September marks a time of transition, reflection and shifting seasons. It’s also one of the city’s biggest months for special events, which is why we couldn’t stop at just 10. The long-awaited return of several beloved Pittsburgh festivals is here, along with innovative collaborations and new ways to celebrate the season outdoors. And if you didn’t score tix to the sold-out Beers of the Burgh festival, don’t worry, because there’s so much more to do on our list.
Be sure to pack your mask and visit each organization’s website and social media to stay updated about Covid safety protocols and guidelines.
1. Pittontatonk in Schenley Park: September 3
It might not be May Day, but that won’t stop one of Pittsburgh’s coolest music festivals from stomping, honking and cheering. The much-anticipated return of the Pittontatonk Brass Festival is an uplifting beacon in challenging times. With no stages, no velvet ropes and no fees, the jubilant festival aims to abolish boundaries between performers and audiences by fostering authentic and “euphoric” musical experiences. The power of live music will resonate via performances by 15 global bands — from Mexico City to Motor City to New York City. New this year is a special Pittonk collaboration beer with East End Brewing, food vendors and an Arts Greenhouse showcase of social and environmental justice organizations.
2. Allegheny County Music Festival at Hartwood Acres: September 5
After uplifting crowds all summer long at Hartwood Acres and South Park, the Allegheny County Summer Concert Series is going out with a rockin’ bang. This mini-fest will feature live music by Sierra Sellers, Funky Fly Project, Meeting of Important People and The Commonheart — plus food trucks and Hop Farm brews. The series’ culminating event is not only a showcase of local music but also a chance for fans to give back. A suggested donation of $20 per car, along with a 50/50 raffle, will benefit the Allegheny County Music Festival Fund, which provides opportunities for children and youth receiving services through the Department of Human Services and Juvenile Section of the Family Division of the Court of Common Pleas.
3. ReelAbilities at Carnegie Museum of Art: September 8-12
A portrait of an adventurous wheelchair community in British Columbia. Summer camp romance. The inspiring life of social activist Ady Barkan, who was diagnosed with ALS at age 32. These are just some of the powerful stories you’ll see on screen — and in-person — when this inclusive and insightful film festival returns for live programming. Anchored by 12 film premieres exploring the lives of people living with disabilities, the series includes filmmaker Q&As, panel discussions and a Creative Citizen Studios pop-up exhibit. Films will be presented with open captions, audio descriptions and ASL interpretation in a fully accessible space. Don’t miss the opening night screening, Q&A and reception showcasing “Crutch,” which documents the career of Pittsburgh-based street performer Bill Shannon. Buy tickets.
4. Lights On! A Three-Day Celebration in the Cultural District: September 9-11
After many months of darkened theaters and empty stages, the Cultural District will again teem with life. Seven of the city’s core cultural institutions are coming together with dozens of regional arts organizations to mark the collective reopening of live arts experiences. Reactivating Downtown’s vibrant arts scene, the three-day festivities are packed with 50-plus free music, theater, dance and visual art events spanning three outdoor stages, five galleries, one theater and one arts truck. The long-awaited celebration also serves as the official kick-off to the Allegheny Regional Asset District’s free RADical Days, which runs through Oct. 10. View a schedule.
5. Barrel & Flow at SouthSide Works: September 10-12
With a fresh new name, look and locale, the country’s first Black beer festival — and the country’s second-best event according to USA Today — is bringing the suds and sounds to SouthSide Works. There’s so much more than beer at this community-driven event founded by Day Bracey that’s designed to uplift Black artists, musicians, chefs and brewers. Spurring economic empowerment for Black cultural and culinary sectors, the fest embodies a spirit of collective creativity. Debuting will be imaginative handcrafted releases — such as a Blue Peach Fruited Gose honoring Stacey Abrams. Taste what’s been dreamed up by a staggering lineup of 50-plus collaborations, including Black Frog Brew x East End, Sankofa Beer x Allagash and Social Living x Leaning Cask. Alongside the taps and food vendors, live music will “flow” with performances by Ghost-Note, Benji, INEZ, 12 DJs and more. Additional highlights include panel discussions, a brewer’s brunch and a bottle share party at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Green Tree. Can’t make it IRL? Tap into Digi Flow for livestream programming and beer shipped to your doorstep. Buy tickets.
6. Pittsburgh Irish Festival at The Lots at Sandcastle: September 10-12
After having the country’s second-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade canceled twice during the pandemic — Pittsburgh’s Irish diaspora will rejoice when this cultural staple returns after a yearlong hiatus. Headlining the milestone 30th-anniversary festival are international acts such as Gaelic Storm, The Screaming Orphans, Colm Keegan, The Bow Tides, We Banjo 3 and many others. During your Irish staycation, you can try ancient Celtic ax throwing, cuddle with canines native to Ireland, trace your Irish ancestry and explore the country’s vibrant flowers and plant life. Feast on Irish cuisine, such as boxty pancakes, shepherd’s pie, colcannon, Guinness chocolate and soda bread. Four stages will spotlight local bands, dance troupes, comedians, storytellers, authors and more. Buy tickets.
7. A Fair in the Park in Mellon Park: September 10-12
If you have a blank wall crying out for attention — or need a cool wedding gift for that creative couple in your life — don’t miss the return of this Pittsburgh institution. For its 52nd edition, the signature fair will convene 100 local and national artists representing a comprehensive range of mediums – from glass, metal, ceramics and fiber, to mixed media, wood, leather and jewelry. To ensure safe shopping, this year’s event features a new layout with extra space between booths. Fair-goers can also enjoy lunch or dinner from on-site food trucks and bring a blanket to relax on the lawn. Bring your phone, pick up a clue card and join the scavenger hunt to win a treasure from the Artsmiths. The fair will also showcase a 40th-anniversary Women of Visions exhibition presented by The Craftsmen’s Guild of Pittsburgh.