Jeannette fest celebrates ethnic traditions, town’s resurgence |
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Jeff Himler

Visitors to Saturday’s fourth annual Ethnic Food and Fall Festival in Jeannette got a sampling of what the town has to offer gastronomically and culturally.

“Part of our mission is to build awareness of our town,” said Donna McCullough, secretary of the Jeannette Business Association, which organized the festival. “We’re trying to bring it back. Slowly but surely, there are businesses coming into our town.”

A recent addition on Clay Avenue, the town’s main drag, is art gallery called You Are Here, which welcomed people to browse. Crafters, food and activities also lined two blocks of the street.

“It’s nice to see something going on in town,” said Jim Pacelli of Penn Township, who checked out the gallery with his wife, Mary, and their son, Joey.

Josh Gross, 16, a 10th-grade Jeannette student, stopped at the nearby Jeannette Historical Society museum to check out a display about the town’s former Palace movie theater, which now houses the local American Legion post.

“I’ve always wanted to come in here, to see what Jeannette used to look like,” he said.

Bob Musser of Harrison City brought along his 3-year-old grandson, Lincoln Alayon of Cranberry, as he ordered pierogies and kielbasa at the food booth of Jeannette’s SS. Cyril & Methodius Orthodox Church.

Parishioner Elena Ribarevski, drawing on her family’s Macedonian heritage, prepared several treats including Russian tea cakes, dusted with powdered sugar, and shepherd salad, a traditional mix of vegetables including tomatoes and cucumbers with a vinaigrette dressing.

“We’re trying to keep a lot of our ethnic traditions alive and well,” she said. “We consider them comfort foods now, but a lot of these dishes came out of necessity with the difficulties that the immigrants faced in the old country.”

Jeannette’s festivities have begun to grow along with the town. This year’s fall festival reinstated a scarecrow contest, suspended last year to accommodate sidewalk improvements, and added wine and beer for adults.

Food Truck Thursdays were introduced this past summer, McCullough said, noting, “It was a huge success every time.”

The town expanded its Sparkle Christmas holiday parade to 80 units last year and wants to continue that trend, she said. She’s hoping to work with the art gallery proprietors to broaden the scope of the 2020 fall festival, to celebrate Jeannette’s history as a center of glass production.

“There’s a lot going on here,” she said, pointing to an amphitheater under construction at Clay Avenue and Fifth Street.

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