The Ethnic Marketplace offers a variety of traditional items including these Christmas ornaments.
Main stage entertainment closed Wednesday night with a performance by the Penn Sembles adult tamburitzans.
McKeesport Officer Nick Matthews and his K-9 partner Farkle greet Village-goers at the McKeesport Police Department K-9 Unit booth, left photo. Shirts with pictures of all the K-9 officers are available for purchase. Above, Sheila Worthington makes deep fried plantains (bananas) wrapped in egg roll wrap and sprinkled with brown sugar at the Filipino booth.
The 58th annual International Village is from 3-9 p.m. Aug. 15-17 at Stephen Barry Field in McKeesport’s Renziehausen Park along Eden Park Boulevard. Admission is $2.
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 21 nationalities — Austria, China, Croatia, Egypt, France, Ghana, Greece, Hawaii, Hungary, Irish, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey, and Vietnam — will share their heritage with Village-goers.
Ethnic entertainment is showcased each night on two stages — the main stage beginning at 6 p.m. and under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion starting at 5 p.m. Fireworks are planned for opening night.
Entertainment coordinator Mikey Dee said performances on the main stage will be pretty the same as last year (see Entertainment below for the nightly schedule) but said entertainment under the Blue Top will be "more exciting than ever with groups that have never played there before."
Through the years, the pavilion has become "the ultimate dance party," Dee said. "It's like it's own picnic and dance area."
This year, sound for the performers under the Blue Top will be done by a professional sound person. "That will be much easier for the performers because they won't have to bring their own sound equipment and set it up."
On Tuesday night, Cleveland-based Harmonia will perform a variety of Balkan music. "They really pack a wallop. They play the type of music we want for the festival," Dee said. "They play kolos and polkas - all dance music of the Eastern European region."
A highlight of Harmonia, Dee said, is the cymbalom, a unique instrument "played by only a handful of people in the U.S."
Gypsy Stringz performs Wednesday evening under the pavilion, a group that includes Dee as one of the musicians.
Entertainment under the Blue Top on the final evening of the Village will feature a polka night with Johnny Koenig, a national recording artist who moved from New York to this area a few years ago. "His CD was Grammy considered," Dee said, noting this is the performer's first time at the festival. "Last year during Oktoberfest he got to play on national news while performing in New York City. I had the priviledge of recording a couple tracks on his CD."
Other festival favorites will return including the Ethnic Marketplace (see vendor list below under Ethnic Marketplace) and the Heritage Education segment, which gives representatives from the nationality booths a chance to share some of their traditions with Village-goers when performers under the Blue Top go on breaks.
There also will be a children’s area with inflatables and a diaper changing area sponsored by McKeesport Alliance Church. Handicapped parking is available at Gate 4 behind the Blue Top Pavilion.
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.
Not only are there food and craft booths, there are numerous informational booths/tables including a used book sale by Carnegie Library of McKeesport; McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center; a prayer booth hosted by the McKeesport Area Ministerium; McKeesport Police K-9s; McKeesport Trail Commission; Striffler Funeral Homes; Tube City Community Media; McKeesport Area School District Robotics Club; McKeesport Tiger Football Boosters; Penn State Greater Allegheny; Senior Lifestyle Connections; One Person at A Time - Home Healthcare; Auberle; UPMC East/McKeesport Stroke Awareness; UPMC Trauma/Injury Prevention; and Ziebert of McKeesport.
Free parking is available at designated areas in Renzie Park for the festival. Parking also is available from 3-10 p.m. in the parking lot of St. John's Ukrainian Church, 1907 Eden Park Blvd. across from McKeesport Area High School. Some of the items sold in the church's booth at the Village will be available in the church social hall.
This year's Village committee includes Mayor Mike Cherepko, chairman/council representative Keith Soles, event coordinator Dan Carr, secretary Annette James, field office manager Kim Carr, customer relations Tony Ura, personnel manager Bobbie Billsborrow, collections manager Gladys Hunt-Mason, entertainment manager Mikey Dee, stage manager Patrick Fisher, gate volunteer managers Sharon Soles and Linda Brewster, and media relations Jennifer Vertullo.
Since the first International Village on Market Street during Old Home Week, McKeesport's Polish heritage has been represented. The Lajkoniki junior and senior dancers entertained the crowd with a colorful and energetic performance.
Entertainment from around the world will be presented each day at two locations — the main stage and the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion. Entertainment coordinator Mikey Dee has announced this year’s lineup. Main stage entertainment begins at 6 p.m. each day and from 5-9 p.m. under the Blue Top.
TUESDAY, AUG. 15 — Main Stage
William Penn Magyar Folk Dancers (Hungarian)
Women of Worship (Kenya)
Trafford Junior Tamburitzans (Slovak)
Grecian Odyssey Dancers (Greek)
8 p.m. — Introduction of Officials
St. Nicholas Junior Tamburitzans (Serbian)
Sara Deroy (Lebanese Bellydancer)
BLUE TOP: Balkan variety with 'Harmonia'
WEDNESDAY, AUG. 16 — Main Stage
Alpine Duo (Austrian)
ABC by JoAnn (Hawaiian)
Rankin Junior Tamburitzans (Croatian)
Melissa Ishtar Murphy (Turkish)
Penn Sembles (Adult Tamburitzans)
BLUE TOP: Kolo/czardas with 'Gypsy Stringz' presented by the Mexican and Swedish booths
THURSDAY, AUG. 17 — Main Stage
Continental Dukes (Tour of European Countries)
Lajkoniki Dancers (Polish)
FAAP Dancers (Phillipines)
PAS Slovak Folk Ensemble
BLUE TOP: Polka Night with 'Johnny Koenig'
Perfect weather brought out a large crowd to the festival.
August 17, 2017
Renzie Park alive with the sights, sounds, flavors of International Village
The second-night Village crowd was treated to Turkish music by Melissa Ishtar Murphy.
The weather was perfect, the food was wonderful, and the entertainment was spectacular.
No one could have predicted a better opening night for the 58th annual International Village. The ethnic food and entertainment festival continues August 16 and 17 on Stephen Barry Field in McKeesport's Renziehausen Park. Festival hours are 3-9 p.m. with entertainment under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion from 5-9 p.m. and on the main stage from 6-9 p.m. Admission fee is $2.
"It's an honor and priviledge to be here," McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said. "We have been blessed with absolutely wonderful weather and we are hoping for a blessed week. International Village gives us a chance to showcase the positive things we have in McKeesport."
The crowd was large for opening night and many booths sold out of items. One booth was sold out of a popular item before 7 p.m. But don't worry, there will be plenty of your favorite traditional ethnic food available for the festival's final two days.
It's the food that brings Roz Ruzanic of White Oak back to the Village each year. "I love all the food, especially the Serbian lamb sandwich and all the Greek food."
Gail Kotouch of McKeesport shared those sentiments. "I come every year because I love the food. My favorite is the chicken and dumplings at the Hungarian booth." She usually comes two nights, bringing her grandchildren one of those times.
International Village - which started as Old Home Week in 1960 - attracts people from throughout the area. Virginia Knecht of Penn Hills and Joe Silvaggio of Frick Park enjoy the festival. "We've been coming for several years. The entertainment is the best part. He introduced me to this and I'm glad he did."
Silvaggio lived in McKeesport for 15 years and attended the Village then. "I like the music, the food and the atmosphere. The polka bands in the back are good."
Those coming for the food will have an international menu representing 21 nationalities - Croatia, Ghana, China, Egypt, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Italy, Philippines, Kenya, Turkey, Mexico, Greece, Ireland, France, Hawaii, Austria, Vietnam, Lebanon, and Sweden.
Entertainment on the Main Stage from 6-9 p.m. will feature Alpine Duo (Austrian), ABC by JoAnn (Hawaiian), Rnakin Junior Tamburitzans (Croatian), Melissa Ishtar Murphy (Turkish), and Penn Sembles (adult Tamburitzans).
For those who not only enjoy listening to the music but want to dance too, the Gypsy Stringz will play a variety of kolo/czardas under the Blue Top from 5-9 p.m.
Entertainment coordinator Mikey Dee said it was a "wonderful first night. At first I wasn't in the Village mood, but when I got here and experienced the familiar smells and entertainment and sights it put me right back into the Village mood when I got to the field of dreams."
One difference this year was having fireworks on opening night, something Dee said is a good idea. "I love having the fireworks the first night. It brings more people out on the first day and that's great."
In the area around the Blue Top Pavilion are inflatables for young Village-goers, the Ethnic Marketplace featuring numerous booths offering ethnic items, and informational booths. Booths offering a variety of information and other items include a used book sale by Carnegie Library of McKeesport; McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center; a prayer booth hosted by the McKeesport Area Ministerium; McKeesport Police K-9s; McKeesport Trail Commission; Striffler Funeral Homes; Tube City Community Media; McKeesport Area School District Robotics Club; McKeesport Tiger Football Boosters; Penn State Greater Allegheny; Senior Lifestyle Connections; One Person at A Time - Home Healthcare; Auberle; UPMC East/McKeesport Stroke Awareness; UPMC Trauma/Injury Prevention; and Ziebert of McKeesport.
Stage manager Patrick Fisher said the first night was very good and credited it with the weather and fireworks. "It was a change with the fireworks on Tuesday night but it's a good way to celebrate the kickoff of International Village."
Fisher said International Village is for the people. "It's a chance for old friends and classmates to get together. This is all about the people. With all the rough times going on everywhere, it takes something like International Village to turn a black cloud into a rainbow and International Village is our rainbow."
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
After 58 years, International Village continues to showcase the rich ethnic heritage of McKeesport and pay tribute to those who settled here and called the city home.
Although the stage and pavilion are now quiet, and the booths are empty, this year's three-day food and entertainment festival once again proved to be an annual gathering place for friends and families. Thousands of people of all ages and from across the country gathered on Stephen Barry Field in Renziehausen Park for a festival that started as part of the city's Old Home Week celebration.
Mother Nature made a brief appearance at the festival, but by 7 p.m. the rain stopped. The shower did not stop die-hard Village-goers from getting their favorite ethnic food. While many people opened umbrellas and continued venturing from booth to booth, others sought shelter under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion where it was polka night with Johnny Koenig. The Continental Dukes played during the rain on the Main Stage. As soon as the rain stopped, people made their way to the chairs to sit and enjoy the entertainment on the final night.
Crowds were out in force all three days and many booths sold out of items early each day. But no one went home hungry - there was something for everyone at the 21 nationality booths that offered a variety of traditional food.McK
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said the Village was "blessed this year. The first two days were very well attended and today got off to a slow start because of the rain but it picked up. The vendors did very well and that's important because for many of the churches this a fundraiser to help them throughout the year."
The mayor said he was pleased with the fireworks on Tuesday night instead of the final night. "That is something we will continue to do."
Stage manager Patrick Fisher said moving the fireworks was a good decision. "This was one of the best years we've had and I think it's because of some of the changes."
Mikey Dee, entertainment coordinator for the festival, was pleased with this year's Village. "The rain dampened things for a little bit on Thursday but we were able to get all the scheduled groups on as planned. It was a great year."
For the past 25 years, the Casturo family has awarded two scholarships the final night of the festival to two students furthering their education after high school. Chosen by a random drawing on stage prior to the final performance, this year's recipient of the $500 award is Molly Worek of West Mifflin, a student at Penn State, and the $250 award recipient is Lucas Parker of McKeesport, a student at Community College of Allegheny County.
Through the years, some things have changed with the festival but the fiber that makes the Village a success has remained unchanged - people who are proud of their ethnic heritage and traditions and want to keep them alive for generations to come.
By Carol Waterloo Frazier
Norwin graduates Natalie Carson, left, and Emilie Gniewkowski fill out applications for the 25th annual Casturo Family Education Awards. Winners, based on a random drawing, will be announced at Thursday's event. Applications are at the Carnegie Library of McKeesport's booth.
August 16, 2017
Fireworks, big crowd mark start of 58th International Village
The McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center offered a variety of items, left, and the William Penn Magyar Folk Dancers opened this year's festival.
Photos by Carol Waterloo Frazier
Stage manager Patrick Fisher served as master of ceremonies at Wednesday night's Village while Mikey Dee and his band performed under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion.
Rankin Junior Tamburitzan members Audrey Welsh, left, Ava Murphy and Sammi Ditmore get ready to entertain the crowd.
For many people who attend International Village, the food is the main attraction. This year, 22 nationalities will offer some of their traditional food to this year's festival goers.
AUSTRIA (K&J Concession): Apple strudel, funnel cakes with fruit or chocolate, corn dogs, soft jumbo pretzels, fresh squeezed lemonade
CHINESE: General Tso chicken with rice, sweet and sour chicken with rice, orange chicken with rice, chicken skewer with rice or noodles, shrimp rice, veggie rice or noodles, egg roll, lemonade
CROATIAN (Rankin Junior Tamburitzans): Lamb, sarma ()stuffed cabbage, kielbasa with sauerkraut, hot dogs, pierogies, haluski, Croatian potato salad, chicken noodle soup, sauerkraut and bean soup, palacinka (crepe), medenjai (honey cake), bajadera (chocolate nut candy), cherry tart
EGYPTIAN: Chicken scwharma sandwich, falafel sandwich, lamb pie, spinach with feta pie, stuffed grape leaves, Mediterranean salad, baklava, chocolate covered almond roll, fresh squeezed lemonade
FRENCH: French fries, fried vegetables, lemonade
GHANA (Christ Temple AME): Southern fried chicken dinner, barbecue rib dinner, barbecue rib sandwich, rib slabs and half rib slabs, barbecue pigs feet, southern fried chicken wings, southern tenders, red rice, hoppin johns, corn or white bread, sweet potato pie (whole or by the slice)
GREEK (Greek Orthodox Annuncition Church): Super gyro, pork souvlaki, pastitsio, moussaka, stuffed peppers, stuffed eggplant, spanakopeta, tiropita, meat pie, buffalo chicken pita, baklava, ipirotiko, kataiffi, rice pudding, apple pita, peach pita, blueberry pita, diples, kourombiethes, melamakarona, rizzi trizzi, ladylocks, coconut macaroons, chocolate honey macaroons, almond apricot cookies, peanut butter buckeyes
HAWAIIAN (Beck Concessions): Hawaiian shaved ice, real fruit smoothies, pig wings, pulled pork, coconut shrimp, deep fried cheesecake, grilled pineapple, deep fried Oreos, deep fried PJ&J, Hawaiian chicken sandwiches
HUNGARIAN (Free Hungarian Reformed Church): Chicken paprikash and dumplings, cabbage noodles, kobalsz sandwich, stuffed cabbage, palascinta, kiffles, cheese pockets, csoroge, puff pastries, apple squares, apricot rolls, nut rolls poppyseed rolls, bacon bread
IRELAND: Boxty, Irish spring rolls, shepards pie, corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, lamb stew, Guiness burgers with Irish cheese
ITALIAN (St. Patrick Parish): Gnocchi, lasagna, meatball sandwich, hot sausage sandwich, pizza, Italian ladylocks, pizzelles
KENYA (Bethlehem Baptist Church/Noah's Ark): Chicken wings/strips with a variety of sauces, fresh cut fries, fruit kabobs, apple cobbler, peach cobbler, Kenyan-style red beans and rice
LIONS CLUB: Assorted ice cream
LEBANESE: Gyro sandwich, falafel sandwich, baked kibbee, stuffed grapesleaves, spinach pie, spinach pie with feta, meat pie, hummous dip, baba gannouj dip, tabbouleh salad, baklava, apricot roll, fresh squeezed lemonade,
MEXICAN (Christ United Methodist Church): Burrito, chicken fajita, nachos supreme, nachos, chicken quesadilla, cheese quesadilla, Spanish rice, stuffed hot peppers, taco salad, chicken taco salad, taco, walking taco, taco, burrito and rice dinner, fajita, burrito and rice dinner, churro, fried ice cream, hot apple enchilada
PHILIPPINES: Inihaw (chicken stick), pancit (rice noodle), egg roll (fried or fresh), lumpiamitos, rice (plain, fried or with adobo), empanada, leche flan, mango cheesecake, turon, combo (inihaw, pancit or rice, drink, two-piece lumpianitos), and cantaloupe and calamansi drinks
POLISH (Holy Family Catholic Church): Potato pierogi, stuffed cabbage, haluski, kielbasa sandwich, stuffed cabbage sandwich, stada babba stew, lazy man pierogi, potato pancakes, platter (two pierogi, one stuffed cabbage, serving of halushki, kielbasa sandwich), kielbasa bites, mega bites
SERBIAN (St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church): Lamb sandwich, hot sausage sandwich, kolbassi sandwich, haluski, apple strudel, palachinka, bean and saurkraut soup, hot dogs
SLOVAK (Trafford Junior Tamburitzans): Bubba's dinner (one stuffed cabbage, three pierogies, apple sauce, and halushki), stuffed cabbage, pierogies (potato cheese, sweet cabbage, lekvar), halushki, funnel cake, ceregi
SWEDISH (Beulah Park United Methodist Church): Apple dumplings, ice cream (with dumplings, sundae with hot fudge or caramel)
TURKEY: Turkish gyro, baklava, eggplant, feta cheese stick, vegetable wheat rice, grape leaves, Turkish coffee and fortune, orangeaid, lemonade
VIETNAMESE: Teriyaka chicken-on-a-stick with rice or noodles, teriyaki steak with rice, shrimp rice, vegetable rice or noodles, spring roll, egg roll, lemonade
Women of Worship Denise Acie and Tamra Mitchell, left, perform while members of the Trafford Junior Tamburitzans relax behind the stage.
Musicians with the St. Nicholas Junior Tamburitzans watch as dancers from their group perform.
Alpine Duo performed traditional Austrian music to begin the main stage entertainment.
For many years, a popular part of the festival have been the crafts. A couple years ago, the name was changed to Ethnic Marketplace and the location moved from under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion to the grassy area adjacent to the pavilion.
There are nine vendors this year:
Eveleen Coope - Irish/Celtic crafts
Herminia Lees - Peruvian crafts
Angie Lipchick - Assorted ethnic items
Preston Maruska - Soy candles
Chris Miller and Laraine Kuchma - Austrian crystals
Hugo Maldonado - Ecuadorian/Inca crafts
Richard Maldonado - Native American crafts, pan flutes
Ilona Ralston - Polish glass painting, face painting
Joe Rodkey - Cutting boards
Opening night of the 58th International Village ended with a spectacular fireworks display.
Dancers from ABC by JoAnn took Wednesday night's crowd to the islands with a variety of Hawaiian dances.
Rain or shine, Village-goers enjoy the food.
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The seating area behind the food booths and adjacent to the Ethnic Marketplace has become a popular place to enjoy favorite ethnic food.
The Continental Dukes, above, got things sstarted on the Main Stage and PAS Slovak Folk Ensemble, left, were the final act of the 58th Village.
Lauren, Jim and Myles Matyasovsky enjoy the festival, above, while Harmonia, below, provides kolo dance music.
It was polka night with Johnny Koenig under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion on the final night of the festival. The Blue Top was a popular place during a brief rain that caused folks to seek shelter.
VILLAGE FOR KIDS
The ninth annual Village for Kids will be from noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 14 at the Lions Bandshell in Renziehausen Park. The free event was started as a way for youngsters to get into the spirit of International Village a day before the three-day ethnic food and entertainment festival.
Activities will include crafts, finger printing, music, games, physical activities, inflatable rides, and food. From 1-3 p.m. youth can meet their favorite friend from Trolls. Booths will offer information to adults about programs available in the city.
Adult supervision is recommended for all children under 6 years old.
Once again, a Prince and Princess will be crowned. Winners must be present to claim the titles. Winners will receive a 20-inch bike and a helmet. The bikes are donated by the McKeesport Trail Commission and helmets are donated by the McKeesport Police Department. Bikes will be presented to the winner on Aug. 15 (opening night) at International Village.
Following is the schedule:
* DJ with music at the bandshell
* Food Gallery - Freeze pops, hot dogs, chips, fruit, drinks, fruit snacks; nachos and pop for sale by the Kiwanis Club)
* Activity Zone (Family Tent Rental)
* Screenings, information, crafts, and game tables, activities, police fingerprinting, fire smokehouse
* Registration table for "A Village for Kids" Day Prince and Princess. Winners will receive a 20-inch bike and helmet that will be presented Aug. 15 at International Village
1-1:45 p.m. on stage:
* "Mad Science," a fun educational science program hosted by McKeesport Community Fund (a community benefit for Pure Penn)
1-3 p.m. at the stage:
* Meet and Greet with your favorite "Pink Troll"
2 p.m. at the stage:
* Vocal performance by Rachel Leigh of North Huntingdon Twp.
* Crowning of the Prince and Princess
The following sponsors made the free food booths possible for the youth:
McKeesport Hospital Foundation: Chips, fruit snacks, freeze pops, and drinks
Mon Valley Providers Council/Human Services Center Corp./McKeesport Collaborative: Hot dogs, buns, napkins, and condiments
International Village Committee: Bouncy area, DJ, tables and chairs
PGH Party Creations: Favorite troll from the movie, "Trolls"
McKeesport-White Oak Kiwanis Club: Nachos and cheese, water, and pop for sale for the adults
Village for Kids is presented by the MHCP Youth Logic Model in sponsorship with state Sen. James R. Brewster, McKeesport Hospital Foundation, McKeesport Collaborative/Human Service Center Corp./MVPC, Auberle, and McKeesport International Village.
Community partners include AIU Head Start-McKeesport, Allegheny County Health Department-Maternal Child Health Division, Altrusa International of McKeesport, Angora Gardens Junior Gardeners, Century Heritage Federal Credit Union, City of McKeesport, CCP White Oak, Duquesne Family Support Center, Faith Lutheran Church, Family Links, Family Foundation Early Head Start, Family Resources, Latterman Family Health Center, MARS Ambulance, McKeesport Area School District, McKeesport Family Center, McKeesport Fire Department, McKeesport First Steps Parenting Program, McKeesport Kiwanis Club, McKeesport Message, McKeesport Library, McKeesport Lions, McKeesport Police Department, McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center, Mon Valley Circles, Mon Yough Community Services, Nutall Public Safety, Penn State Greater Allegheny, Restore To Grace, Rewind Behavioral & Simulation Center, state Rep. Marc Gergely, SNAP-Auberle, Small Seeds Development LLC, Turtle Creek Valley MH/MR, Tobacco Free Allegheny, UPMC McKeesport, Wilmerding YMCA, and Youth CAST.
Photos by Carol Waterloo Frazier
Reuban Trbovic, Dan Pacura, and Rev. Stevan Rocknage prepare grilled food for folks at the Serbian booth.
Jason Togyer broadcasts the festivities each night of the Village on Tube City Online.
Photos by Carol Waterloo Frazier
Inflatables were introduced several years ago as an attraction for younger Village-goers. Through the years this addition has become popular and grown in size.
Sara Deroy, left photo, entertained the crowd with traditional Lebanese belly dancing. In the center photo, this year's Village for Kids Prince and Princess received their bikes (donated by the McKeesport Trail Council) and helmets (donated by the McKeesport Police Department). The royal couple are Prince Travis Hoover and Princess Caj'mere Ingram. Facepainting is popular with young Village-goers, including George Nelson, 4, of McKeesport who sits patiently for face painter Ilona Ralston.
August 18, 2017
Brief rain does not deter crowd on final night of International Village
Folks relax under the Jakomas Blue Top Pavilion on the second night of the 58th International Village in Renziehausen Park.
Two dancers with FAAP get ready back stage prior to their performance of traditional dances from the Phillipines.
INTERNATIONAL VILLAGE 2017
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 each evening of the event. If you have memories of International Village, send them to email@example.com for possible posting on the site.
Above, festival-goers show off their kolo/czardas skills under the Blue Top Pavilion to the music of Gypsy Stringz featuring International Village entertainment coordinator Mikey Dee, below.
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.