Go back to school, Pittsburgh-style. Savor pierogi tacos and tipsy cakes, step into an inflatable pop-up pub, jam with renowned Irish musicians and be Marilyn Monroe for a night.
1. ReelAbilities Film Festival at SouthSide Works Cinema: September 6 – 13
Moving stories — of a pioneering Brazilian art therapist, a battle-of-the-sexes soccer match, and a Rwandan genocide survivor– will be showcased during ReelAbilities. Celebrating the lives and contributions of people with disabilities, the festival includes five international feature films and a shorts program. Augmenting the films will be six special events, including opening and closing night receptions, Q&As and a pop-up exhibit. This year’s guests are actor and activist Danny Woodburn (Seinfeld), Broadway star and Pittsburgh native Ann Talman, and local hand cyclists Attila Domos and Danny Chew. ReelAbilities kicks off with the Pittsburgh premiere of Len Collins’ Irish film, Sanctuary, which shares the madcap adventures and deep complexities shared by young lovers Larry and Sophie. Closing night will feature the Pittsburgh premiere of Jane Gull’s My Feral Heart. Buy tickets.
2. Jazz Poetry Month at City of Asylum @ Alphabet City: September 7 – October 1
There’s really nothing else in Pittsburgh — or in most cities — quite like City of Asylum. For one month, literary and musical voices from Syria and Somalia to Myanmar and the Mojave Desert will gather for presentations of cultural exchange and creative expression. Spanning nine events, Jazz Poetry is welcoming 20 writers and 16 musicians from 11-plus countries — and all events are free to the public. Nothing seems more timely than the kick-off talk by Charlie Hebdo journalist and massacre survivor, Zineb el Rhazoui, who’s still under 24-hour watch and considered “the most protected person in France.” The stellar lineup includes programs with U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, National Medal of Arts winner Sandra Cisneros and VerySmartBrothas founder Damon Young. Jazz fans shouldn’t miss the first U.S. concert by Polish trio, LAM, and a reunion set featuring sax legend Oliver Lake and his jazz-funk quartet Jump Up. No two programs are alike, with each concert showcasing one-time collaborations between renowned musicians and poets. For the first time, all events will take place inside COA’s recently opened Alphabet City HQ, which provides unrivaled acoustics and a prix fixe menu from Casellula. View a schedule.
3. Pittsburgh Irish Festival at The Riverplex at Sandcastle, September 8 – 10
According to Niche, Pittsburgh is home to the country’s second largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade and one of the largest Irish populations, and is the “best city for celebrating” the holiday. So it’s no surprise that Pittsburgh produces one of the country’s top Irish-American festivals. While waiting for March 17, the best place to experience the region’s rich Irish history, culture and heritage is at this three-day shindig. The comprehensive musical lineup has something for every lad and lass — from step dancing and Celtic rock to pipes, harps and drums. Rocking four stages will be international, national and local performers such as Corned Beef & Curry, JigJam and Gaelic Storm. You can even bring your own instrument and join a session. Step into the new “inflatable pop-up pub” (a bouncy house for adults!) to experience a DIY Dublin bar, get spooked by Irish ghost stories and meet dogs native to Ireland. Explore the country’s renowned literary heritage and shop for authentic goods in the Irish marketplace. Savor the flavors of Irish cuisine while sampling dishes like Dublin Coddle, Colcannon and Tipsy Cakes. Buy tickets.
4. A Fair in the Park in Mellon Park: September 8 – 10
Searching for an eclectic piece of art for your hip new dorm? Need an original gift for a September bride? With three days of open-air displays, A Fair in the Park is your one-stop shop for fine and funky art. At its 48th edition, 105 artisans from Pittsburgh and around the U.S. will gather in Mellon Park. Wander through the juried market to shop for handcrafted 2D and 3D work — including metal, ceramics, painting, and jewelry — and watch hands-on demonstrations by WoodTurners Anonymous and glassmaker Michael Mangiafico. Check out live music by 12 local acts, grab lunch or dinner from food trucks, and participate in family-friendly activities. Four artists will receive prizes at the fair, which is presented by the Craftsmen’s Guild of Pittsburgh. Fair hours are: September 8, 1 to 7 p.m.; September 9, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and September 10, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
5. Steel City Big Pour at Construction Junction: September 9, Noon to 3 p.m. & 5 to 8 p.m.
What sprouted in 2007 with 20 brewers has fermented into the granddaddy of Pittsburgh beer festivals. Featuring 50 craft breweries and 24 food purveyors — plus live music and functional art — Steel City Big Pour will satisfy the cravings of beer aficionados and reuse loyalists alike. Construction Junction’s sprawling warehouse and parking lot will serve as ground zero for beer tasting and elbow-rubbing. This year’s event is tapping into the region’s thriving craft beer renaissance, with 31 of its breweries located within a 50-mile radius of Pittsburgh. Alongside the local brews, sample the latest libations from breweries hailing from Tulsa, OK to Middlebury, VT. Buy a custom-engraved coaster from KerfCase, bid on a one-of-a-kind “kegerator” and rock out to live music by Hoodoo Drugstore. New this year is a market featuring beer-themed wares by Monmade artisans, and a partnership with Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Restaurant Program. Take a beer break to refuel with local fare — from po’ boys and burritos, to hempseed pretzels and Ethiopian cuisine. Buy tickets now because the event typically sells out.