They say the third time’s the charm, or as actor David Conrad put it: “Knocked down, got back up, ran again, got knocked down, got back up, ran again and won.” A succinct overview of Bill Peduto’s political career. In the end, the 60th mayor of the city of Pittsburgh had much to celebrate and many to thank, which he did before and after his inauguration Monday afternoon. With the agony of defeat well behind him, Mayor Peduto was certainly entitled to bask in the thrill of victory. But the real cause of celebration was something deeper and less easily defined than a “win.”
The courage, tenacity and dogged belief in his ability to transform this city are traits of the American dream. For many, Mr. Peduto represents just that. A progressive, a reformer, a stand-up guy (according to Jimmy Krenn, who emceed the mayor’s Sunday night party), he refused to give up. When perseverance prevails, as we are all taught it will, there’s a reassuring sense of goodness and right. Mr. Peduto’s populist appeal draws from that well of optimism, made all the deeper in the wake of the recent city scandals.
And so it was with jubilation that Mr. Peduto’s supporters gathered to fete him during a VIP reception for 250 Sunday at the Twentieth Century Club and again Monday night, when an estimated 3,000 arrived at the Heinz History Center for the big bash. Though very different parties, they shared a low-key approach. “My friends aren’t fancy,” Mr. Peduto said in explaining why he eschewed a black-tie event or an expensive dinner. More to the point, both parties placed a spotlight on the city more than its new mayor.
The VIP reception began with hors d’oeuvres and local drinks from Church Brew Works and Engine House Winery, with “Black and Goldtinis” from White Diamond vodka thrown in. Mr. Peduto greeted guests informally before a program featuring performances by some of the city’s brightest cultural stars: the Afro American Music Institute Choir, River City Brass, Attack Theatre, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Opera, Vanessa German, singer Emily Rodgers and the group Lohio. Remarks from Mr. Conrad, who introduced Ms. German, and the Rev. Randy Bush of East Liberty Presbyterian Church (who brought the house down with a quote from Will Rogers: “I don’t belong to any organized political party — I’m a Democrat”) were interspersed before Mr. Peduto walked onstage. “I’m going to save the speech for tomorrow — it’s a good one,” he quipped before thanking “the VIPs of my life.”
Dessert followed, along with congratulations from guests including Dan and Shelly Onorato, Cliff Levine, Jim and Francine Abraham, Bill Caroselli and Dusty Kirk, Steve and Betsy Magley, Pittsburgh Opera’s Christopher Hahn, Prentiss and Lulu Orr, Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk, Dr. Freddie and Hilda Fu, Karla Boos, Barry Lhormer and Janet Markel, Peter and Connie Sukernik and Jane Roesch.
Despite sub-zero temperatures Monday night, the celebrating continued in the packed History Center as well-wishers arrived in droves. They had six floors to fill, but the prize at the top was the chance to have a photo taken with the new mayor. The Common Plea supplied most of the food on the menu of Pittsburgh classics — chipped ham sandwiches, pierogies, potato pancakes, roasted sweet sausage, Reubens and focaccia. But a bevy of local restaurants also turned out to offer a sampling of specialty items (loved the fab squash soup from Social) on the fourth floor for A Taste of Pittsburgh.
Local entertainment abounded, especially on the fifth floor, where a stellar lineup spoke to every generation. The COL Jazz Band was followed by The Clarks, Donora, Noel Quintana’s Latin Band and Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers with Donnie Iris. On other floors guests could find the Joe Negri Trio, Silk Sound Asian American Jazz Orchestra, the Shelf Life String Band and DJs, while on the first-floor main stage the Deryck Tines Gospel Choir, Hammerstep Irish Step Dancing & Hip Hop, the Pittsburgh Area Slovak Folk Ensemble, Etta Cox and Al Dowe and many others represented just about every ethnic group and music style in the city. Richard Parsakian, Sean Gray, Ida D’Errico and LUXE Lighting orchestrated both events.
The crush of the crowd and all those stairs made a stop at the bar essential. And what could be better on a cold night filled with high spirits than a glass of Peduto Punch? Here’s to you, Mr. Mayor!