Monday, December 12, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"The Globe," issue 14 (article)

Kennywood turns on 'Holiday Lights'
by Joel Brewton

Steve Smith, of Jefferson, enjoys a ride with his friends on the Carousel 
at Kennywood's Holiday Lights on Friday, Dec. 3, 2011
When Adam Napotnik, 15, walked into Kennywood Park on Friday with his mother Tina, all he was expecting a few lights here and there, and maybe a few extra displays along the midway.

"I was very excited but really wasn't expecting anything special, but I was pleasantly surprised to see all the great light displays and the other great attractions," Napotnik said in a phone interview.

Friday, Dec. 2, marked the opening night of the first annual Kennywood's Holiday Lights event. The West Mifflin amusement park has been transformed from a local summer hot spot to a glittering winter wonderland with millions of lights scattered throughout the park as well as a collection of fun activities for people of all ages. These include but are not limited to various local groups serenading park-goers with carols, cookie decorating, miniature train models and photographs with Santa Claus on the station platform of the Racer rollercoaster.

Kennywood's director of public relations, Jeff Filicko, said that with the millions of lights strung throughout the park and trees, the event took several weeks of man power to have ready in time for opening night.

"We actually started setting up our lights during Phantom Fright Nights," Filicko said in an interview at the park on Friday. "As soon as the Fright Nights began we started hanging lights in the trees where they couldn't be seen during the Halloween events."

Filicko also said the holiday festivities have been many years in the planning stages, taking inspiration from other parks that host similar events

"This is actually something we've thought about for a very long time," Filicko said. "It's always something that we had joked about in the off season with the folks who work here and get to see the park in the winter, and it's only been in recent years that we've actually started to give it serious thought."

In addition to the holiday attractions at the park, a small handful of rides have been opened to the public, as well. They include the Carousel, the Kangaroo, the Paratrooper and the Auto Race. The Olde Kennywood Railroad has also been decked out with candy-themed lights and gingerbread decorations along its course and has been renamed the Gingerbread Express for the holidays. A selection of rides in the park's Kiddleland are also open.

"A lot of the rides we had to take into account the weather and mechanically how they work," Filicko said. "It depends how they'll run under what conditions. "These rides … we're confident that they can run safely in the cold and even in rain or snow."

When walking from ride to ride, guests may notice the nativity scene glittering next to the Carousel, the menorah next to the dancing fountains as well as the traditional Christmas music playing throughout the park. Despite some talk about whether the park's holiday event would be deemed as "politically correct" by some people, Filicko insists that the purpose of the event is for fun and not political debates.

"When you come to Kennywood you need to set all that aside, have a good time and just enjoy the environment just as it is," Filicko said.

Filicko went on to say that the plan, pending this year's success, is for the event to grow and prosper into an annual tradition.

"We take it year by year," Filicko said. "Just as [Phantom] Fright Nights started very small and on a much different scale and it just grew to be huge after 10 seasons. So we'll see how Holiday Lights goes and just take it one year at a time."

Tim Cronin, 27, of Pittsburgh, agrees with Filicko. He has been attending the park's Halloween for the past several years, has watched them grow over time, and believes that the Christmas celebrations have the same potential.

"If they want to make [the event] bigger and expand it, they could open a few more rides and light up more of the park," said Cronin in a phone interview. "I could see them opening the bumper cars and stringing lights over them in the future if possible."

Kennywood's Holiday Lights is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until Dec. 18 from 5 to 9 p.m. Discount tickets can be purchased at participating Giant Eagle stores. Season pass holders with a valid pass for 2012 are given free admission.


At the time of writing and submission of this article, all information was correct and up-to-date. It has recently come to my attention that the park has, in fact, opened three more rides in addition to the ones listed above including the Gran Prix bumper cars, the Aero 360 and the Cosmic Chaos.  There has been no additional news as to whether or not more rides will open as the event progresses.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dunbar Xmas Festival Preparations

(from left) Dunbar Councilman Norman Gordon, Linda Rechenberg and Councilman John Willaims pose with one of 14 "trees" at the Dunbar Boro Building on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. The trees will adorn the streets of Dunbar during the inaugural "Xmas in the Park" event to be held on Dec. 10, 2011 and featuring a bonfire, hot snacks and train rides with Santa.

Dunbar Councilman Norman Gordon secures aluminum garlands to one of the "trees."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Native American educational programs

Shining Spirit (left) poses with her friend and colleague Ghost in the Head at her home in Mill Run. Shining Spirit and Ghost in the Head have been hosting a variety of educational programs for the past seven years to teach the history and heritage of Native Americans. "We strive for authenticity as opposed to... the more commercial Hollywood stuff," said Ghost in the Head.

Shining Spirit and her friend and colleague Ghost in the Head, play a game of "Double Ball" with her grandchildren at her home in Mill Run. The game is similar to lacrosse though Shining Spirit describes it as "the female version" due to women originally not being allowed to play the game.

Shining Spirit plays "the bowl game" with her grandchildren at her home in Mill Run. The game is traditionally played with peach pits and either a turtle shell or a wooden basket with the objective being to shake the bowl and get the most pits facing upwards as possible.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Connellsville annual Christmas Parade

Santa Clause throws candy to the crowds during the annual Connellsville Christmas parade on Saturday evening, Nov. 19, 2011. Canned goods and donations were also collected during the parade to support the local food bank.

Connellsville "Christmas in the Park" Festival

The annual "Christmas in the Park" festival was held in Yough Park, Connellsville, Pa on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. The event was sponsored by the Greater Connellsville Area Chamber of Commerce and the New Haven Hose Volunteer Fire Co.

Andy Bryson (7) and his brother Tucker (10 months) pose for a photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Connellsville's annual "Christmas in the Park" festival.
Musical group "2 Edged Sword" performs "Here Comes Santa Claus" at Connellsville's annual "Christmas in the Park" festival.
Tabitha Hunker (3) of Connellsville is assisted by Christina Mickey of the Pinky Toes Pre-School in creating a finger-painting at Connellsville's annual "Christmas in the Park" fesitval
Seth the Balloon Dude creates a pink flower for Madison Wadsworth (6) of Connellsville at the annual "Christmas in the Park" festival. Madison, her mother Stacey, and now her brother Landen (15 months) have been attending the festivities for the past four years.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sunset in Redstone Township, Route 40

99% protest in Greenfield

Over 700 people marched through the neighborhood of Greenfield on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011 to show their support for the 99% movements that have been sweeping the country. The "Occupy Pittsburgh" movement was present along with over 40 other groups which included local unions and religious organizations.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Hey everyone! I'm sure you all have probably noticed that all my photos have mysteriously vanished from my blog postings. I recently found out that was due to an issue relating to my Google Plus account and I am working to correct the issue as soon as I can find time. Unfortunately it will involve the tedious task of re-uploading all photos to the posts which will probably take a little while.

For anyone out there who uses Blogspot and also have a Google Plus account, Please take note of the following:

If you upload photos to your Blogspot page, the you may have noticed a folder on your Google Plus page filled with all the images. Do not delete this album to try and save space on your Plus page! It will remove all the images from Blogspot as well leaving no way to get them back!

Election day, 2011 (photos)

Dennis O'Connor, cousin of former mayor Bob O'Connor, hands out pamphlets supporting Corey O'Connor at Greenfield Presbyterian Church Tuesday morning, Nov. 8, 2011. Dennis says that Corey is "a common sense kid who will sit down, listen to both sides and work things out... because everyone can't always be right."

Mary K. Goyda was the first person to vote at Greenfield Presbyterian Church on Tuesday morning, Nov. 8, 2011. "It's a citizen's duty [to vote]," said Goyda. "If you don't vote then you can't complain."

Diana Mangis, Judge of Election, discusses her morning agenda with Dennis O'Connor, Tuesday morning at Greenfield Presbyterian Church. Mangis has been judge of Election for Greenfield for ten years, starting out as a committeewoman. "I know everyone who comes through these doors," said Mangis.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"The Globe" issue 10 (article)

 "Million Dollar Quartet" dramatizes history of early rock
by Joel Brewton

Derek Keeling stars as Johnny Cash in "Million Dollar Quartet"
Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
He walked in with the intention of being Elvis and walked out as Johnny Cash instead. 

It was Derek Keeling’s plan for landing a lead role in "Million Dollar Quartet," which is currently playing at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center in the Cultural District.

"I sang a gospel song [for my audition] and our music director asked me how well I could sing," Keeling said in a phone interview on Thursday. "I told him, ‘I can sing as well as you need me to sing’ and he asked me, ‘Well play me some Johnny Cash.’"

Keeling prepared an audition to Johnny Cash’s "Ring of Fire" in less than ten minutes thanks to his iPhone and now says that he "couldn’t be happier" in the role of Cash.

Named for the 1956 impromptu recordings of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, "Million Dollar Quartet" dramatizes the creation of their jam session, which was recorded on Dec. 4, 1956. 

The musical opened in 2006 at the Seaside Musical Theatre in Florida and then arrived on Broadway for a year-long run in April 2010 and is told through a combination of songs and flashbacks. The show was nominated for three Tony Awards and won Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical with Levi Kreis’ portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis.

"So we go through and each of the guys do their own hits ... and it’s a really cool thing because not only are we doing all these songs in the way they were originally intended to be done, but we’re doing all the music too," Keeling said. "When you see me playing the guitar, it’s really me playing. We are the band in the show."

Chuck Mead, the musical supervisor on the tour, said the fact that all the actors play their own instruments is what brings the full extent of their talent forward.

"You have to find people who not only can emulate the characters, but they have to be able to be musicians too," Mead said in a phone interview on Friday. "It’s a great mixture of different kinds of show biz ... It’d be harder to fake it and so we just don’t."

Mead went on to explain that bringing the spirit of these artists into the performance is their ultimate goal rather than trying to just copy them or top them.

"Million Dollar Quartet" runs at the Benedum from Nov. 1 - 6 
Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

"You just can’t top the originals," Mead said.
"What we try and do is just to invoke the same spirit of that music because the very last thing you want to do is go do a bar band version of it ... and so we just wanted to create the spirit and freedom of rock n’ roll."

However, Keeling said they still do the music "as it was originally intended."

The show has been on the road now for three weeks and it currently has venues booked around for the country for over a year.

Keeling said it is fun to travel from town to town, as opposed to staying in one place all year, but it can also be "grueling" at times.

"Each time you come into a new city you have reintroduce yourself to this new city," Keeling said. "So we get here on a Tuesday, we do press all day ... and next thing you know you’re into the weekend and you have two shows a day."

Mead said that he has no worries about reintroducing himself or this show to Pittsburgh. He has been here several times before on his own tours and he says that he and his other band members always had a good crowd when they performed.

Chase Kinney, a senior acting major at Point Park University, says that it is the Cultural District as a whole which brings in the crowds at these shows.

"The theater culture intertwines with the downtown culture," Kinney said on Monday. "The theaters produce excellent works on stage and if that’s not it then all the other businesses and restaurants bring their own crowds in."

Keeling’s contract runs with the show for a year, but he is not certain whether or not he will stay with the show following the end of his contract. He said he has plans to focus on a new "Johnny Cash-inspired" album that he is currently writing and which he hopes to release in early 2012.

"I think I’ve gotten to know Johnny Cash through this whole experience, about his vibes and how he’s really a story teller," Keeling said. "It’s a lot of that which I’ve tried to embody in these songs that I’ve been working on."

"Million Dollar Quartet" runs at the Benedum Center until Sunday, Nov. 6. Tickets can be purchased at the theatre box office or online at