Concert Series Will Focus Attention on City's Waterfront

May 10, 2019 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

CONFLICT OF INTEREST NOTE: The author has a conflict of interest. See editor's note at the end of this story.

A roots-rock group called The Seams will perform May 24 at McKeesport's new amphitheater along the Youghiogheny River. The concert will kick off a new series of Friday night events designed to attract attention to the area around the bike trail, marina and Palisades. (Photo courtesy The Seams)

A new amphitheater at Gergely Park along the Youghiogheny River will be inaugurated with a series of Friday night concerts designed to get people excited about redeveloping McKeesport's waterfront.

The concerts, announced this week by Mayor Michael Cherepko's office, will include ethnic food trucks, barbecue, raffles, artists and door prizes, as well as a beer tent for ages 21 and over.

The series opens at 7 p.m. May 24 with a concert by The Seams, a roots-influenced rock band comprised of Mon Valley area natives. Admission will be free.

The events are being organized under the auspices of the McKees Point Development Group, a volunteer committee that has been studying ways to attract new businesses and investment to the area around the McKees Point Marina and the Great Allegheny Passage hiking-biking trail, starting with the abandoned Penn-McKee Hotel.

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MASD Settles Lawsuit Over Black Student Union

May 01, 2019 |

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: News

Six of the 11 McKeesport Area High School students who sued the district and Superintendent Mark P. Holtzman Jr. were all smiles at a news conference in Duquesne on Monday evening.

Sitting alongside their attorney, Witold “Vic” Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, they talked about their hopes for the proposed McKeesport Black Student Union.

“I feel like it's a way to get young teens together and to talk about stuff that’s going on, it's a safer environment,” said Ayriauna West, a ninth-grader.

Under the terms of a settlement between the district and the students, school officials must recognize the club within 10 days as “a non-curricular student activity” and ensure the club receives “the same rights, privileges and benefits that it provides to any other non-curricular student activity.”

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Reports: European Investors Launch Takeover Bid for Kennywood Parent

April 30, 2019 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: News

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under Creative Commons.)

The Spanish parent company of Kennywood is being targeted for takeover by a group of European investors.

According to published reports, a group calling itself Piolin BidCo owns 44 percent of Parques Reunidos and is attempting to purchase the remaining 56 percent for almost $16 per share.

The details were revealed in an filing with financial regulators in Spain.

Based in Madrid, Parques Reunidos acquired Kennywood in West Mifflin, Sandcastle in West Homestead, Idlewild Park near Ligonier and other related companies in 2008. The takeover ended more than 100 years of ownership by the Henninger and McSwigan families.

The Piolin takeover bid was reported Friday by Skift, a blog for travel industry investors, and the Reuters news agency.

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Companies Gather to Educate Public About Medical Marijuana's Uses, Benefits

April 30, 2019 |

By Charlotte Hopkins | Posted in: News

Erik Asher of Pittsburgh describes how he produces rosin from marijuana extracts. (Charlotte Hopkins photo/special to Tube City Almanac)

* Correction, Not Perfection: This story was corrected after publication. -JT

Making marijuana legal for medicinal purposes has been a long battle ever since the U.S. Congress first made its use or possession illegal in 1937.

It was only three years ago that Pennsylvania reversed the state's policy on medicinal marijuana and made it legal. On Sunday, McKeesport-based PurePenn and other vendors held a Medicinal Marijuana Health Fair at the Palisades.

At one table, Erik Asher of Pittsburgh showed event-goers how rosin, a concentrated extract of the marijuana plant, is made using heat and high pressure.

The rosin is used in the same way as other forms of cannabis concentrates, he said, including through vaping.  “It can be used in edibles and dissolved into alcohol for use as a tincture,” Asher said.

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Speakers: Sailors of S.S. McKeesport 'Serve as Example' of Heroism

April 30, 2019 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

Bruce Roberts and Tom Bergan raise a flag commemorating the S.S. McKeesport, which was sunk by a German torpedo in 1943. Also shown are Adam Striffler Gulaski and Tom Maglicco. (Photo special to Tube City Almanac)

The sacrifices made by the men of the S.S. McKeesport --- and by other merchant mariners during wartime --- provide a better model for living than the negativity presented by current events, speakers at a memorial service said Monday.

"Their sacrifice was not in vain," said the Rev. Boniface Igba of Auberle, who delivered the invocation during the commemoration of the 76th anniversary of the ship's sinking during World War II. "They serve as an example for us, especially in this time of division and pain and unceasing violence in this great nation of ours."

First launched in 1919 and built in part with steel forged in McKeesport, the ship carried emergency relief supplies for the Red Cross in 1940 and then was pressed into service during World War II to supply allied forces.

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Natural Gas Tax an Issue of Fairness, Fetterman Tells Chamber Lunch

April 26, 2019 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

A tax on natural gas from Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale isn't a Republican issue or a Democratic issue --- it's a fairness issue, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said Friday.

During a luncheon at the Sunset Room in Elizabeth Twp., hosted by the Mon-Yough Area Chamber of Commerce, Fetterman, former mayor of Braddock, said even hard-core Republican states such as Oklahoma and Texas levy taxes on the extraction of natural gas.

Those states "aren't some socialist dream from some 'tax-and-spend lib,'" Fetterman joked.

After Texas, Pennsylvania is the nation's second-biggest producer of natural gas. Yet only Pennsylvania has no such tax, said Fetterman, who is backing a proposal from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to levy 4.5 percent on natural gas to fund infrastructure improvements statewide.

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Officials Voice Frustration as U.S. Steel Appeals Pollution Fine

April 26, 2019 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

Taking audience questions during a panel discussion at the Sunset Room in Elizabeth Twp. on Friday were state Rep. Mike Puskaric, Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, state Sen. Jay Costa, state Sen. Jim Brewster and state Rep. Bill Kortz. (Photo special to Tube City Almanac)

U.S. Steel should spend more money on anti-pollution technology and less on "lawyering up," said officials at a Mon-Yough Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Friday.

They expressed their frustration after U.S. Steel on Thursday announced it will again appeal air pollution fines levied against the corporation.

An accident at the Clairton Plant on Dec. 24 knocked pollution equipment out of service for more than three months and put the entire Mon Valley under a health advisory.

"We would rather see (U.S. Steel) make investments not in legal actions --- 'lawyering up' --- but investing in engineers to clean it up," said Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Executive.

A large contingent of clean-air and public health advocates also attended Friday's lunch, including Johnie Perryman, 75, of Clairton, who wore an air-filter mask for much of the event at the Sunset Room in Elizabeth Twp.

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Enrollment Underway for Skill-Training Program at Former News Building

April 25, 2019 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News


Paul Anselmo of New Century Careers. (Photo special to Tube City Almanac)

Producing a daily newspaper requires more than just gathering information --- researching, writing and editing. It also requires the skills to be able to manufacture and distribute the printed product.

So bringing New Century Careers' machinist training program to the former McKeesport Daily News Building on Lysle Boulevard makes sense in more ways than one, says Paul Anselmo, the organization's president.

"We're not looking to do very much remodeling," Anselmo says. "It's perfect just the way it is."

Based on Pittsburgh's South Side, New Century Careers has provided free manufacturing skills training since 1999. In June, the non-profit will expand its programs into McKeesport and the Latrobe area.

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UPMC McKeesport Celebrates 125 Years as ‘Cornerstone of the Community’

April 22, 2019 |

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: News

UPMC McKeesport hospital physician Richard Bondi, M.D., with a cutout of his late father, Dr. Frank Bondi, at the hospital's 125th Anniversary celebration on Friday. (Richard Finch Jr. photo/special to Tube City Almanac)

On a rainy April 19, 1894, a large crowd --- estimated at 1,000 people, according to news reports of the time --- gathered at the McKeesport-Versailles Cemetery for the dedication of McKeesport Hospital.

Due to a light rain last Friday, the 125th anniversary celebration for what is now UPMC McKeesport hospital was moved from the courtyard to the Usman Ahmad, M.D., Memorial Conference Center in the Mansfield Building.

“Today is Good Friday, but it is also a great Friday here at the hospital,” said Mark O’Hern, president of UPMC McKeesport and UPMC East.

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Lent's Last Fish Fries Draw Crowds Locally

April 20, 2019 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: News, White Oak News

Above: Deacon Brent Robertson and Jim Brown were manning the grill at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Downtown, on Friday. (Vickie Babyak photo, special to Tube City Almanac)

Lent marks the 40 days observed by Christians as a time of fasting, penance and prayer before Easter Sunday.

Traditionally, Catholics have given up eating red meat on Fridays during Lent as a form of sacrifice, and Catholic churches, volunteer fire departments and other organizations have held fish fries.

As a result, Lenten fish fries have always been a big deal in parts of the country with a large Roman Catholic population, including Western Pennsylvania.

But over the past 10 years, fish fries have become a major feature of Pittsburgh area culture, embracing not just Catholics, but Christians and non-Christians alike. Websites have sprung up to review and rank local fish fries, and some churches and civic organizations have added other ethnic foods to make their particular fish fries stand out.

With Easter Sunday upon us, Friday marked the last Lenten fish fries for 2019. Photographer Vickie Babyak stopped at some local fish fries in the Mon-Yough area to grab a few last scenes (and fish sandwiches).

All photos: Vickie Babyak for Tube City Almanac. To request a reprint, contact

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