Mon Valley Happenings

August 16, 2023

After a multi-year absence from International Village, the Lajkoniki Polish Dancers returned to the festival with director Frank Pocaisk, left photo. For 24 years, he's been the group's director. Some of the junior dancers, center, watch as the senior group, right, performs.

HISTORY

​​     International Village got its start as part of McKeesport’s Old Home Week in 1960, a 10-day event that celebrated the city’s rich history and ethnic diversity.
     The event helped mark the city’s “165 years of Dynamic Progress,” according to a letter from then Mayor Andrew J. Jakomas in an official publication for the occasion. Describing the festival, the publication said it was “an event which will manifest the diverse heritages of the Citizens of McKeesport.”     
     During Old Home Week, Market Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues was closed and transformed into an International Village with 10 decorated booths manned by folks who made McKeesport home after arriving from their homelands. They served traditional food and displayed original handicrafts.
     Not only was there food and handmade items, musical performances were given by each of the nationality groups. Dances were performed in authentic costumes and national songs were sung and played on traditional instruments.
     According to the mayor’s letter, “We anticipate that this colorful event will attract thousands to the International Village and accomplish the purpose of demonstrating the makeup of our citizenry.”
     According to reports, several thousand people visited the Village making it — and the Old Home Week parade — the most popular part of the celebration.
     International Village was only one component of Old Home Week, which started with a beauty queen contest and fireworks on July 1 and concluded with a Soap Box Derby and community religious services in Renziehausen Park on July 10. Various events included a water carnival on the Monongahela River, a tour of the city, McKeesport Boys Club’s Olympics at the White Street playground, a symphony concert at the bandshell in Renziehausen Park, “tavern specialties” with 5-cent beer, an art show, photo displays, baby contest, and a dog show. The chairman was Zoran Popovich.
     Part of the celebration included the streets adorned with flags from all the nations of the world. Ten nationalities were represented in that first International Village — Greek, Polish, Ukrainian, Serbian, Hungarian, Italian, Croatian, Romanian, Irish, and Jewish.
    The popularity of the International Village component prompted the chairman to continue the Village the following year in August at what would become its new home — Stephen Barry Field in Renziehausen Park.

Members of the Rankin Junior Tamburitzans offered songs and dances common throughout Croatia.

Meagan Donnelly, community outreach coordinator of the McKeesport Regional History and Heritage Center, shows off the McKeesport Tiger t-shirts available at the booth or the center.

Several inflatables are available for young visitors to the festival. They are located adjacent to the Blue Top Pavilion. There are numerous information booths located in that area, including the McKeesport K-9 Unit which is selling t-shirts.

A Lebanese bellydancer performed several dances to a receptive festival crowd.

A Prince and Princess were crowned during A Village for Kids on Monday. The received their bikes and helmets Tuesday night during opening ceremonies. This year's Princess is Nelavra Show, 10, of White Oak, left, and Prince is LeVarron Petty, 6, of Pittsburgh. The bikes and helmets were donated by the McKeesport Trail Council.

Mikey Dee Tamburitza Stars entertained the crowd under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion on the second night of the Village.

     The second night of International Village was a success, based on the crowds at the food booths and watching the entertainment. And once again the weather was perfect.

     The 63rd annual ethnic food and entertainment festival in Renziehausen Park in McKeesport continues Thursday from 3-9 p.m. Admission is a $2 donation. That will be the last chance to savor your favorite ethnic foods while enjoying traditional music and dancing from around the world.

     Thursday's entertainment schedule begins under the Blue Top at 5 p.m. with The Nu-Tones. On the Main Stage, the musical journey begins with ABC By JoAnn (Hawaiian) at 6 p.m.; Neighborhood Kolo Dancers at 6:30 p.m.; FAAP Dancers (Phillipines) at 7 p.m.; and Otets Paiisi Bulgarian Dancers at 8 p.m.

    Winners of the Casturo Education Awards will be chosen prior to the close of the festival Thursday. Students in post-secondary education, including trade schools, can apply. Winners do not have to be present to win. Applications are available at the Carnegie Library of McKeesport booth adjacent to the Blue Top.

     Story and photos by Carol Waterloo Frazier

welcome

A spectacular fireworks display closed the first night of the festival.

     When the gates at Stephen Barry Field in Renziehausen Park in McKeesport opened Tuesday afternoon, folks were eager to ring in the 63rd International Village. The ethnic food and entertainment festival continues Wednesday and Thursday from 3-9 p.m. each day. Admission is a $2 donation.

     The first day could not have been more perfect. Despite dark clouds that rolled in and a few raindrops fell around 7 p.m., the weather was very cooperative - ideal for enjoying the wonderful food and entertainment from around the world..

     Crowds formed early at the 17 food booths, many with long lines of folks anxiously awaiting their favorite foods. Culinary offerings include apple strudel, stuffed cabbage, pierogies, palacinka, stuffed grape leaves, baklava, potato pancakes, schnizel, Hoppin Johns, gyros, pastitsio, paprikash, gnocchi, baked kibbee, elote street corn, inihaw na Manok, apple dumplings, egg rolls, and much more.

     Entertainment is offered under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion from 5-9 p.m. and on the Main Stage beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday Main Stage lineup features Alpen Muzikanten at 6 p.m.; Lebanese bellydancer, 7 p.m.; Rankin Junior Tamburitzans, 7:30 p.m.; and Jr. Tamburitzans of Duquesne, 8 p.m. The Mikey Dee Tamburitza Stars will be under the Blue Top.

     Aside from lots of food and entertainment, there are numerous information booths. McKeesport K-9 Unit is selling shirts and McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center is selling McKeesport Tiger t-shirts. Other booths include the McKeesport Tigers; Riverside Care Center; Auberle Foster Care; McKeesport Alliance Church (diaper changing area and a prayer booth; Carnegie Library of McKeesport, where post-secondary students can apply for one of two Casturo Education Awards that will be drawn Thursday night; UPMC SMART; and the U.S. Army. For younger guests, there are three inflatables in the area near the Blue Top.

     Mayor Michael Cherepko welcomed Village-goers to the 63rd International Village. He thanked the committee for the "exhaustive effort they put forth every year. It is appreciated by me and hopefully by all of you."

     Entertainment coordinator Mikey Dee said the first night of the festival was "glorious. I'll be serving double capacity this year with the absence of Patrick Fisher. Tonight has been a reminder of why I like coming back to do this every year. Tonight has been glorious for me."

      It was also a special night for Dominick Cipicchio of McKeesport, who has attended every festival since it's inception during Old Home Week in 1960. He and his wife, Connie have been married 62 years and he will celebrate his 90th birthday in a few days.

     "I've come every year since it was on Market Street," Cipicchio said. "That first year, if you didn't have a bear you went to jail. I came out of work and was put in 'jail'. I didn't have a beard so to jail I went," he reminisced with a chuckle."

     His favorite part of the festival, he said, is the food, especially the apple dumplings and the Italian booth."

Story and photos by Carol Waterloo Frazier​     

Jack Tady and the JTB provided music to get Village-goers on the dance floor under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion.

The Grecian Odessey Dancers took the audience on a dance tour of the Greek islands.

INTERNATIONAL

VILLAGE 2023
This site will offer information about the annual ethnic food and entertainment festival Aug. 15-17 at Renziehausen Park in McKeesport. Stories and photos will be posted of the event. If you have memories of International Village, send them to mvhappenings@gmail.com for possible posting on the site. 

ENTERTAINMENT

Entertainment from around the world will be presented each day at two locations. Each night there will be entertainment under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion from 5-9 p.m. and several groups performing nightly on the Main Stage beginning at 6 p.m. Fireworks are planned Tuesday night. Entertainment coordinator is Mikey Dee.


TUESDAY
MAIN STAGE
TJ International Club (Sweden) - 6 p.m.

Shovlin Irish Dancers - 6:40 p.m.

Grecian Odessey Dancers - 7:30 p.m.
Introduction of City Officials - 8 p.m.

Lajkoniki Polish Dancers - 8:15 p.m.

FIREWORKS (weather permitting)

BLUE TOP

Jack Tady and the JTB


WEDNESDAY

MAIN STAGE

Alpen Muzikanten (Austria) - 6 p.m.
Lebanese Bellydancer - 7 p.m.
Rankin Junior Tamburitzans (Croatian) - 7:30 p.m.

Jr. Tamburitzans of Duquesne - 8 p.m.
BLUE TOP
Mikey Dee Tamburitza Stars
 
THURSDAY
MAIN STAGE
ABC By JoAnn (Hawaiian) - 6 p.m.

Neighborhood Kolo Dancers - 6:30 p.m.

FAAP Dancers (Phillipines) - 7 p.m.
Otets Paiisi Bulgarian Dancers - 8 p.m.
BLUE TOP
The Nu-Tones

OVERVIEW

     An event 64 years ago celebrating the rich ethnic heritage of McKeesport​ has evolved into a three-day festival of food and entertainment that continues to pay tribute to the city's melting pot of traditions.     
   This year's International Village is Aug. 15-17 from 3-9 p.m. at Stephen Barry Field in McKeesport’s Renziehausen Park along Eden Park Boulevard. Admission is a $2 donation.
   Traditional ethnic food and entertainment has been a mainstay of the festival since its beginning as part of McKeesport’s Old Home Week in 1960. That tradition continues this year when 17 nationalities will share their heritage with Village-goers.
    Ethnic entertainment will again be featured each day under the Blue Top and on the Main Stage (See Schedule Below). 
   The parking lot adjacent to the Blue Top Pavilion (Gate 4) is handicapped parking ONLY. Free parking is available at designated areas in Renzie Park for the festival. 
     Seating will be available under the Blue Top Pavilion and behind the food booths near Gate 3. Chairs will be set up around the main stage for watching the entertainment.    

MENUS

     For many people who attend International Village, the food is the main attraction. This year, 17 nationalities will offer some of their traditional food to this year's festival-goers. 
AUSTRIA

    Funnel Cakes - $9

    Lemonade - $5 small, $7 large

    Corn Dogs - $6

    Soft Pretzel - $6

    Cheese - $1 extra

    Apple Strudel - $5

CROATIAN

   Sarma (stuffed cabbage)

   Kielbasa with sauerkraut

   Hot Dogs

   Pierogis

   Haluski

   Croatian potato salad (with oil and vinegar)

   Palacinka (crepe with apricot, rasberry or cheese filling)

   Medenjaci (honey cake)
EGYPTIAN

   Chicken Shawarma Sandwich - $10

   Falafel Sandwich - $10

   Lamb Pie - $6

   Spinach with Feta Pie - $6

   Stuffed Grape Leaves - 4 for $6

   Hummous Dip - $6

   Baba Gannouj Dip - $6

   Tabbouleh Salad - $6

   Baklava - $5/square

   Chocolate Covered Almond Roll - $3

   Lemonade - $4 small, $7 large

FRANCE

    Fried Vegetables

    French Fries

    Funnel Cake

    Lemon Ade

GERMANY

    Sauerkraut Balls 

    German Pretzel 

    Haluske

    Bratwurst 

    Pierogies 

    Potato Pancakes 

    Cabbage Rolls

    Knockwurst

    German Sausage 

    German Schnizel

    Lemonade 

GHANA (African American)

   Dinners (includes 2 side dishes):  

   Southern Fried Wings (4 wings per dinner) - $16

   Barbecue Ribs (3-4 bones per dinner) - $20

   Barbecue Pigs Feet (2 feet per dinner) - $13

   A La Carte:  

   Southern Fried Chicken Wings - 6 for $12

   Barbecue Rib Sandwich (3 bones) - $12

   Half Slab of Barbecue Ribs - $17

   Slab of Barbecue Ribs - $27

   Barbecue Pigs Feet (2 feet) - $8

   Sides Dishes:

   Southern Tenders (collard greens) - $5

   Red Rice - $5

   Hoppin Johns (red beans and rice) - $5

   Bread:

   Corn Bread or White Bread - $2

   Dessert:

   Sweet Potato Pie - $4 slice, $15 whole

GREEK

   Gyros 

   Cheese Pies

   Spinach Pies

   Honey Balls

   Grape Leaves

   Pastitsio

   Mousaka 

   Greek Pastries

HAWAIIAN

    Hawaiian Shaved Ice

    Fruit Smoothie

    Deep fried Oreos, PBJ, Cheesecake

    Pig Wings

    Pulled Pork

    Chicken Sandwich

​    Fish Sandwich

HUNGARIAN 

    Toltott Kaposzta (stuffed cabbage)

    Lesco (Hungarian Pepper Stew)

    Langos (Fried Dough)

    Paprikash Csirke (Chicken Paprikash)
ITALIAN 

    Stuffed Banana Peppers

    Gnocchi

    Meat Balls

    Italian Beef

​    Italian Provolone Wheel

    Hot Sausage
LEBANESE

   Gyro Sandwich - $10

   Falafel Sandwich - $10

   Baked Kibbee - $6

   Stuffed Grapeleaves - 4 for $6

   Spinach Pie - $6

   Spinach Pie with Feta - $6

   Meat Pie - $6

   Hummous Dip - $6

   Baba Gannouj Dip - $6

   Tabbouleh Salad - $6

   Baklava - $5 per square

   Apricot Roll - $3

   Lemonade - $4 small, $7 large

 MEXICO

    Smoked Chicken or Pork Barbacoa Nachos

    Pork Barbacoa Tacos

    Birria Beef Quesadillas

    Chicken Quesadillas

    Elote Street Corn

    Churros with Chocolate Sauce

PHILIPPINES

    Main:

    Lumianitos (chicken spring roll) - 7 pieces $5

    Lumpiang gulay (vegetable spring roll) - $3, 2 for $5

    Empanada de Manila (chicken turnover) - $3, 2 for $5

    Inihaw na Manok (grilled chicken sticks) - 3 for $7

    Pancit Bihon (vegetarian stir fried noodles) - $7

    Adobo Rice Bowl (braised chicken on rice) - $8

    Kanin (rice) - $2

    Combo: Inihaw na Manok (3 sticks), Pancit, Lumpiang shanghai itos (3 pieces) - $15

    Rice Bowl Specials of the Day:

    Day 1 - Lechon Kawali (deep fried pork belly) - $10

    Day 2 - Caldereta (beef stew) - $10

    Day 3 - Tofu Pinakbet (mixed vegetables with tofu) - $10

    Dessert:

    Turon (fried banana Wrap) - $3, 2 for $5

    Leche Flan - $3

    Suman/Cassava (rice cake) - $3, 2 for $5

    Ube pan de sal (purple yam bread) - $2

​    Pan de Coco (bread with sweetened grated coconut) - $2

    Drinks:

    Melon Juice (canteloupe drink) - $2

    Calamansi Juice with Honey (Filipino lemonade) - $2

POLAND

    Pierogies - feta spinach, potato cheese, crab, jalapeno potato cheese, sweet cabbage, lekvar, sauerkraut

    Halupki (Stuffed Cabbage)

    Kielbasa

    Haluski
SWEDISH

    Apple dumplings

    Ice Cream

    Swedish Waffles

    Desserts
TAIWAN

    Chicken-on-a-Stick

    Vegetable and Shrimp Fried Rice

    Egg Roll 

    Orange Chicken

    Vegetable Lomein

    Lemonade 

VIETNAMESE

   Chicken-on-a-Stick 

   Vegetable Fried Rice

   Shrimp Fried Rice

   Egg Roll - $4

   Vegetable Lomein

   Lemonade 

A nice crowd flocked to Renzie Park for opening night of International Village.

The second night crowd, above and below, at International Village started early and continued to grow. There were lines at just about every booth, some with waits of 30 minutes or more. 

Dominick Cipicchio and his wife, Connie, left photo, have been married 62 years. He will celebrate his 90th birthday in a few days. In the right photo, Robert Baglos recently celebrated his 90th birthday and was visiting his hometown.

International Village opening night does not disappoint

Another group performing for the first time at the ethnic festival was the Shovlin Irish Dancers. The high-energy dances got the crowd clapping as they offered traditional dances from Ireland.

VILLAGE FOR KIDS

     The 14th annual Village for Kids will be Monday, Aug. 14 from 12-3 p.m. at the Lions Band Shell and ballfield in Renziehausen Park. This is a free event. Adult supervision is recommended for children younger than 6.
    Festivities will include food, a photo booth, crafts, games, face painting, music, and a Meet and Greet with Mario and Cocomelon. A Prince and Princess will be crowned at 2:30 p.m.; they must be there to win. Each will receive a 20-inch bike and a helmet donated by the McKeesport Trail Commission, which will be presented at International Village Tuesday, Aug. 15 at 8 p.m.
     Following is the agenda:

NOON - 3 p.m.
     Music at the bandshell
   Food Gallery (Hot dogs, chips, cookies, drinks, fruit snacks; nachos and pop will be available to purchase from the McKeesport Trail Commission) 
     Photo Booth Tent
     Screenings, information, crafts, game tables, activities, fingerprinting by police, fire smokehouse, interactive bus, facepainting
     Photo Booth Tent
NOON - 2 p.m.
    Registration table for "A Village Kids" Day Prince and Princess. Children 12 and younger are eligible.
1-2 p.m. AT THE STAGE
     Meet and Greet with Mario and Cocomelon (made possible by P.G.H. Party Creations and Nuttall Public Safety Equipment LLC)
2:30 p.m. AT THE STAGE
     Announcements/Pictures
     Crowing of the Prince and Princess
 

The following groups are part of this year's Village for Kids: 
​Mayor Mike Cherepko (hot dog and chip booth)

Nuttall Public Safety Equipment LLC
Goodwill of Southwestern PA
PA American Water
UPMC for You Dental
Human Services Center Mon Valley
McKeesport Area School District
McKeesport Police Department
McKeesport Fire Department
McKeesport Area Rescue Services

State Senator Jim Brewster’s Office
Devereux TCV 
Latterman Family Health Center
Allegheny County Health Department Dental Office
Faith Lutheran Church
Penn State Greater Allegheny
McKeesport Family Center
State Representative Matt Gergely
Familylinks
Carnegie Library of McKeesport
Auberle SNAP Program
McKeesport Lions Club

Fund My Future PGH

McKeesport Area High School Cheerleaders

Allegheny County Office of Family Child Health 

​Heuer House

​Care Heart CPR

Century Heritage Federal Credit Union

Women for a Healthy Environment

PA State Police

When She Thrives

Volunteers of America of PA SWPA

Founation of Hope

​McKeesport Housing Authority

McKeesport K-9 Unit was at the festival, introducing people to the K-9 officers and offering shirts. 

The Apple Dumpling booth, hosted by McKeesport Area Shared Ministry United Methodist Church, Beulah Park Campus, was popular Wednesday night.

Village marks second night with crowds, perfect weather

Alpen Muzikanten, above, kicked off the Main Stage entertainment Wednesday evening. Bernice Yanzetich, right, filled in as MC for long-time Village mainstay Patrick Fisher.

August 15, 2023

The Jr. Tamburitzan's of Duquesne entertained the crowd with a variety of Croatian songs and dances using traditional instruments.

Making its debut at International Village, the TJ International Club offered a variety of dances from around the world to a very receptive audience.