Family-friendly Feastival to feed community growth features music, food and art

By Sarah Beth Martin | Gazette 2.0

Mark your calendars for the 6th annual Feastival happening Saturday, Sept. 8 in downtown McKees Rocks.

What is Feastival?

“It’s a day-long pop-up event that draws people from all over Pittsburgh to downtown McKees Rocks to celebrate great food, music and art,” said Taris Vrcek, executive director of the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (MRCDC).

Aerial view from early in the day during the 2017 Feastival event in McKees Rocks.  Gates open for the 2018 event at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8.

Born to recreate the community-boosting effects of the nationality festivals of the late-1960s and 70s and fueled by the City of Pittsburgh’s once prohibitive policies on food trucks, the event aims not only to reflect the area’s past but also its future, said Vrcek.

“When people come to this event, they see a different side of McKees Rocks. It changes their perceptions and dispels negative opinions… and exposes them to a place that’s rich with tradition yet modern and exciting, a place they’ll want to be,” he said.

At this year’s event, guests will see approximately 15 food vendors (spread across eight food trucks and seven tents), 16 artisan vendors, an area just for kids, informational booths and more. They can also expect to see five bands, including three national touring acts playing a mix of bluegrass, root and rock music. Bands include “Railroad Earth,” “Billy Strings,” “Rumpke Mountain Boys,” “Wreck Loose” and “Well Strung.”

Feastival was held first in May 2013, hosting a handful of vendors and 500 attendees. Since then, both vendor and attendee numbers have grown exponentially, skyrocketing to more than 4,000 attendees.

“We’re expecting an even larger crowd this year,” said Ben Penigar, owner of Grey Area Productions one of the groups MRCDC paired within 2015 to help grow the event. “And we’ve got an amazing lineup of musicians, food trucks and artists to cater to their tastes, as well as informational vendors like Just Harvest, an organization that makes eating healthier more accessible.”

Food trucks galore!

Like Feastival itself, Penigar’s role in the event has grown over the years. Initially drawn to it because of his work with the Roxian Theatre project, slated to reopen in the first quarter of next year, Penigar’s group has gone from booking talent for the event to coordinating it at large.

“It’s a wonderful community stricken by poverty and downturns in the economy,” Penigar said of McKees Rocks. “I’m honored to be part of this event [designed] to bring it back to life.”

Sharing Penigar’s enthusiasm, Vrcek said he hopes Feastival will rejuvenate business in McKees Rocks, as well as help the MRCDC accomplish other goals, which include, among other things, further developing the municipal lot into a useable outdoor venue and greenspace; attracting small manufacturers and commercial businesses; reclaiming and improving vacant lots and creating a cradle-to-career pipeline to increase career awareness and preparedness in area youth.

Feastival 2018 is brought to you by the partnership of the MRCDC, Grey Area Productions, Hollowood Music & Sound and Thunderbird Café and is made possible through the support of numerous sponsors and vendors.

The Sept. 8 event will be held in the McKees Rocks municipal lot located near the intersection of Chartiers Avenue and Furnace Street. Musical performances are from 2 to 10 p.m. and the Ohio Valley Hospital Little Rox Stars children’s area will operate from 3 to 7.

General admission tickets are available for free by registering at or for a $5 suggested donation at the gate. VIP tickets are no longer available.

Event Schedule:

2 p.m. – Gates Open
2:30 – 3:30 p.m. – Wreck Loose
3 – 7 p.m. – Ohio Valley Hospital Kid’s Zone
3:30 – 4 p.m. – Well Strung (2nd Stage)
4 – 5:30 p.m. – Rumpke Mountain Boys
5:30 – 6 p.m. – Well Strung (2nd Stage)
6 – 7:30 p.m. – Billy Strings
7:30 – 8 p.m. – Well Strung (2nd Stage)
8 – 10 p.m. – Railroad Earth

Article reprinted with permission from Pittsburgh Westside News’ Gazette 2.0.