Festival fun headed to Murray Avenue |

Festival fun headed to Murray Avenue

Bob Bauder

Community organizations will close a portion of Murray Avenue in coming weeks for two Saturday night festivals featuring food, music and a variety of vendors.

The so-called Night Markets are scheduled from 6 to 10 p.m. Aug. 29 and Sept. 26 and will close Murray from Forbes Avenue to Bartlett Street.

The idea is to attract business and unite people, according to Alec Rieger, who worked with city Councilman Corey O’Connor, the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition and Uncover Squirrel Hill, a merchant’s association, to organize the events.

“We’re bringing people to a business district that has seen its better days, and people are going to be spending money,” said Rieger, founder and executive director of NextGen: Pgh, a nonprofit community development organization. “In addition, people are going to be talking. … There’s real value to that. By talking and sharing ideas, that’s how we can grow our city.”

The festivals will include live bands and acoustic acts playing music for all generations. Rieger said “funky artists” including hula hoop performers and dance contortionists will be there along with 40 to 50 artisans selling locally made products such as jewelry and clothing. Several food trucks are also expected.

Rieger said artists are performing for free and organizers are paying for such things as off-duty police protection and a special events permit to close the street through private donations. He declined to give the total cost.

Merchants said they like the idea but worry that street vendors could draw business from their stores.

“It’s exactly what we need to bring in people, but just keeping in mind that you can’t take away from the businesses that are here,” said Keith Kaboly, manager of 61c Café on Murray Avenue. “For instance, I don’t want to see another coffee shop setting up and promoting coffee right in front of my business.”

In May, June and July, Pittsburgh closed 3.5 miles of streets to traffic on three Sundays for events on and near the streets. Downtown festivals often close portions of streets.

James Chen, owner of Razzy Fresh Frozen Yogurt, said street festivals are a good idea.

“I don’t know how much it will help us, but I think it’s a good thing to make this area more lively, draw people in a little bit and add some excitement,” he said.

O’Connor said he’s planning the opening of a new parklet next to the post office at Murray and Darlington Road for the first festival.

“It should be a fun night for the community,” he said. “We’re going to try two street festivals this year and maybe start them back up next year.”

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or [email protected].

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