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Mayor looking at ‘plan B’ for International Village, Renzie concerts
The worldwide coronavirus pandemic means the city will likely not have a normal International Village this August, McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko is warning. (Tube City Almanac file photo/Denise L. Ritter)
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko is “not ready to cancel events yet” but he and other city officials are acknowledging that the coronavirus pandemic is causing a lot of uncertainty in the spring and summer schedule.
“We offer so many highlights in this city that no one else can come close to,” Cherepko told council on Wednesday night. “The variety of things we do helps make McKeesport unique for a smaller city.”
Independence Day fireworks will take place on July 4, the mayor said, and there will be a Memorial Day ceremony on May 25, though it will likely be small.
But other summer events, such as the Sunday night concert series in Renziehausen Park, presented by the McKeesport Lions Club, and even the three-day International Village ethnic food festival held in mid-August, are still up in the air, Cherepko said.
“It's really out of our hands,” he said. “The governor is asking us to limit gatherings to 25 people or less. We, as a city, cannot be part of anything that’s against the governor’s orders.”
McKeesport expects to have a decision by the end of June on whether International Village will continue in some form, Cherepko said. The event at Stephen Barry Field is scheduled to celebrate its 60th year in 2020 and generally includes live entertainment, polka dancing and fireworks, attracting thousands of people each night.
“We want to wait and hold out until the last minute,” the mayor said. “We understand we may not have a normal ‘Village’ and may have to go to a Plan B.”
Many churches and other non-profit groups depend on International Village as a major fundraiser. A “plan B” might allow those groups to operate ethnic food booths for carry-out meals only, Cherepko said, with no seating and no entertainment.
Under such a scenario, non-food vendors, such as craft and information booths, would not participate, he told council.
The summer concert series typically begins in mid-June, but no schedule has yet been announced. “It’s another big question,” Cherepko said. “In a normal world, a lot of bands would need to know by now, but realistically, where else are they booking?”
All entertainment venues remain closed in Pennsylvania and will stay closed, even when Allegheny County moves to the so-called “yellow” phase of resuming normal business activities on May 15.
Cherepko said he understands people will be disappointed — and that many volunteers who help put on events such as International Village are frustrated by the uncertainty — but told council he was trying to give a “fair analysis” of where the city stands.
“This is new for all of us,” he said. “Who would have ever thought this is what we would be facing?”
Jason Togyer is editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published May 09, 2020.