro, 23, of Hoboken, N.J., surveyed art displays. The pair became friends while attending Lehigh University in Bethlehem.

Alfaro, who is on her first visit to Pittsburgh, said the city is “impressive.”

“I really love it, and I'm having a blast here,” she said. “There's so much to do and it's a really beautiful city.”

The Arts Festival runs daily from noon to 9 p.m. through June 16.

Paul Stoyell, 49, of the North Side, who moved to Pittsburgh from Niagara Falls, N.Y., 2 12 months ago, agreed.

“Pittsburgh is gorgeous,” he said as he and a friend checked out the arts and crafts. “It's more impressive than any other city I've been in. It's phenomenal.”

Eric and Kim Baxendell, 41, of Lincoln Place, brought their 5-year-old twins, Cassidy and Nathan, to “make a night of it.”

“We try to bring them down for all the major community events, but this is the first time we've been in the park since the renovations,” Eric Baxendell said. “It looks great.”

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 ortlarussa@tribweb.com.

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