Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Neighborhood Spirit Polish Hill Holds Distinctive Style of Arts Festival

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Neighborhood Spirit Polish Hill Holds Distinctive Style of Arts Festival

Article excerpt

The stately Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, designated a historic landmark in 1970, dominates the skyline of Pittsburgh's Polish Hill neighborhood.

Completed in 1908, the church, modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, served the neighborhood's community, which for the most part immigrated from all parts of Poland and settled on the hill starting in 1885. More Poles arrived in large numbers by 1895, and most were families made up of steel mill workers, many of whom helped built the church on weekday evenings and Saturdays.

Leslie Clague, a resident since 2006 and community outreach coordinator for the Polish Hill Civic Association, said that the area once known as Springfield Farm began to be settled in the late 18th century by English, Scottish and later Irish and German settlers but that the Poles became the majority by 1900.

Starting back in the 1930s, the church began holding an annual summer festival, open to everyone but organized largely for the parishioners as a church fundraiser. In 2008, the civic association started a summer arts festival intended to be more inclusive.

"The PHCA drafted a letter to our pastor asking us to use our church hall for their festival," said Mark Dobies, president of the church council and lifelong Polish Hill resident. "When we discussed the issue, I said that we had all the tents and booths still up our festival, so why not let PHCA use them to stage theirs."

The first couple of years, the arts festival had a small turnout, but recently it's experienced a growth in attendance. This year's festival is slated from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday at the intersection of Brereton and Dobson streets. It will feature 40 arts and crafts vendors, food vendors with church parishioners selling ethnic food, and three areas with hands-on activities for all ages.

"Because the festival tends to draw a younger audience, we've asked the food vendors to include vegetarian and vegan items," Ms. Clague said. "For instance, Polish Hill resident Keith Fuller, owner of Root 174 in Regent Square, will be making vegan falafel, YinzBurgh BBQ plans to sell smoked tofu and Blue Dust of Homestead is serving vegan and vegetarian items. …

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