New Kensington’s Fireworks Block Party growing and attracting more folks to the city
Julie Voss, 26, didn’t know what the machines set up along New Kensington’s Ninth Avenue were for, but her 8-year-old nephew, Cameron, did.
“What are those?” she asked, confusion evident in her voice.
“They shoot bubbles!” Cameron shouted, before joining dozens of other kids who were trying to cool off in a quickly growing 3-foot-deep pile of sudsy foam.
Voss, of New Kensington, said Saturday’s annual Fireworks Block Party, entering its 19th year, has been a part of her life for decades and something she’s been happy to share in recent years with her nephew.
“He loves it,” she said. “He’s spending the weekend with us so he can stay and see the fireworks.”
The Voss family joined dozens of other families downtown under a blazing July sun for eight hours of music, food, and community followed by a nighttime fireworks display.
Organizer Autumn Walker, owner of the Apothecary Soap Co. on Fifth Avenue, said the event has grown considerably since last year, expanding from less a dozen vendors to 38 this year.
“It brings people downtown, and hopefully they leave with a positive feeling about New Kensington,” she said. “They might not stop into a store and buy something today, but these kind of things help them consider coming back.”
The fireworks display this year included a special tribute to police officers, Walker said.
Walker said the event is also the fundraising kickoff for next year’s fireworks display. The display cost around $11,000 this year, organizers say.
“So we really have to begin fundraising now,” she said. “None of this is paid for with taxpayer dollars — all of this happens through fundraising.”
According to Walker, who has also helped organize the city’s Better Block events, this year’s expanded list of vendors includes many from previous events who are starting to see New Kensington as a viable place to do their business.
One of those vendors, Lisa Sydorick, of Sydorick Concessions, said her Leechburg-based fresh squeezed lemonade business has been part of the Fireworks Block Party for at least seven years.
Sydorick grew up in neighboring Arnold, and that she knows New Kensington is a place with loads of potential.
“People like to come out here and enjoy themselves,” she said. “I give New Kensington a lot of credit, because they keep trying to do things to encourage people to visit.
“It keeps getting better and better.”
Jessica Lampus came from Plum to sell her LuLaRoe merchandise. Despite the heat, which by 3 p.m. had reached nearly 90 degrees, Lampus said she was happy to have a chance to visit New Kensington.
“It’s really a nice little community,” she said. “It’s really nice to be out here.”
Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675, [email protected] or via Twitter @matthew_medsger.
Correction: July 2, 2018. This story was corrected to reflect the cost of this year’s fireworks display.