Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival: What to see, what to eat
There's always something new at the Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival — and something old, considering the festival's dedication to preserving southwestern Pennsylvania's culture through its historical attractions.
The 44th edition of the festival, which runs July 5-8 at Twin Lakes Park in Unity, continues that commitment with several nods to the past, including a town crier who keeps visitors informed of festival happenings.
Diane Shrader, the festival's executive director, says the Heritage Trail is among the four-day festival's popular attractions.
"The Heritage Trail is a path that meanders through a shaded area along the entrance walkway to Eagles Nest," she says. "Traditional craft demonstrations such as quilting and blacksmithing take place, along with authors that speak with visitors."
Timeline Enterprises has had an encampment along the entrance walkway behind the Artist Market tents for a few years, she adds, and this year they are expanding their display with additional items, including a Vietnam War re-enactment booth. Signs at the booth will direct visitors to the upper lake to visit the Twin Lakes Park Vietnam War Memorial.
Shrader says this year's festival will have three stages of performing artists providing a variety of musical styles and other entertainment. Some of the highlights include:
• 6:30 p.m. July 6 on the Island Stage from Nashville, Tenn., Eagles tribute band 7 Bridges will perform their classic hits.
• 2:30 p.m. July 7 on the Laurel Stage, Diane Paul and Cathi Rhodes from Greensburg as Glitzando, will offer American standards, oldies, classic hits and jazz.
• 4:30-6 p.m. July 8 on the Island Stage, Pittsburgh mime Dan Kamin will perform his Classical Clown routine with Edgewood Symphony Orchestra. Kamin will be at the festival all four days as Mr. Slomo.
Other festival attractions
More than 190 Artist Market booths from all over the United States will offer everything from painting and woodworking to pottery, metalwork and more.
The Deck Stage on the entrance walkway will feature Celtic music all four days by Steel Clover. Visitors will have an opportunity to handle different string and percussion instruments and get a mini-lesson.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History will have a booth all four days with two free programs each day. On July 8, Spiny the Dinosaur will make two appearances in the afternoon starting at 1 p.m.
More than 40 food booths will offer many different kinds of ethnic cuisine and festival fare. Gluten Free Oven LLC from Mt. Pleasant will be selling gluten-free pizza, pepperoni rolls, cinnamon rolls and cookies; The Funnel Cake Man from Greensburg will have funnel cake and fried Oreos; Speal's on Wheels from New Alexandria will be serving wraps, frites, corn dogs and candied bacon.
Kids' activities will feature That Guy With the Birds, children's sing-alongs, a strolling puppeteer, Temujin the Storyteller, Robert Mouland with music, marionettes and tall tales, and hands-on activities including balloon art and slap bracelet designs.
A special remembrance
This year's festival will have a touch of sadness for Shrader and others who knew Olga Gera, one of the festival's founders, and its executive director and a volunteer for many years. Gera passed away June 20 at age 95.
Gera told the Tribune-Review in 2014 that she remembered when the festival only consisted of three food booths and eight to 10 crafts booths.
Shrader says festival leaders will continue to honor her memory with the Olga Gera Visual Arts Scholarship Fund, in its third year.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.