A Guide to Pittsburghs Ethnic Festivals

There are few cities in America that can boast of having such ethnic diversity as Pittsburgh. Thanks to a history of mining, ironworking, and manufacturing, Pittsburgh is a city built by the sweat and labor of immigrants who settled here from all corners of the globe. This cultural diversity is reflected in the dozens of festivals and carnivals which are held in Pittsburgh every year.

The longest-running ethnic festival in Pittsburgh is the Italian Summer Festival. For nearly two decades, the Italian Summer Festival has provided area residents with great food, music, and entertainment. The festival even features a live pizza dough twirling exhibition. The Italian Summer Festival is one of the area’s most popular celebrations, proving that you don’t have to be of Italian descent to appreciate Italian food and entertainment.

Every August, East Pittsburgh plays host to the Ypapanti Greek Food Festival, sponsored by the Presentation of Christ Greek Orthodox Church. The Ypapanti Greek Food Festival offers entertainment for the entire family, and features specially arranged dining rooms in the Olympia Hall and the Outdoor Grecian Garden. Last year, live entertainment included the Grecian Odyssey Dancers of Ypapanti and the Junior Olympian Dancers. A wide variety of Greek foods are offered, such as traditional lamb dishes, gyros, spanakopita, and baklava.

Also in August is the Rusyn Food Festival, which features cuisine from Russia, Lithuania, and Eastern Europe. The festival includes ethnic dancing, craft demonstrations, and a buffet offering Eastern European food such as pierogies, haluski, potato pancakes, kielbasa, stuffed cabbage, borscht, and a variety of baked goods and desserts such as Paska bread and palachinke (fruit and cheese-filled crepes).

September is time for the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, a three-day event filled with traditional Irish food, music, and dancing. In addition to the three-day “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day Festival”, the event has expanded to become a resource for education thanks to the Irish Education Outreach Program. The Program’s primary objective is to create awareness of the ethnic richness and significance of Irish-American culture.

Nearby Washington County boasts of having Pennsylvania’s largest Oktoberfest celebrations. This annual festival in downtown Canonsburg features German and local entertainers, authentic German foods, craft vendors, amusement rides for kids of all ages, and the Sunday afternoon Bavarian Bike Run. However, don’t let the name mislead you; the Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest is held in late September.

From Spring until Autumn, ethnic festivals abound in and around Pittsburgh. In addition to these major celebrations are dozens of smaller church picnics and block parties which reflect the vast diversity and customs of the inhabitants of this great American city.