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Art and music combine in Saxonburg

Rex Rutkoski
The popular Gibbons Big Band returns for its 10th performance at the festival 12:30-2 p.m. Sept. 9, 2017.
Festival-goers have plenty of choices on the stage at the annual Saxonburg Festival of the Arts.
Just a small sampling of the craft items for sale at the Saxonburg Festival of the Arts.

The Saxonburg Festival of the Arts not only brings the town together, says Hannah Finke, “it brings other people into the town so they can get a chance to see how great it really is.”

The 32nd annual edition Sept. 9-10 is designed to hold the attention of all ages, says the vice chairwoman of the Saxonburg Historical and Restoration Commission and vendor coordinator for the festival.

“We are featuring many of past years’ favorite musical performers, more vendors, about 140, than in years past; food, photography, fine arts and quilt shows; artists’ demonstrations; children’s activities in Roebling Park; a used book sale at South Butler Library; a Civil War Encampment; antique tractors; The Rodfathers car show on Saturday (rain day, Sunday), and the Saxonburg Museum will be open during the festival.”

Many artists, artisans, crafters and food vendors are returning, joined by newcomers. First Commonwealth Bank’s parking lot will host a Main Street vendor area this year.

Festival volunteer Carol Walchesky promises “a great art show” again this year. “We will be honoring the late Geraldine Freehling, a self-taught watercolorist for over 50 years, for her foresight in promoting fine art in her community. Select paintings of Geraldine’s will be on display. Our show theme is water and we have many entries,” she adds.

The Saxonburg Fine Art Exhibit will in the lower level of Saxonburg Memorial Presbyterian Church, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 9 and noon-5 p.m. Sept. 10. A $1 donation is requested to cover expenses.

The popular Gibbons Big Band returns for its 10th performance at the festival 12:30-2 p.m. Sept. 9.

“We love playing there because of the enthusiasm of the audience and the excitement of the festival itself,” says Mary Gibbons. “The skilled crafters and great food booths keep us in the park to enjoy the festivities long after we finish our performance.”

The organization is a group of music teachers and professional musicians from Armstrong, Allegheny and Butler counties who love music from the 1930s and ’40s. “We are excited to feature two new singers as part of our group this year as well. We have listeners of all ages and really love it when people are inspired to get up and dance to their favorite big band tunes,” Gibbons says.

The East Winds Symphonic Band follows from 2:30-4 p.m. Sept. 9.

“We have played at the festival every year since 2010. Our group enjoys being part of the quaint Americana vibe there and sharing our music with the Saxonburg crowd,” says Mike Moyta, concert manager. “The Roebling Park Gazebo is a great traditional setting for a community band concert.”

It’s a fun day to be a part, he adds, “with great food, lots of live music and plenty of interesting arts and crafts to appreciate.”

Moyta says that as a community band of 60 to 70 serious volunteer musicians, it strives to present a variety of music across several genres for a wide audience appeal. “We hope to transport our audiences’ imagination from sea-faring frolics to Mediterranean minstrels, to the circus center ring, to Broadway, Hollywood and back to a hometown parade. And of course, we would be remiss if we did not have our saxophone ensemble play a tune or two at Saxonburg.”

The Sept. 9 music schedule is rounded out with a performance 11 a.m.-noon by ComboNation with Jordan Luntz; and from 4:30-6 p.m. by Wendy & The Lost Boys.

The lineup on Sept. 10 includes Miss Freddye’s Blues group from noon-1:30 p.m.; and The Gruuve from 4-5:30 p.m.

“We are hoping to keep growing and continuing to be a great festival for many more years to come,” says Finke.

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune Review contributing writer.

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