Three Rivers Arts Festival comes to a soggy conclusion

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The "10 days of free music and art" that is the Three Rivers Arts Festival ended Sunday with an element for which the Downtown event is notorious -- rain.

Weather forecasts that predicted rain and thunderstorms kept people away in droves, but those who came prepared with umbrellas and plastic panchos were rewarded with no lines at any venue -- arts, crafts or food. Front-row seats were assured for all afternoon musical performances.

The River City Brass Band gamely stuck to the schedule, striking up its band promptly at 1 p.m. just as a torrential downpour hit Point State Park. The band performed on the Dollar Bank Stage, which is covered.

Final day of the Three Rivers Arts Festival

Rain marked its final day, but vendors and visitors thought the Three Rivers Arts Festival was a success. (Video by Nate Guidry; 6/16/2013)

An audience of nine soggy people sat on benches in front of the stage, shielded by umbrellas, while others listened from the cover provided by the little booths and tents of artists and craftsmen.

"We estimate we have surpassed a general attendance of 400,000," said Veronica Corpuz, director of festival management for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Attendance was "slowed down" by the Sunday weather, she said, but "overall we have been thrilled by enthusiastic audiences and visitors."

This was the 54th year for the Three Rivers Arts Festival. Most of the people who came carried large blue cloth tote bags, which were handed out for free by Dollar Bank -- sponsor of this year's festival.

Thunderstorms predicted by the National Weather Service had not materialized by 6 p.m. Sunday, though skies remained gray throughout the afternoon. Clouds and breezes kept temperatures cool and comfortable in the 70s.

"Well this is the last day of the festival and it was the only day we could come," said Iris Winter of Oakland, who brought her two children despite the forecast. She watched as they sailed boats in the fountain at Gateway Center.

Sailors ranging in age from toddlers to 80-years-old signed up to float small wooden sailboats and catamarans, which they pushed with long, thin switches. Only eight boats at a time were on the water, but there was no waiting for a turn yesterday for the free activity billed as Mini Marina.

"It's our first year" at the festival "but we've had a lot of success," said Deborah Chen, a recent University of Pittsburgh graduate who was manning the marina. The activity was the idea of the Laurel Foundation, she said.

Another free activity, the Art House in Point State Park, gave children the chance to create art, rather than just view it. The small wooden playhouse, covered with art inside and out, was part of the Creativity Zone sponsored by Giant Eagle. It was manned by local artist Vanessa German, who said the Art House started out on the porch of her Homewood residence about 18 months ago.

Children were handed a smock, paint brush, many colors of paint and a white posterboard with the word "imagine" on it, and they could paint it any way they wanted.

A 3-year-old boy named Joey seemed stunned by the attention he received when he finished his painting. His mother, Laura Rozday of Emsworth, and Ms. German took his picture while a reporter asked for his name.

"He's been wanting to paint," his mother noted.

Larry Gordon and Jennifer Wanamaker of Jacksonville, Fla., accidently stumbled upon the festival and were thrilled with the experience. While visiting in Ohio, they drove into Pittsburgh for a change of pace and discovered the arts festival. It was a "go" when they learned they could bring their dogs -- a beagle mix named Gracie and a dachshund-Yorkshire terrier mix named Nettie.

They were directed to a $5 parking space "and just as we got here it stopped raining," Ms. Wanamaker said.

"We had great food," Mr. Gordon said, pointing to the food vendors "and everyone has been so nice."

Sculptor Dan Ferguson, a native of Canada who now lives in San Miguel de Allende, came all the way from Mexico to exhibit the DaNisha sculpture he creates with his wife, Nisha.

"This is our first time, and it's been fantastic," Mr. Ferguson said. "The people of Pittsburgh are art-lovers and art buyers." Many of his pieces, priced from $580 to $1,150, were sold.

He makes animal-themed ceramic sculptures and she paints plates and bowls that sit on top of the sculptures. Elephants, zebras, sheep, frogs and flying pigs are just some of the animals featured.

Robert Yard of Floyd, Va., was also happy with the festival. Sales were good for his Woodsong Instruments -- flutes, panpipes, wind chimes and didgeridoos, 6-foot instruments that originated in Australia. His are made of bamboo, which he grows.

Prices ranged from $20 to $40 for small flutes up to $400 for the didgeridoos and $650 for large windchimes made by his wife, Kathryn. "One lady bought two windchimes. It was a good day."

Occasionally there was heard a discouraging word about the high price of festival food, such as $5 for a glass of sweet tea at one of the booths. At the other end of the price spectrum, the Chobani Greek Yogurt truck was handing out free full-sized samples of their product. It was a popular stop on Penn Avenue.

The only complaint there came from people who said they could not find flavors like Key Lime Crumble and Almond Coco in their local grocery store.

"We have 19 different flavors," said Carly Green of Charlotte, N.C., who said she's part of the "field marketing team" that travels around the country. "Ask you local grocer to stock them."

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Linda Wilson Fuoco: or 412-722-0087. First Published June 17, 2013 4:00 AM


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