Sept. 05--A picturesque town. A beautiful early fall weekend.
Add two days of food, music, children's activities and arts and crafts, and you have the ingredients for a good time at the Saxonburg Area Arts Festival on Sept. 7 and 8.
Once again, it's all waiting, including the 78th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Company F. Civil War Re-Enactment Group, "Blast From the Past Cruisers" car show and the much-applauded return of the quilt show at St. Luke Church.
Displays range from the antique tractors and gas engines to the fine arts and the photography and Ikebana exhibit; and creative demonstrations and musical artists at Saxonburg Area Artists Co-Op.
"It's small-town America at its finest. Our historic town with small-town appeal creates the perfect atmosphere for an outdoor festival," says Maria McCullough who, with Gerry Mullen, chairs the event.
Carol Walchesky, chairwoman of the art committee, says the number of artists and paintings has increased this year. "We have some of the finest artists in the region displaying their work," she says.
Saxonburg native Stan Walchesky of Cabot, Carol Walchesky's husband, is this year's featured artist. Jim Knapick, performing-arts chairman, says festival volunteers bring "many fresh perspectives" that strengthen the weekend.
Ultimately, it's not about the music or the food or the crafts, he says, "it's about the experience and about Saxonburg. When people tell me they enjoyed their visit and plan to come back, well, mission accomplished."
Finding musical groups that fit the festival's philosophy of entertainment for all ages just takes some determination. But Knapick says he accomplishes that goal through word of mouth, a few road trips and hopefully a good idea of what his audiences like.
"There are some performers that have become a tradition, but I like to sprinkle in a few new performers every year," he says.
Making her festival debut will be Miss Freddye (Stover) of Natrona Heights and her blues band at noon in Roebling Park on Sept. 8. "She is one of Pittsburgh's most well-known and beloved blues-jazz singers. I feel fortunate to have her entertain us with a genre of songs that are truly American," he says.
Kevin and Mary Gibbons lead the Gibbons Big Band, which specializes in swing music from the 1930s and '40s, back into Roebling at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 7. "Our musicians are mainly music teachers," Mary Gibbons of North Apollo says. "You can tell that we stir a lot of nostalgic feelings within our listeners, and it is a pleasure for me to watch the people in the audience sing along with our songs and interact with us," she says.
Veteran musician Larry Belli and the Mercs debut at 6 p.m. Sept. 7 in Roebling with light and classic rock.
"There is always an appreciative crowd no matter what the weather," says Frank Rossi, founder of the Pittsburgh Banjo Club, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The organization, dedicated to the preservation of the four-string banjo and the music of the 1920s and beyond, closes the festival with a 4 p.m. concert in Roebling on Sept. 8.
"Our music is the old-fashioned kind, the kind that makes you want to sing along," he says. "We throw in a few laughs, a few stories and a bit of history that goes along with our music selection."
The East Winds Symphonic Band, one of the festival favorites, performs at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 7 for a concert in Roebling. "It's somewhere around 60 musicians playing Sousa-type music in a gazebo in a small-town park. How can that not bring back nostalgic memories of the 'old days,'" Knapick says.
"The band (from Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs) is made up of serious, amateur musicians who love to play music together," band member Amanda Iannuzzi of Pleasant Hills says.
The organization performs a variety of musical styles, including traditional wind-band repertoire, marches and classical transcriptions, plus favorites from Broadway, Hollywood and the Big-Band era.
Entertainment is the bottom line for Frank Cappelli and the Monongahela Duck Club Band, back for more at 2 p.m. Sept. 8 in Roebling. There will be standards, pop, folk and perhaps some country.
"The band loves to play music, and I think the audience feels that, too," Cappelli says.
Their strengths? "Our sense of humor," he says.
"We take the audience away for a short period of time, and they forget their worries or problems and just enjoy the music," he says.
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or email@example.com.
(c)2013 The Valley News-Dispatch (Tarentum, Pa.)
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