New Kensington celebrates its diversity Saturday with Ethnic Day Food Festival
New Kensington residents celebrated on Saturday what many of them love about their city: its diversity.
Area churches turned out to make traditional Italian, Polish, Greek and American dishes to give residents a chance to come together and get to know each other’s heritage at the New Kensington Ethnic Day Food Festival.
“It’s really about community, it’s pulling people together,” said Kellie Abbott, event organizer. “All of our family-style communal tables — (it’s) neighbor sitting next to neighbor.”
The festival has a long history in the city and used to be held every Labor Day.
After not being held for several years, it was revitalized in 2016 when city officials and interested residents took on the project.
“It’s a really close community and many people have a lot of fond memories of the day,” Abbott said.
Mayor Tom Guzzo said this weekend’s event was needed to pull the community together even more than usual after the massive fire on Thursday that destroyed multiple buildings on Ninth Street and Fourth Avenue. The festival also came on the heels of the city’s first-ever Beer & Wine Fest on Friday, which he said drew about 1,000 people to the city.
“It’s a good time for people to talk to neighbors,” he said.
Churches with booths included Mount St. Peter Roman Catholic Church, St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, St. George Orthodox Church, Faith Tabernacle, St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church, Annunciation of the Virgin Church and Joseph’s Coat Community Outreach Ministries. Resident Pauletta Brown also sold desserts to raise money for breast cancer awareness.
Mount St. Peter offered Italian meatball and sausage hoagies as well as several desserts.
“Our philosophy is to come into the community and let them know the programs that we offer and the church is always open,” said parishioner Toni Johnson.
Resident Jack Thompson said he likes to support any initiative to help revitalize the city.
“Any event that brings the community together is a good thing,” he said.
Faith Tabernacle served up traditional American fare including hot dogs and hamburgers.
“We enjoy meeting the people and seeing the diversity that’s out there,” said the Rev. William Laird Jr., pastor of the church.
Councilman Dante Cicconi said he’s glad the festival is up and running again. He said it’s a great way to draw people into the city by offering good food and a unique experience.
“I’m all for these community events,” he said. “I have memories of being a kid and my mom working the booths for St. Pete’s.”
Abbott said holding the festival is just another way to try to revitalize the city.
“We just want people to realize that there are still a lot of really great things in New Kensington,” she said. “There’s a piece of New Ken that you can’t get other places.”
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, [email protected] or via Twitter @emilybalser.