Holly Zimmer and her son, Jennings, came to Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon with a mission.
Their matching shirt read: “I am here to eat all of the pickles.”
The Meadville family nearly completed that mission at Picklesburgh, a three-day festival celebrating pickles of all kinds. This weekend marked the fifth year for the event presented by Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and Flyspace Productions.
“This is our second year down here at the festival,” Holly Zimmer said. “We love coming here to try all of the different foods. It’s definitely a lot more spaced out this year. A lot more room to move around (and) a lot more vendors.”
Jennings, 10, said the grilled cheese dill pickle sandwich was his favorite food.
They came with Kaitlin Pugh, 24, of Greenville.
“I’m having a great time,” Pugh said. “Last year, it was all on the bridge, and it would get really congested at times. Expanding it helped. It was easier to get through.”
Tom and Allison Kerr of Munhall brought their twins, Kainen and Ainsley, 8 months.
Ainsley was dressed in a Heinz ketchup shirt while Kainen wore mustard.
“When you have twins you kind of have to go for it,” Allison Kerr said about the outfits. “We keep looking for things to do with them around the city. So if it’s family-friendly, we’re there. It’s interacting with the city. It’s always fun.”
Picklesburgh’s primary location the past few years has been the Roberto Clemente Bridge, also known as the Sixth Street Bridge, that spans the Allegheny River. A 35-foot Heinz pickle balloon soared near the halfway mark on the bridge.
The bridge was repeatedly closed Saturday to keep things kosher with the crowds as thousands upon thousands tried to make their way across to stop by all of the vendors’ booths.
County police and other security were letting in groups of about 50 as other guests came off the bridge.
“It’s just to make sure that everybody has a comfortable and enjoyable time,” Allegheny County Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Evanto said. “It’s a pretty large crowd. It’s a great event and a successful event, and we did this last year, too.
“This isn’t the first time we temporarily stopped people on the bridge.”
Those who couldn’t make it onto the bridge took part in other Picklesburgh festivities along Fort Duquesne Boulevard.
Leigh Frank, vice president of marketing and communications for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, said officials expanded the layout onto the boulevard this year to accommodate more guests and vendors.
“We’ve been hearing really nice things from festival-goers who have really been enjoying the picnic tables, the shade,” she said. “We’ve seen people bringing blankets down and enjoying it like a picnic today. It’s really added a nice atmosphere to the festival.
“It’s always been on one of the bridges. We’ve had to move because of construction (on another bridge). The last three or four years we’ve been here on the Clemente Bridge.”
About 250,000 people are expected to cross that bridge throughout the event.
“We think it is so uniquely Pittsburgh,” Frank said. “There’s food festivals that could happen anywhere and could be fun.
“That Heinz pickle, the Heinz pickle pin, the history of it, the history of Heinz in our community, it really ties that sort of pickle idea to our town. … I feel like our chefs really turn out to create some really special pickle items.”
There are at least 30 food vendors with pickle-related items.
Great Lakes Brewing Co. and Southern Tier Brewery had pickle beer.
I’Dill Pickle had several food options including the “meat monster” — a large pickle stuffed with a hot dog and wrapped in bacon.
Pittsburgh Pickle Co. offered the Cinn-A-Pickle Parfait with graham cracker crumbs, vanilla pudding, whipped cream, cinnamon — and pickle slices.
Patrons said the odd combination proved to be delicious.
The company is owned by John Patterson. They supplied the goods for the pickle juice drinking contest.
“The year we started the company is the year they started the event,” Patterson said. “It’s been a part of the growth of the company over the past five years, and it draws a ton of people. It’s good for pickles in general. It allows for a lot of the other companies around the region to come and display their goods. It’s great being a part of it.”
The drinking contest was split into five rounds each day.
Former champ Timmy Durik, 39, of Harrison City was victorious in his round Saturday.
“I will be the mayor of Picklesburgh once again,” Durik said. “I love the event. I love pickles. I wouldn’t be drinking this juice if I didn’t.”
Durik said his secret is building up a thirst by riding his bike from Whitehall to Pittsburgh and not having any beverages until the contest.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto will crown this year’s mayor of Picklesburgh on Sunday. Last year’s winner was Joe George of West Mifflin.
More information about the festival is available at picklesburgh.com.