Fort Ligonier Days marks 60 years, bigger and better than ever |

Fort Ligonier Days marks 60 years, bigger and better than ever

Candy Williams
Courtesy of Fireman Creative!
The sights and sounds of combat will be reenacted during Fort Ligonier Days Oct. 11-13.
Courtesy of Fireman Creative!
The University of Pittsburgh Marching Band will be one of the attractions of the annual community parade on Oct. 12 during Fort Ligonier Days.
Courtesy of Fireman Creative!
Acoustic classic rock band Hamilton Avenue will be among the performers at the 60th Fort Ligonier Days Oct. 11-13.
Courtesy of Fireman Creative!
Sixties rock group Jay and the Americans will be playing their rock and roll hits as featured performers at Fort Ligonier Days Oct. 12 at the Ligonier Diamond bandstand.
Courtesy of Fireman Creative!
Pittsburgh Brass Project will be among the performing groups at Fort Ligonier Days Oct. 11-13.
Courtesy of Fireman Creative!
Historical reenactments at Fort Ligonier will take place during Fort Ligonier Days Oct. 11-13.
Courtesy of Fireman Creative!
Plenty of food vendors will be on hand at the 60th Fort Ligonier Days Oct. 11-13.

It’s hard to improve on a popular community event that draws more than 100,000 visitors to the region for three days every fall — but Jack McDowell, festival chairman of the 60th annual Fort Ligonier Days, says this year’s celebration Oct. 11-13 will be bigger and better than ever.

“We’ve ramped up and improved some of the things we always do, including having larger bands on the Diamond Friday through Sunday, and a bigger fireworks show Saturday at 8:45 p.m.,” said McDowell, a member of Fort Ligonier Days board of directors and one of the driving forces behind the event for the past 25 years.

Diamond Jubilee

“Preserving Ligonier’s History” is the theme of this year’s Fort Ligonier Days 60th anniversary Diamond Jubilee celebration that pays tribute to the Battle of Fort Ligonier during the French and Indian War. Artillery demonstrations and reenactments of the 1758 Battle of Fort Ligonier will be among the weekend activities.

Fort Ligonier Days will feature entertainment at the historic bandstand in Diamond Park, which was part of a recent $3.5 million renovation project.

“Last year the Diamond was still fenced off, so this is the first year it is open and completely restored. It’s beautiful,” McDowell said.

Business owners interviewed at last year’s Fort Ligonier Days say the event certainly helps boost business.

Following an opening ceremony at noon Oct. 11 on the Diamond, a variety of musical genres will be showcased, from RichPatrick Celtic Band and Jeff Jimerson Airborne, to Cousin Neddie, a new wave/rock band, and Pittsburgh Brass Project.

Featured performers at the bandstand at 6:30 p.m. Oct.12 will be Jay and the Americans, whose top 1960s rock and roll hits included “This Magic Moment,” “Come a Little Bit Closer,” “Cara Mia” and “She Cried.”

Parade a Saturday highlight

One of Fort Ligonier Days’ biggest attractions, according to McDowell, is the annual parade set for 11 a.m. Oct. 12.

Starting from East Main and Bell streets, the parade will be led by a State Police Ceremonial Unit and the Ligonier Valley Honor Guard with Mr. and Mrs. S.P. Mellon serving as honorary grand marshals.

Among the featured units will be the University of Pittsburgh Marching Band in their only community parade appearance this year and some of the largest high school bands in the area, including the Butler Golden Tornado Band and the Morgantown, W.Va., band, both with 300 members. Hempfield, Derry and Ligonier Valley high school bands also are expected to take part. Three different bagpipes units — Seton Hill Pipe Band, the Southwest PA Pipe Band and the Pittsburgh Firefighters Memorial Pipe Band — also will be on parade, along with local historic marching units.

Run, Walk or ‘Dash’

A relatively new event, the Fort Ligonier Days 5K Run and Walk will take place at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 13 at Ligonier Valley High School. The event attracted more than 300 participants last year, according to McDowell. A Cannonball Dash for kids 10 and under gets underway at 9:30 a.m.

Some 200 vendors representing 15 states will offer shoppers a wide variety of handmade arts and crafts items at six different locations. Most of the crafters are from Pennsylvania, along with others from neighboring states, with a few from as far away as Alabama and Colorado.

McDowell said one of the most popular craftsmen is Roger Young, a potter who lived for 30 years in Rockwood and Somerset before moving to LaVale, Md., in 2002. He has been bringing his hand-crafted pottery to Fort Ligonier Days since 1976 and is marking his 44th appearance at this year’s festival.

‘Wonderful weekend to connect’

“It’s a great time of year and I’ve developed a tremendous following,” Young said. “People come from all over to my booth — it’s almost like a reunion. It’s a wonderful weekend to connect. It’s the people, not so much the sales that I look forward to.”

Shuttle buses will provide transportation to and from the festival’s six craft sites, located at Municipal Parking Lot, Mellon Park, Fairfield Street, Loyalhanna Street parking lot (near Fort Ligonier) and at two sites on the grounds of Ligonier Valley School District offices on West Main Street.

Some 28 food booths will be on hand to feed hungry festival visitors, with a tantalizing menu ranging from roast beef sandwiches and crab cakes to pulled pork, apple dumplings “and the best hot sausage sandwiches anywhere,” McDowell said.

PGH Crepes, offering sweet and savory and breakfast crepes; Sand Hill Berries and its fruit pies, cobblers, crisps and cheesecake; and Patti’s Pastries’ cream-filled cupcakes and lady locks will be some of the sweet additions among the food purveyors.

McDowell said there will be increased security from local and state police to keep festivalgoers safe throughout the weekend.

“I’ve been to a lot of festivals across the country — and we have one of the best small town festivals in America,” he said.

Schedule of Events

Oct. 11

9 a.m.: Food, craft booths and wine tasting open

10 a.m.: Ligonier merchant sidewalk sales begin

Noon: Official opening ceremony on the Diamond

1 p.m.: RichPatrick Celtic Band, Bandstand

1 p.m.: Detention (Acoustic Duo), Wine Tasting Area

3 p.m.: Hamilton Avenue Band (classic rock)

5 p.m.: Fort Ligonier closes

5:30 p.m.: Graves Bloodline (bluegrass, rock and spiritual music)

6 p.m.: Craft booths and wine tasting close

7 p.m.: Food booths close

Oct. 12

9 a.m.: Food, craft booths and wine tasting open

10 a.m.: Ligonier merchant sidewalk sales begin

11 a.m.: Community Parade, East and West Main streets

1 p.m.: The Phisbins (Acoustic), wine tasting area

1 p.m.: Jeff Jimerson Airborne (variety rock/pop), bandstand

1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.: Artillery demonstration and re-enactment of the 1758 Battle of Fort Ligonier

5 p.m.: Fort Ligonier closes

5 p.m.: Cousin Neddie Band (’80s til now), bandstand

6 p.m.: Craft booths and wine tasting close

6:30 p.m.: Jay and the Americans (rock and roll), Smail Automotive Group Stage

7:30 p.m.: Forces of Fort Ligonier Parade around the Diamond

8:45 p.m.: Fireworks, following Jay and the Americans

9 p.m. Food booths close

Oct. 13

8:30 a.m.: 5K Run/Walk begins (Ligonier Valley High School)

9:30 a.m.: Kids’ Cannon Ball Dash (Lignoier Valley High School

10 a.m.: Divine Services in the Upper Fort (Fort Ligonier)

10:30 a.m.: Food, crafts and wine tasting open

10:30 a.m.: Ligonier Merchant Sidewalk Sales begin

12:30 p.m.: Acoustic Fingers (variety), wine tasting area

1 p.m.: Pendulum (Tribute to Creedence Clearwater Revival), bandstand

1 and 3 p.m.: Artillery demonstrations and reenactment of the 1758 Battle of Fort Ligonier

3 p.m.: The Pittsburgh Brass Project, bandstand

4:30 p.m.: Fort Ligonier closes

4:30 p.m.: Food, crafts and wine tasting close

5 p.m.: Official closing ceremony on the Diamond

5:30 p.m.: Carillon Concert, Calvary United Methodist Church

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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