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Sold-out crowd celebrates launch of historical book on Luna Park

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Emily Fero joined by Molly Ebert, Caroline Fitzgerald and Beth Meth at The Often Strange History of Luna Park at Heinz History Center, Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville. July 21, 2017.
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Melissa Burmingham joined Murphi Cook and Tad Herold at The Often Strange History of Luna Park at Heinz History Center, Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville. July 21, 2017.
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Leda Miller joined by Mark Zingarelli and Kathy Rooney at The Often Strange History of Luna Park at Heinz History Center, Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville. July 21, 2017.
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Lee Anne Finfinger joined by Paul Wetzel at The Often Strange History of Luna Park at Heinz History Center, Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville. July 21, 2017.
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Bob Spisak and Andy Masich at The Often Strange History of Luna Park at Heinz History Center, Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville. July 21, 2017.
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Brian Butko and Rick Sebak cooling off with some Isaly's Ice Cream at The Often Strange History of Luna Park at Heinz History Center, Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville. July 21, 2017.
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Rick and Phyllis Wilson attended The Often Strange History of Luna Park at Heinz History Center, Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville. July 21, 2017.
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Josie Zelik joined by Martin and Rose Gavin at The Often Strange History of Luna Park at Heinz History Center, Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville. July 21, 2017.

There was no shortage of nostalgic swooning during historian Brian Butko’s launch party for “Luna: Pittsburgh’s Original Lost Kennywood,” a book published by the Heinz History Center.

But the one thing that topped them all?

“I’m a sucker for the ‘grandma gets eaten by a lion’ story,” president Andy Masich said. “You just don’t see that every day.”

Touted as telling the “often strange and nearly forgotten story of Pittsburgh’s Luna Park,” the event drew a sold-out crowd down to Row House Cinema on July 21 in Lawrenceville to celebrate the 144-page book that includes original artwork by Ron Grice, Leda Miller, Kathy Rooney, Marcel Lamont Walker, Wayno, and also, Mark Zingarelli.

“I got to illustrate the grandma story,” he laughed. “Brain said, ‘I thought maybe you’d enjoy it.’ ”

With temperatures sweltering outside on the sidewalk as a turn-of-the-century-inspired carnival unfolded, it didn’t take long before everyone made a beeline for the air-conditioned theater. Inside, Kennywood’s Andy Quinn and WQED’s Rick Sebak joined Butko for more a few historical tales before unveiling a reel of vintage footage that included Kennywood scenes as well as some of the last remaining bits of memorabilia from Luna, which stood at the corner of Craig Street and Baum Boulevard in North Oakland from 1905 to 1909.

“When you write a book like that, your mind pretty much lives in that era,” Butko said. “With Luna, my mind lives there. I worried its story would be all about the rides but really, it’s about the people.”

Also spied: assistant editor Liz Simpson, Lawrenceville Historical Society president Tom Powers, Jonathan New, Margaret Hewitt, Row House owner Brian Mendelssohn.

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