Since it was established in 1996, the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area has been educating the region about its past "glory days" of steelmaking with exhibits and tours centered around steel.
So three years ago, the group started a ... community market?
It seems like a departure from the mission, but Christy Baraff, who organizes the market, said it fits right in.
"When we started it, we wanted more events to bring people down to the Pump House," she explained.
The Pump House, at 880 E. Waterfront Dr. in Munhall, was the site of a battle between steelworkers and Pinkerton agents during the 1892 Homestead Lockout and Strike. The site has been renovated as an interpretive space, and the organization wanted to attract people to see it, as well as the nearby Bost Building at 623 East 8th Ave. in Homestead. That building, built in 1892 as a hotel, served as temporary headquarters for the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers during the same strike; now it houses temporary and permanent exhibits on Pittsburgh steel, including the current one, "J&L: A Pittsburgh Icon."
Holding a community market, the organization reasoned, would bring people to the site, plus it would offer the community an opportunity to showcase its diverse ethnic heritage.
So the Rivers of Steel Sunday Heritage Markets started three years ago.
The first year, Ms. Baraff said, was "slow."
Last year, sales and traffic picked up a little bit.
But this year, the first market on April 7 "was like gangbusters," she said. "We had hundreds of people."
She assumes the presence of three food trucks -- new this year -- helped to draw a crowd. The trucks are the PGH Taco Truck, Oh My Grill Food Truck and Pittsburgh Dessert Truck.
Aside from the food trucks, other food offerings include Rise Above Bakery, which sells breads, scones and soup, and The King's Plate Soul Food Catering Co., which sells hot dogs, nachos and sweet tea.
Other vendors include the Bulgarian-Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center, which sells pottery and sometimes brings ethnic soups, plus vendors of soaps, tie-dye clothing, jewelry, beads, knitting and other wares.
Markets usually are held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first and third Sundays of every month from April through September. Exceptions include this Sunday, April 21, when the market will close at 1 p.m., and June 2, when there will be no market. On June 15 (a Saturday), a market will be held in conjunction with the grand opening of the final piece of the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail.
The one thing the market is missing?
A produce vendor.
Ms. Baraff has searched high and low for someone with fruits and vegetables, to no avail.
She's willing to waive exhibitor fees just to get someone in the door. If interested in being a vendor, especially of local produce, contact her at email@example.com.
Best Buddies Life Is Sweet Chef Showcase: Top local chefs work with individuals with developmental disabilities to create signature dishes for this event, which benefits Best Buddies Pennsylvania, an organization that promotes social inclusion for individuals with disabilities. Participating chefs include Kevin Sousa of Salt of the Earth, Meghann Walsh of Cioppino, Domenic Branduzzi of Piccolo Forno, Andrew Hebson of Nola on the Square, Kate Romane of E2 [squared], and Nick Mineo of Sausalido, each working with one individual who has a developmental disability. Emcee is WQED's Rick Sebak, with buddy host Andrew Schnepp. 6 p.m. next Thursday, April 25, at August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Downtown. $75 or two for $140. bestbuddiespennsylvania.org/lis.
Earth Day Celebration: Urban container gardening demo (11 a.m.), children's activity (noon), hummus tasting and giveaways. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at McGinnis Sisters, Monroeville.
Community Strawberry Festival: Pie walk, balloon artist, face painting, piñata, bounce house, children's crafts, bean bag toss, and food, including chicken, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, watermelon, strawberry pound cake and a chocolate fountain with strawberries and pretzels for dipping. 12:15 to 2:30 p.m. April 28 at Wexford Community Presbyterian Church. $5 for adults; $3 for children under 10. 724-935-5650.
Wine Tasting: Three courses with three wines; dishes include wedding soup, seven-cheese vegetable lasagna and amaretti tiramisu sundae. 6:30 p.m. next Thursday, April 25, at D'Imperio's, Monroeville. $25 per person. 412-823-4800.
No Meat, No Problem: Learn to make edamame hummus with fresh pita chips, falafel with tzatziki, minty quinoa tabbouleh, and lemon tart. 6 p.m. Monday, April 22, at Crate, in Scott. $50. Register ahead: cratecook.com.
Mixology: Make and taste spring cocktails. 6 p.m. April 26 at Gaynor's School of Cooking, South Side. $50 per person. 412-325-2703.
Drying and Freezing: Learn to preserve herbs, fruits and vegetables. 6:30 p.m. April 30 at Wilkins School Community Center, Regent Square. Includes demo, samples and recipes. $25. Preregistration required. 412-473-2540.
Pillsbury Bake-Off: Submissions of "Simple Sweets and Starters" are being accepted through May 9 as entries for next year's million-dollar competition. Submit original recipes for cookies, bars, tarts, bite-size appetizers, pinwheels, bruschetta or other desserts or appetizers to bakeoff.com. Recipes must include no more than seven ingredients (not including salt, pepper and water) and require no more than 30 minutes to prepare (not including baking or cooling time).
Rebecca Sodergren: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @pgfoodevents. First Published April 18, 2013 4:00 AM