'Johnstown homecoming' Cambria City Ethnic Festival will feature homemade foods, artisan vendors, free entertainment

·7 min read

Sep. 1—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The Cambria City Ethnic Festival will be held Friday through Sunday in Johnstown's Cambria City section. It will feature traditional foods, craft vendors and free entertainment.

St. Mary's

At St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church, volunteers have made about 30,000 pierogi, 5,000 stuffed cabbages and 1,300 pounds of haluski.

There will also be hamburgers, hot dogs, fresh-cut fries, hot sausage sandwiches, kielbasa, homemade sauerkraut, Hungarian goulash and gobs.

"These are labor-intensive foods to make, and today a lot of people don't have the time to do that," said Monsignor Raymond Balta, a festival organizer.

"This is food they remember their grandmothers making and how she made stuffed cabbage, haluski and pierogi."

St. Mary's pavilion, located at 411 Power St., is the center of many activities, including musical entertainment.

Scheduled performers are Jerry Intihar, Yum, Rhythm Masters, Tom Katz Band and Cajun Norm, as well as ethnic dancers.

"It's a sentimental weekend for Johnstown, and people get to reminisce about the old days," Balta said.

"It's also a Johnstown homecoming. People enjoy it and can stroll around and run into people they haven't seen in a while and renew old friendships and make new friends."


Ace's on Chestnut Street will have a variety of options throughout the weekend.

The menu will feature lamb sandwiches, halupki, haluski, pierogi, panko-breaded chicken tenders, potato pancakes, apple dumplings and nut rolls.

"The lamb is one of the major components of our menu that people look forward to coming and getting," said Dustin Greene, part-owner of Ace's.

Ace's will offer alcoholic and nonalcoholic frozen drinks.

There will also be a variety of bottled beers, wine coolers and hard seltzers.

"We have a nice variety of options for people," Greene said.

Returning festival favorites are the frozen cheesecake on a stick and frozen bananas that can be hand-dipped to create a shell of chocolate, cherry or turtle.

Musical entertainment will be provided by Rosie and the Jammers, Undercover, Giants of Science, Rust, Zupe, Dan Durham, Emily & Jorge and The Evergreens.

"We have every type of genre coming in," Greene said.

Greene said the festival is a community event that's become a tradition for people and holds many memories.

"It's a time where people can get some unique food and hear free entertainment, so that's a great draw," he said.

ACRP's Irish Corner

Alternative Community Resource Program will host an Irish Corner at Chestnut Street and 10th Avenue.

ACRP has partnered with the Ancient Order of Hibernians to celebrate Irish culture.

"Since partnering with ACRP in 2013, the Irish Corner has steadily grown, and we're now to the point that it anchors the far end of the festival," said John Skelley, president of the local division of AOH.

"It's the first thing that people see when they come up from the parking area, and it gets the experience started. We're proud that more and more people have shown up for the Irish Corner."

The Irish-themed menu will feature shepherd's pie, Irish stew, potato soup, corned beef sandwiches, Irish macaroni and cheese, scones and soda bread.

"The traditional Irish flair is there," Skelley said.

Vendors include Feight Family Concessions, Pappy's Family Pub, Shuman's Concessions, Primo's Pizza, Triskele Creations, Wonderland and Beyond Travel, Coney Island, Funnel Cake Kings and Darlington Inn.

Music will include Irish musician Gary Noll, Blatherskite, Irish Pretenders, Tree, Full Kilt, Jaffa Highlanders Pipes & Drums, Bo & Tucker Moore, Pittsburgh-based Abbots Cross and Rail City Pipe & Drum, as well as Tir na Nog School of Irish Dance from Altoona.

"We want to celebrate our Irish and Celtic culture and history, and we also want to highlight the cultural aspects of Cambria City and Johnstown," Skelley said.

"Folk and Irish music has been around in this town for quite some time, so we highlight all of that at the Irish Corner."

Proceeds will benefit ACRP and AOH programming.

"It's great to take a step back in time and see the history and heritage of Cambria City," Skelley said.

"It's truly an entertaining festival, where you can go from block to block and have a completely different cultural experience."

In addition, ACRP's Splash Park will be open throughout the festival in a lot next to the nonprofit's play center.

Bottle Works, VOMA

Bottle Works and Venue of Merging Arts are partnering to offer music at the Third Avenue Arts Stage.

"Bottle Works and VOMA have engaged in a seven-year partnership to bring the finest of local, regional and international artists to the Third Avenue stage," said Melody Tisinger, Bottle Works' advancement and operations director.

"This year's musical lineup is a true display of cultural celebration and pride."

There will be an outdoor stage on Third Avenue and an indoor stage in the Art Works building, where people can listen to blues, pop, classic rock, jazz, country, funk and Latin.

Performing Friday will be Ian Jeffreys, Allman Brothers Tribute Band and Black Cat Moan.

Entertainment for Saturday includes Cole Skoretz, Atayay Robles, The Dillons, Don Aliquo Quartet, Paolo Schianchi and Flood City Brass.

"We're really excited to bring an international artist to the festival stage," Tisinger said.

"He (Schianchi) hails all the way from Italy and he's fantastic. It's a real ode back to celebrating ethnic music and showcasing the heritages that are here in Johnstown."

Performing Sunday will be Bo & Tucker Moore, Rachel Allen, That Oldies Band and VOMA House Band.

Artisan vendors will be indoors at Bottle Works and along Third Avenue.

A Kids' Zone will be offered at noon Saturday and Sunday.

In Bottle Works, "The Molok," an immersive installation made entirely from donated objects from Johnstown residents, will be on display.

Attendees also can explore the Black Light Exhibition in the Black Box Theatre. Throughout the summer, students from the Arts Academy and Camp BW created the enveloping glow-in-the-dark art exhibit.

Food vendors will be on Third Avenue, including Dunny's Pizza, Coney Island Hot Dog Stand, Kona Ice, Plant-it Earth Greenhouse and the Amish Store.

"For people who lived here and moved away, the festival gives them an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends," Tisinger said.

"For Johnstown transplants, it's a great introduction to how the community works with its small-town family vibe that's so prevalent here."

Located between Fifth and Sixth avenues on Chestnut Street, the WorldMarket @ Ethnic Fest will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Chad Pysher, co-owner of Stella Property Development and Event Production, which presents the WorldMarket @ Ethnic Fest, said they started the market in 2018 and it continues to grow.

"We saw the need in the festival; everything was at both ends of the neighborhood and that middle section wasn't connected, so it was the perfect location for us to do something," he said.

"Last year, the WorldMarket section was packed throughout the entire festival."

The market features 16 local ethnic vendors and merchants selling handmade and cultural items.

Street musicians will wander around entertaining crowds, and food vendors will be serving barbecue, lamb, seafood, Caribbean fare, gobs and nut rolls.

At noon Sunday, Amerigo's specialty grocery store will hold a bread fest and offer a variety of breads.

New this year will be a children's carnival with rides and food.

The carnival will be set up on the Piazza Maria and feature eight rides geared toward youngsters 12 and younger.

"It's just enough for kids, but it's going to add quite a different element to the atmosphere," Pysher said.

"This is something for families to participate in."

A one-day pass is $12 and a three-day pass is $36.

The Shrine and Garden of Our Lady of Mariapocs, Brigid's Cross, Cambria City Flowers, Sitara Studios and Gallery and Casimir Cultural Center, which are operated by Stella, will be open.

"Cambria City is a draw in of itself and people feel very welcomed here, and that's a huge part of why they keep coming back," Pysher said.

"There's a relaxed vibe to it and that's very appealing."