Pittsburgh preparing for eventful summer

Famed salsa band, 'Furries' coming



Olympic hopefuls, furry friends and an internationally acclaimed salsa band are just a few of the attractions projected to draw tourists to Pittsburgh this summer.

VisitPittsburgh, a tourism industry nonprofit, gathered business professionals Thursday at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel to coordinate this summer's events.

Craig Davis, VisitPittsburgh's president and CEO, said the idea of the third annual luncheon is to get those in the hospitality industry on the same page.

"When we bring it and put it all on one script, you get into a situation where -- perennial favorites coupled with big conventions and Buccos baseball -- these are reasons for people to come into town," Mr. Davis said.

June is full of free events: The Three Rivers Arts Festival from June 6-15, Pittsburgh Pride on June 14 and 15, and the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival from June 20-22.

Also free is the EQT Pittsburgh Regatta from July 2-4, which will include powerboat races, stunt pogo demonstrations and a performance by '80s rock group Journey, with its new singer, Arnel Pineda.

Highlights of the summer include:

Jazz

Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival added El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico to its live music lineup. Janis Burley Wilson, director of jazz programming with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, said the band, which has sold more than 150 million records over 50 years, is the salsa-lover's equivalent of the Beatles and will play a free show at the height of its fame.

"You're going to get a lot of die-hard salsa fans, as well as those who are aware of their legend," Ms. Burley Wilson said.

She added that, in previous years, 18 percent of the festival's audience came from out of state, a percentage she expected will increase this year.

For those unfamiliar with salsa, or jazz in general, Ms. Burley Wilson gave a piece of advice: "You need to be ready to dance. Because, at least for our festival last year, Penn Avenue turned into a dance floor. It was a big party."

Baseball

Playoff predictions aside, Pirates baseball generates an estimated $100 million a year for the region, with 20 to 30 percent of fans coming from 50 miles away or farther, Mr. Davis said.

Pirates president Frank Coonelly said he expects the Pirates' national television appearance Sunday on ESPN will add to the team's visiting attendance.

"This year, we have an amazing schedule," he said, pointing to series with the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox as likely to bring in plenty of visiting fans.

"It's always nice to have them in town as long as you send them out unhappy," Mr. Coonelly said.

Gymnastics

Simone Biles and Sam Mikulak are two of the 2013 champions slated to compete in the P&G Gymnastics Championship, to be held at the Consol Energy Center from Aug. 21-24.

Leslie King, vice president of communications for USA Gymnastics, said this event is not only the conclusion of the national competition, but also is when national teams will be selected. Those gymnasts will then compete on the international stage.

"It is very fair to say that the P&G Championships plays a part in the selection process for determining the world championship teams," Ms. King said.

Conventions

VisitPittsburgh predicted the season's largest convention will be the International Quilt Market. The event, which is not open to the public, will be held from May 16-18 and is expected to bring 7,000 quilt makers and other professionals into the city.

"The Furries," also known as Anthrocon, will return to Pittsburgh July 3-6 and the event expected to draw 5,500 people.

Other big draws include the East Coast Volleyball Championships from May 24-26 and the American Trucking Association Truck Driving Championships, both open to the public.

Pittsburgh will also host the Developing Unconventional Gas Conference, projected to have 3,100 attendees, from June 3-5.


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