5 things not to miss at the Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival
Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival reaches a major milestone this year as it celebrates its 45th anniversary from July 4-7 at Twin Lakes Park.
Diane Shrader has worn many hats at the festival, as a visitor, craft vendor, volunteer, administrative assistant and assistant executive director before taking on her current role as executive director in 2015.
The biggest changes in the event over the years, according to the Greensburg resident, have included relocating to Twin Lakes in 1976 from what was then Seton Hill College, moving the festival to the month of July from October, and “continuing to grow with new crafts and artists, but still being true to art forms.”
She said the 45th edition of the festival in the Unity park will feature an interactive art project that visitors will help to complete under the direction of artists Ray Kuchinka and Jeff Donato. Guests will be invited to take their photos from a panel display of previous festivals and participate in onsite interviews to share their past memories and experiences.
The Artist Market is always a popular draw for visitors.
“We will still have approximately 200 craft booths with vendors coming from all over the United States,” she said, including some from as far away as California, Florida and Maine. “Nearly half of our vendors come from outside Pennsylvania.”
Some of the more unique items that vendors will have for sale include handmade wood sunglass frames, lamps made from repurposed items with Edison-type bulbs, collages of iconic patented inventions, blown glass and hand-painted curtains.
“We have new artists in most of our craft categories, from baskets and candles to fine art and woodworking,” she said.
5 ‘Must-Do’ festival events
Shrader outlined her top picks for making this year’s visit to the 45th Arts and Heritage Festival one to remember:
1. Visit the Westmoreland Art Nationals Juried Fine Art and Photography Exhibit and vote for your favorite artwork.
The established contemporary exhibition features local, regional and national artists working in “a multitude of mediums.” The Westmoreland Art Nationals is comprised of two exhibitions, one at Westmoreland County Community College and the other at Twin Lakes Park during the Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival. The Festival is committed to bringing high-quality artists from all around the world to the Southwestern Pennsylvania region.
2. Listen to music that you normally would not be exposed to hearing.
Performers on four stages will offer a wide range of musical styles, from big band, country, folk and polka to barbershop, swing, jazz and classic rock. Children’s singalongs, Jimmy Buffett and ABBA tribute bands, Celtic music and symphonic sounds will add to the music mix.
Also featured onstage will be poetry and short story readings, performance artists, theater and dance presentations.
3. Eat a new or different type of food that you have not experienced before.
Satisfying hungry festivalgoers is no problem at the Arts and Heritage Festival. Literally everything from soup to nuts – from Sherri’s Crab Cakes’ Cream of Crab Soup to AWK Enterprises’ Bavarian Roasted Almonds, Pecans, Cashews, Peanuts and Butter Toffee Pecans – is on the menu.
A wide variety of traditional and ethnic foods will be available, from Italian beef sliders and Thai specialties to Greek baklava and stuffed grape leaves. Also up for grabs are sandwiches, fresh fruit, vegetables, popcorn, pies and gluten-free options
Food vendors new to the festival this year include Patti’s Pastries, featuring gourmet cupcakes; Chef Mark Henry, serving lobster rolls, and Two Guys and a Hobby, with their Amish specialty doughnuts.
Among the most unique food providers will be Tommy’s Jerky on the Road with his selection of beef, elk, venison, turkey, alligator and salmon jerky.
4. Visit the Heritage Trail to see art demonstrations and meet local authors.
The recently renovated Heritage Trail is a path that winds through a shaded area of Twin Lakes Park featuring local authors, cultural groups, historical societies and nonprofit organizations joining together to celebrate the region’s history.
5. Fill out a visitor survey to let us know how we are doing and what you would like to see in the future so that we can make your experience even more enjoyable next year.
“Things change on a daily basis at the festival,” Shrader said. “Come early, spend the day, enjoy the festival in a beautiful park and plan to attend another day to see something totally different. In great weather, we can attract 125,000 visitors over the four days of the festival.”
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.