Rain can’t dampen spirits at New Kensington Fireworks Festival | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Rain can’t dampen spirits at New Kensington Fireworks Festival

Brian C. Rittmeyer
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photos: Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
Andre Washington of New Kensington, with Comfort Foods, cooks on a grill Saturday during the 20th annual New Kensington Fireworks Festival held on Fourth Avenue.
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photos: Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
New Kensington neighbors (from left) Chris Sokalski, Bob Kubiak and Carl Sokalski chat about cars at the car cruise.
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photos: Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
People walk around the 20th annual New Kensington Fireworks Festival on Fourth Avenue after a brief burst of rain.
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photos: Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
New Kensington police Detective Paul Manke shows a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, a former military vehicle now used by area police SWAT teams, to people attending the 20th annual New Kensington Fireworks Festival on Saturday.
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photos: Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
Ailene Huston of Harrison air brushes an eagle tattoo on the arm of Stephanie Marinoff of New Kensington.
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photos: Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
Patrick Elston, owner of Gus Franco’s Pizza, slices a wood-fired pie for customers.

Erika Plunkett remembers watching fireworks with her mother, Kathie Males, on her grandfather’s house boat.

“It was always very near and dear to my mom’s heart,” Plunkett said.

For many years, Males brought fireworks to all of New Kensington, until she died in 2014. Now, her daughter has taken over, chairing the annual New Kensington Fireworks Festival, which marked its 20th anniversary this year.

Plunkett took over from the city’s recreation commission last year.

“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “I really wish she was here with me. She had a good way of getting things done.”

The half-hour fireworks show was scheduled to start at 10 p.m. Saturday, but was canceled because rain earlier in the day had affected the equipment, according to Mayor Tom Guzzo. The fireworks show is now set for 10 p.m. on Sunday, weather permitting, he said.

During the day, part of Fourth Avenue was closed and filled with food, games and vendors to keep residents entertained. A car cruise was held for the first time.

“It’s a great thing for the community — bring everybody out,” Plunkett said.

And people came out, despite the oppressively muggy conditions and threat of rain and thunderstorms.

“I think it’s actually cooler than last year,” said Ailene Huston of Harrison, who was air brushing tattoos on festival-goers.

New Kensington police Detective Paul Manke was displaying an MRAP — short for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected. Formerly a military vehicle, it’s now used by area police SWAT teams.

Patrick Elston of New Kensington owns Gus Franco’s Pizza, named for his sons, August, 2, and Francis, 4. He ran out of dough balls for his wood-fired pizza by 5:30 p.m. at last year’s event; he had more for this year.

Business was a little slow because of the heat, but, Elston said, “There’s a lot of smiling faces.”

New Kensington Mayor Tom Guzzo praised Plunkett for her efforts in taking over the reins of the event from her mother.

“It is in her DNA,” he said. “She has worked tirelessly.”

Ace Pyro of Clearfield will be conducting the fireworks show on Sunday.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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