Festival celebrates all things Ukrainian

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Now in its 10th year, the Ukrainian American Festival in McKees Rocks keeps growing with more food, entertainment and visitors attracted each year to the four-day celebration of Ukrainian culture.

The festival began Wednesday night with a parade and a memorial service honoring veterans, law enforcement officers and firefighters and will end Saturday with a concert by "Charlie Thomas and The Drifters."

Sponsored by St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Ella Street, the festival started as a small celebration in the church basement and kept expanding every year, said the Rev. Tim Tomson, pastor.

They come not only from Western Pennsylvania but also from Ohio, West Virginia and New Jersey, Rev. Tomson said.

What is the attraction?

First, there is the food. Rev. Tomson said the festival serves up plenty of traditional Ukrainian dishes like pyrohy, stuffed cabbage and halusky as well as roast lamb and Ukrainian baked goods.

Then there is the Lyman Ukrainian Dance Ensemble from Baltimore, which will perform on Saturday night, and the Ukrainian collectibles and religious items for sale.

But the main attraction might be what Rev. Tomson calls "Ukrainian hospitality."

"Everyone is welcome to the festival," he said. "It's not just a Ukrainian celebration, but a celebration of the community. Volunteers who aren't members of the church help us set up. The free entertainment is our gift to the community."

The El Monics will perform on Thursday night, The Marcels on Friday night and Charlie Thomas and The Drifters on Saturday night.

Getting to the festival might be a little more difficult this year because West Carson Street is closed outbound to McKees Rocks. Festival-goers from Pittsburgh and east of McKees Rocks can take the detour: Route 65, McKees Rocks Bridge and the Helen Street exit.

The festival opens each day at 5 p.m. when food service begins.

St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church this year is celebrating its 106th year of service to the McKees Rocks community.

"The church was founded by our grandparents, immigrants who worked in the mines and steel mills," Rev. Tomson said.

The church and festival have become such an important part of the community that McKees Rocks Mayor Jack Muhr for the third year in a row has declared the Bottoms, the neighborhood where the festival is held, as "Little Kyiv" in honor of the Ukrainian capital.


Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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