Penn's Colony Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary over the next two weekends, holding to its founding premise that there is always a new way to connect visitors with their history.
The popular event in Butler County's Clinton Township, just outside of Saxonburg, has created awareness for more than half a million people of the Pittsburgh region's Colonial past and the power of American craftsmanship.
"We've been able to provide folks with a real sense of history and a quality environment," says founder Ray Rush. "There's not really (another) event like this that ties the history together with the craftsmanship."
Celtic musician Bruce Golightly of Squirrel Hill, who performs at Penn's Colony as DruidSong on Sept. 22 and Sept. 29, says he is delighted to be part of a festival that has a theme and makes an effort to hold to it. "I think it's important to preserve our knowledge of the old ways. The music, the songs, the stories are our heritage and we should not lose that for any reason."
There will be different entertainment each weekend, a variety of food, 150-plus artisans, and a focus on what Penn's Colony refers to as "Forgotten History."
Aspects of a different historical event will be remembered each weekend.
The 255th anniversary of the French and British re-enactment of the taking of Fort Duquesne will be presented Sept. 21 and 22. It will include the French perspective on the events in 1758.
On Sept. 28 and 29, it is back to the beginning, with the 1753- 54 journey of George Washington through this area.
Returning for the first time since 2002 for all four days is Faire Wynds, an Ohio family that presents a frontier circus and also entertains with the haunting sounds of the glass harps, or "Ghost Fiddle," as it was known in early America.
Wyatt McQueen of South Buffalot, also taking part all four days, believes he is preserving a part of American history "that few others are" by making 18th-century museum-quality reproduction furniture.
Jack and Jennifer Puskar of South Park make their festival debut Sept. 22 with their daughter Glory as Pint and a Half, performing "the music of our ancestors," says Jennifer, who has danced on Broadway. "It is a step back in time to get a look at who our people were and how they became who they are today," she says.
Dublin, Ireland native Sean McClorey has been playing guitar and mandolin since he was a child and loves engaging an audience. "My mom used to say that music had to be shared, like any of God's gifts," he says. This is also the festival debut (Sept. 21) for the Crafton resident who uses his guitar to offer jigs, reels and hornpipe dances.
"Penn's Colony is keeping our heritage alive," says veteran musician Matt Hughes of Carrick, performing with Susan Borowski of Munhall as Celtic Shores Sept. 28 and 29. "We want people to get a feel of what Celtic music is about, the struggles and triumphs of the Irish and Scots," he says. "There is a lot about this music that people can relate to."
Festivals like Penn's Colony are great for bringing people together in a common bond, she adds. "Plus, they're just downright fun!"
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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