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Mother Nature on exhibit at arts festival

| Sunday, June 9, 2002, 12:00 p.m.

Joe Fairweather didn't have to worry about any name jokes on Saturday afternoon.

"I get a lot of nicknames — depending on the weather," said the Carnegie resident, taking a break to listen to some live music after a stroll through the exhibits of the 43rd annual Three Rivers Arts Festival.

"I sometimes get Stormy. Or, Badweather," said Fairweather, 73. "Today, the name really fits."

For the second stunningly aesthetic day in a row, sunny and mild weather at the arts festival was as least as much an attraction as hand-carved alabaster giraffes, sting rays done in bronze, stained-glass lamp shades and watercolor paintings of Venice and similar exotic scenes.

The popular Downtown festival has a history in recent years of attracting more early summer showers than sunshine — so much so that one promotional item this year was a plastic poncho. But yesterday — the second day for the event that runs through June 23 — the festival opened around noon beneath a clear blue sky with temperatures in the mid-70s.

"You always have to expect the bad with the good. But this year, the weather's truly been a blessing," said Georgina Crichlow of Edgewood, a member of the Caribbean Vibes Steel Band, a group in its 10th year of performing at the festival.

The band — started 14 years ago by Georgina's mother, Verna Crichlow — launched festivities near the entrance of Point State Park with a medley of Calypso tunes played on oil drums converted into percussion instruments. A Caribbean version of "Under the Boardwalk" — paced to the deep, rhythmic throb of the drums — emanated across the grounds toward the Point's trademark fountain, a favorite spot as always in the summer for kids trying to catch the falling spray.

The reasons people gave for turning out for the event were as varied as the snacks advertised along the booths of the food court, where the aroma of kettle corn mixed with the sharp smell of onions sizzling on the grill of a cheesesteak vendor.

Fairweather, a Dixieland jazz musician, said he enjoys the entertainment and art exhibits.

"It's amazing some of the things they make out of metal. Things you and I might throw away, they make into works of art," he said.

Lamont Copeland, 37, of McKees Rocks, said, "I brought the kids down so they can experience something other than sitting in the house. You never know what you'll see down here."

Kelly Orbanic, 25, a metalsmith who lives and works on the South Side, said he was just browsing.

"If you are an artist yourself, you get an idea of what people are charging. It's like — wow. It's amazing what people are willing to pay," he said.

Lateesha Lee, 24, also of McKees Rocks, simply likes spending time at the park with her three children.

"I just come down to walk around and sit by the fountain. I don't really go for the art," she said.

Her son, Dasean, 8, said he likes art class at school, but was disappointed the festival didn't have a swimming pool.

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