Family event continues Labor Day at Northmoreland Park in Allegheny Township
A celebration of the working family continues on Labor Day at Northmoreland Park in Allegheny Township.
Live animals, musicians, games, a rock climbing wall, carnival rides, a circus and food and informational booths blanket the landscape for the 48th annual Labor United Celebration. Organizers projected about 35,000 people would participate Sunday and Monday.
While it is sponsored by a group that includes nearly 50 labor unions, the event is open to everyone.
“I think everything’s going really well,” said Labor United President Harriet Ellenberger. “We have some new events. When we first started, we wanted to have something working families can afford. It’s just grown every year.”
Admission and parking are free. All-day activity passes are $4.
The festival started in 1980. It was moved around in the early years to a few Westmoreland County parks until organizers decided to keep it at the 526-acre Northmoreland Park.
“I think the layout of the park makes it very suitable because it’s a nice, huge, flat-grounded area,”said James Burke, Westmoreland County Parks and Recreation program coordinator. “If we try to do this at any other parks, logistically, it would be too difficult to offer what we have. I know everywhere else is pretty crowded with hillsides and trees.
“It’s a great atmosphere: You’re never going to go to another festival as a family — and spend $4 — and do as much as you can do here.”
Organizers added six new activities this year including a children’s area with inflatables.
Labor United includes nearly 50 affiliated labor unions with at least 20,000 members in Westmoreland County.
Ellenberger, a Norvelt resident and retired legislative liaison for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, said she’s noticed more of a push for the trades instead of a traditional college education.
“The pendulum’s kind of swinging back the other way,” Ellenberger said. “People are starting to understand we need people to be a plumber, and electrician and carpenter. These are very important jobs. The trades have great apprentice programs to make sure we have those people. I don’t think they get enough credit.”
A booth near the main stage has information on unions and their benefits.
Marty Marks, spokesman for the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, said there’s been a steady interest in how to organize.
“We find that most people want to be in a union,” said Marks, of Pittsburgh. “They know they’re going to get things that they wouldn’t otherwise, like health care benefits and retirement benefits.”
He said people in nonunion jobs also benefit from the labor laws and past union efforts.
Terry Durbin, a retired utility worker at Dominion Peoples, has volunteered at the celebration the past 25 years.
“I have more joy coming here putting wristbands on the kids rather than a labor function,” he said. “I just love doing it (and) seeing the joy in the little kids’ (faces). I watch the little kids grow after all these years.”
Kenny Sprouse, also known as “That Guy With the Birds,” brought a cavalcade of feathered friends to entertain festival patrons. He talked about various kinds of birds, their habits, historical significance and a few played games like basketball and ring toss.
Camdyn Anderson, 6, of Brackenridge served as Sprouse’s assistant for a segment with a green-winged macaw. He even dressed up as the bird and had a real one on his arm.
Camdyn said it was his favorite part of the festival. He was joined by brothers Colton, 9, and Carter, 12.
“We come here every year,” said mother Charlotte Anderson. “It’s a tradition with the family. It’s not too expensive. Family’s always here.”
Anderson said she is not in a union but commended those in the trades.
“They take care of everyday life and everybody’s every day living,” she said.
Flags, shoes, T-shirts and many more items are up for sale at a flea market spanning multiple booths.
Mary and Chris Pierce of Tarentum brought their children, Evan Pierce, 5, and Aubrey Coward, 13, to the celebration.
“They love it,” Mary Pierce said. “We come here to picnic a lot. This is the third or fourth time we’ve been here.”
Zerbini Family Circus performers dazzled onlookers by doing tricks on a trapeze as well as working with donkeys and horses.
Other activities include a caricature artist, bingo, and Greenfield Farm’s petting zoo.
The celebration is sponsored by Labor United, Westmoreland County Parks & Recreation and the board of county commissioners.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .