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(Tube City Almanac file photo from 2012 by Denise L. Ritter)
CORRECTION: Fireworks are Tuesday, Aug. 13. We apologize for the error.
Renziehausen Park will soon be booming with the tastes, sights and smells of another International Village.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the event, which has been a McKeesport tradition since its inception in 1960. International Village has grown to become the region's largest celebration of ethnic food, heritage and diversity.
This year’s celebration of the city’s distinctive ethnic diversity is slated for Aug. 13, 14 and 15.
“International Village is one of the many wonderful events that brings McKeesporters together, and it’s been a phenomenal success over the past 60 years,” said City Councilman Keith Soles, chairman of the International Village Committee. “Everyone comes together to celebrate years of tradition.
“I think, in addition to the tradition of their individual heritage, folks come out to celebrate the tradition of the Village itself,” he said. “It’s a grand event that truly represents what the McKeesport community has to offer.”
A $2 donation is requested at the gate for entrance to the event, which will include ethic food, entertainment, crafts, performances, a children’s area, and ethnic workshops.
Live entertainment begins each evening at 6 p.m. on the main stage (Stephen Barry Field) and continues until 9 p.m. Dancing will take place nightly from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Jakomas Blue-Top Pavilion, adjacent to the food booths. A fireworks display is slated for the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 13.
Entertainment on the main stage at International Village is selected and provided by the groups who maintain and staff the food booths. Performers who are reflective of the cultures, traditions and heritage of the booths are represented, allowing guests to enjoy a variety of entertainment they are sure to enjoy.
“For the past 60 years as International Village, and for many more as the heritage component of Old Home Week, this event has always been a great opportunity for friends and neighbors to get together to enjoy the food, music, and dances of their cultures,” McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said of the event, which draws around 15,000 to 20,000 people each summer to Renziehausen Park.
“People who have lived in McKeesport for their entire lives have a chance to meet with old friends who move back each year just for this time-honored tradition,” he said. “It is an honor for the city of McKeesport to host such a popular, successful event year after year, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
In honor of the event’s 60th anniversary, this year’s event will include some additional entertainment, according to Dan Carr, International Village coordinator.
Additionally, the city will be passing out complimentary logo mugs inside of the gates.
“It's been great to work with Mayor Mike and City of McKeesport over the last several years,” said Carr, who added that the International Village Committee has been working hard to make improvements to ensure the continued success of event.
(Tube City Almanac file photo by Denise L. Ritter)
“It has always been a McKeesport tradition to share this festival of ethnic food and music with our families, friends and neighbors,” Carr said. “This year, we are announcing the new entrance on University Drive. When entering the gate you will see the freshly paved pathway connecting all the way through to the Blue-Top.
”We also opened the walkway between the infield area and the Blue-Top,” he said. “We recognize the aging population of McKeesport and are always conscious of improving accessibility. The entire parking lot, from the senior center in, has been dedicated to handicapped patrons.”
The McKeesport Lions Club has also added more free transport carts to assist with help to the Blue-Top entrance gate, Carr said.
McKeesport native Mikey Dee has been involved in the entertainment at International Village for three decades --- beginning as a member of a strolling musicians act led by his grandfather Joe Pavlecic, and progressing into the role of entertainment coordinator and Master of Ceremonies.
“I stepped into the village committee in 2000 at a crucial time when the festival could have taken a negative turn toward being a carnival,” he said. “I wanted to maintain the event's reputation as being the region's premiere ethnic festival. I also wanted to make sure and keep the cultural entertainment to go along with the foods of the world.”
Mikey Dee said being able to embrace his Croatian and Polish heritage is something he is proud of. “And being a working musician that plays cultural events, that’s important to me,” he said.
For the 10th year, the International Village will be streamed online by Tube City Community Media Inc.
“We started out with just audio for the first few years, and then we added video,” said Jason Togyer, executive director of Tube City Community Media. “We've tried to get a little bit better every year.”
Togyer said the broadcast group enjoys participating for a number of reasons. “We like being able to show something from the McKeesport area to the rest of the world that is strictly positive,” Togyer said.
“None of us who works on the broadcast is talented at singing or dancing, so this is a way for us to contribute to International Village with something we know how to do,” he said.
Togyer said it is the hope of the volunteers who complete the broadcast that those who perform at International Village during the day will have the opportunity to watch themselves on the video replay.
Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer who writes about a variety of topics for Tube City Almanac. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published August 05, 2019.