September by the River brings Freeport park alive |
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September by the River brings Freeport park alive

Rex Rutkoski

Not too big. Not too small. It’s just right.

That iconic solution from the fairytale world works well in the real one sometimes too, suggests Nick Triveri, president of the Freeport Renaissance Association (FRA) and director of its annual September by the River weekend celebration, which this year is Sept. 15-16.

“This festival is popular year after year and has received many compliments through the years. We have the best venue in the valley, right along the Allegheny River, and we are not too big or overwhelming,” he explains.

Riverside Drive Park, which extends from Fourth to Fifth streets on Riverside Drive, is the setting year-round for respite, for the timeless comfort of simply watching the river flow, perhaps a few hours of fishing in season or lighthearted conversation anytime.

During this festival, it will be alive with activity, energy and the welcome sounds of pure joy, just as community gatherings are meant to evoke.

A perfect setting

“Freeport has one of the prettiest riverfront parks along the Allegheny River, a perfect setting for September by the River, says Diana Rehner, a founder and past president of FRA.

Just sitting back for a few minutes and watching the festival happen is very rewarding, according to FRA member Mary Bowlin.

“’Freeport is as fortunate as can be to have that beautiful Riverside park, and to have the beautiful gazebo in place to host the entertainment is just perfect. It is an enjoyable and relaxing festival. There is plenty for everyone to do,’’ she adds. “There is plenty of shade, and places to sit and watch the activity on the Allegheny River. It is so picturesque. There is always great entertainment for all ages, an amazing selection of foods and a good variety of vendors.’’

Musical focus

A large gazebo, a focal point of the long, but narrow park, will again provide the musical focus that will offer fresh spirit with the debut of the Freeport Area Middle School rock trio that calls itself Audio Helmet, 4 p.m. Sept. 15, ranging to the tried-and-true American songbook delivered by reliable veteran Nick Fiasco of Monroeville, 2:30 p.m. Sept 16.

“Nick sang last year and was very popular with the crowds,” Triveri says. “And we are excited to have Audio Helmet, who we booked after we saw their YouTube video.”

Fiasco says he is really looking forward to performing again in Freeport.

“We met lots of wonderful people last year who became great fans of our show. It is a charming setting at the gazebo by the river,” he says. He draws from a selection of hundreds of songs from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darren, Nat King Cole and many other artists. “The audience will experience a true old school Vegas ‘Rat Pack’ type of show,” Fiasco explains. “In performing in front of a live audience you receive wonderful feedback immediately and that fuels a performer.”

Audio Helmet rocks

Audio Helmet had its first general public performance Aug. 18 at Hope Garden in Freeport and its members are excited to make September by the River its second.

The group is Katelyn Hemphill, 12, vocals and guitar of Buffalo Township; James Hower, 13, bass guitar, South Buffalo; and Max Kruse, 12, drums, Buffalo Township.

The band’s repertoire includes rock and indie pop genres, including Imagine Dragons and Bastille.

“We played in the Freeport Middle School talent show and had so much fun that we wanted to continue performing together,” Max says. ‘‘I like that the audience gets to enjoy the music and that our hard work is paying off,” saysHower. “We would like to play for as many people as possible for as long as possible, and of course to continue to have fun,” Katelynadds.

Chainsaw art

A new participant this year is chainsaw wood sculptor Richard Hamilton of Altoona. He and his wife Brittany Hamilton are partners in RLH Wood Sculptures. “We upcycle local fallen trees and Richard creates many pieces for display/sale, does commissioned sculptures regularly, and creates art out of stumps in customers’ yards,” she explains.

Her husband is known for his fine detail sculptures of deer, dogs and other subjects. “He will be putting on live demonstrations and have numerous carvings for sale on Sept. 15,” she says.

“We enjoy traveling and meeting new people, sharing this art form and hearing the stories of our customers. It’s always a great time to draw a crowd while carving and performing. This will be our first time to Freeport and we can’t wait to experience the event, community and meet all the people!”

Other activities

On Sept. 15, Lisa Marie’s School of Dance entertains at 1 p.m.; the Mon Valley Cloggers at 2:30 p.m. and the party band Magic, featuring the horns of the Murphy Music Center Big Band, plays at 6 p.m. Sept 16, also brings a stuffed pet parade at 1 p.m. and a spirited foam and music party (with towels provided) at 1:30 p.m.

Horse rides for children is a new offering Saturday.

Freeport Area Library, located nearby at Fifth and Market Streets, will have a sale, including baked goods, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 15, and will take orders for author Steve Gardner’s new book, “History of an Allegheny River Town, Freeport, Pennsylvania.”

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Audio Helmet, a trio of students from Freeport Area Middle School, perform rock and indie pop at their public stage debut Aug. 18 at Hope Park, Freeport. Its performance is at September by The River, Riverside Drive Park. 4 p.m., Sept. 15. The group is Katelyn Hemphill, 12, vocals and guitar of Buffalo Township; James Hower, 13, guitar, South Buffalo; and Max Kruse, 12, drums, Buffalo Township.
Chainsaw artist Richard Hamilton of Altoona will demonstrate and sell his work in his debut at Freeport September by the River all day Saturday, Sept. 15.
The gazebo is a centerpiece of Riverside Drive Park, site of Freeport’s September by the River, Sept. 15-16.
Mon Valley Cloggers, performing at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 15, are popular entertainment at Freeport’s September by the River.
The party band Magic, featuring the horns of the Murphy Music Center Big Band, plays at 6 p.m. Sept 15 at Freeport September by the River.
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