The Pittsburgh Irish Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with three days of Celtic culture at Riverplex at Sandcastle, showcasing a wide variety of entertainers on four stages near the waterfront. The schedule includes Friday and Saturday performances by Gaelic Storm, which made an appearance in Titanic, and whose music blends traditional Irish melodies and world music. The festival includes a cultural area filled with weavers, historians, lace-makers, storytellers who weave stories about lace, and classes on Gaelic language and Celtic symbol drawing. The Genealogy Pavilion provides the resources needed to start digging into Irish roots with an Irish shovel.
At the Martier Music Academy, kids can nurture discipline, commitment, and confidence while benefiting from the expert instruction of a professional staff of deft-fingered musicians, such as Joe Grushecky, Pete Hewlett, and the Grammy-nominated percussionist Ron Beitle. Private lessons allow kids between seven and 14 years old to attend weekly half-hour ($100 per month) or one-hour ($180 per month) instructional sessions, and are available for piano, guitar, drums, voice, and performance. Kindermusik classes help boost the development of children ages seven or younger while offering several different programs, including Young Child, designed for kids between five and seven years old ($90 per month for four months).
The YMCA Adventure Warrior Race gives kids and adults a chance to prove themselves against ropes courses, mud, water obstacles, and other unexpected mental and physical challenges—all while supporting a good cause. Amid the breathtaking views and tranquil waters of Lake Tris, runners maneuver around trees and carry heavy objects up the sometimes snow-covered Laurel Highlands mountains, climbing up to 1,000 feet as they go. Warriors aged 16 and older make a 4-mile circuit, whereas younger participants run age-appropriate distances of a half mile or a full mile. Trophies and the respect of all the woodland creatures are awarded to the top male and female runners, top male and female teams, and top co-ed team. According to the Daily American, funds raised from the race provide camp scholarships that allow kids to attend residential and day programs at the 263-acre YMCA Camp T. Frank Soles.
Alpha Fitness Club shepherds exercisers of all stripes toward their desired level of svelteness with a fleet of Star Trac fitness equipment and engaging group fitness classes. Ellipticals, treadmills, and bicycles give exercisers the strength to knock stubborn calories off their bodies, and resistance machinery and free weights convince muscles to come out of their hiding places. Furthering fitness pursuits, Alpha Fitness Club’s trainer, Frank—who hails from a decorated career as a Marine, a bodybuilder, and a power-lifter—tailors his one-on-one sessions to help customers to lose weight, gain muscle, and maintain mint-condition sweatbands. Exercise classes include Zumba, spinning, Pilates, and step; the club’s schedule inspires exercisers to power through with a dose of fitness camaraderie.
Now in its 51st year, the McKeesport Little Theater puts on a rollicking adaptation of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel, a comedy-drama that follows the roguish Randle Patrick McMurphy as he combats the draconian culture of a mental institution with a charming streak of rebellion. After successfully faking insanity to serve out his prison sentence in the hospital, Randle squares off with the sociopathic Nurse Ratched and enlists the support of an Indian whose presumed deafness and dumbness have enabled him to learn the benefits of deep introspection and the access codes for the ward’s chocolate-pudding fridge. The McKeesport Little Theater’s mission to bring quality theater to Western Pennsylvania benefits not only its audiences but also the play’s community-based actors, many of whom whittle their thespian teeth on the stage of the 207-seat theater, formerly a synagogue.
At North Versailles Bowling Center, bowlers hurl spheroids down well-waxed lanes crowned with a stunning diorama of the nighttime Pittsburgh skyline, taking timeouts to enjoy frosty beverages and cheesy pizzas from the nearby snack bar. Saturday nights are celebrated with glowing lights and music played by a live DJ, and ball hurlers attempt to celebrate the memory of Sir Isaac Newton by temporarily suspending the laws of physics with each roll. When they aren’t racking up strikes on the lanes or browsing Columbia, Storm, and Brunswick gear in the pro shop, visitors watch Pittsburgh sports teams on the lounge's five HDTVs or challenge each other to friendly rounds of billiards or trivia.