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Mount Pleasant: Glass festival to sparkle with new events

MOUNT PLEASANT — The Mount Pleasant Glass and Ethnic Festival this weekend may be the only place where you can see The Clarks for free, rock with the Povertyneck Hillbillies twice, watch a sparkling parade, cheer for beauty queens … and kiss a pig.

That is, if they can find one. If they do, the puckering piggie will be just one of the objects of forced affection in the “Kiss Factor” contest tonight.

But … um … wait. Wrong end. If they do get the pig, festival co-chairman Jeff Landy promised, it won’t be for a kiss on the lips. And there will be more.

“I know we have some funny things to kiss, but I’m not going to say what,” he said. “You’ll have to come and see.”

The contest is a takeoff on a TV show that challenges volunteers to do fearsome things, and it will be staged with a dance contest by 96.1-FM (KISS). This is a new addition to the festival, as are the Parade of Lights and the Battle of the Singing Idols.

The parade rolls through town at 8 p.m. today, just when things are getting dark. There will be at least 15 floats with even the towing vehicles all lit up. Another parade steps off at 2 p.m. Saturday on Main Street.

Maybe some lucky crooner will get a break at Sunday’s singing contest. That’s what happened to Chris Abbondanza, who finished second in a festival karaoke contest about seven years ago.

“He got a contact from that contest and a band booked him, and he started singing with groups,” Landy said.

Next thing he knew, Abbondanza was the lead singer with The Povertyneck Hillbillies, a local award-winning band that has taken the area by storm. They’ll be on hand this weekend, not once, but twice — Friday and Sunday — playing their “country music with an attitude.”

The Clarks, one of the Pittsburgh area’s most popular bands, will play at 5:30 on Sunday.

“This might be the only time that people can get to see them for free,” Landy said.

There’s plenty more, right from Friday’s opening with the Little Princess Contest, all the way to the Sunday night fireworks. In between, look for oldies music, a steelpan band, a tribute to Jimmy Buffett, and about 100 vendors with ethnic foods and a variety of crafts.

There also will be glass-related demonstrations because the area’s glass-making heritage is one of the reasons that the festival was started 18 years ago. Landy and co-chairman Mayor Gerald Lucia, were among the founders.

“We were just talking and we said it would be nice to have a large festival in town,” Lucia said. “At one time they had a small one on Main Street with some booths, but it was low-key.”

The local Chamber of Commerce jumped on the idea, and it was launched as a nationality festival and a tribute to the local glass industry. Lenox Crystal used to be in town and still has an outlet, and the L.E. Smith Glass Co., which made a line for Martha Stewart, is still in business. The Electro Glass in Mount Pleasant Township produces government contracted items. Artisans at the festival will demonstrate glass blowing, cutting and other production techniques.

Youngsters can enjoy free activities from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, and District Justice Roger Eckels will make DNA identification files for children. “Last year he did 2,400 kids,” Landy said.

Look for strolling entertainers around town, and check out the Pittsburgh Steelers in a football hall of fame exhibit.

“This is going to be our biggest festival,” Landy said. “People keep coming back because there’s always something different.”

This year, the committee expects at least 50,000 visitors. “A lot of people who live away come home for that weekend,” Lucia said. “They know they can go upstreet, get to the festival, eat, see all their friends and see some good entertainment. It’s like a homecoming, and they just have a great weekend out of it.”

Mount Pleasant Glass and Ethnic Festival

= Admission free.

= Free shuttle buses from Wal-Mart parking lot at the Summit Ridge Plaza, off Route 819, and from Smith Glass Co., Liberty Street, Mount Pleasant.

= All three days: glass-blowing demonstrations; bingo 6-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Sunday at the Senior Citizens Building.


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