Caroline Rose performs at the festival June 12. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Each year, the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival marks Pittsburgh’s unofficial start to summer, and this year, it also marks a return to a sense of normalcy for visitors and the hotels, restaurants and businesses that serve them.

Because there will no longer be state restrictions on gatherings effective June 1, concerts previously scheduled to take place at the Byham Theater will be moved to Point State Park on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the festival’s run (June 4-13).

Thirty Artist Market tents, six concession stands and an information booth will also return to the site. There will be no park attractions Monday through Thursday.

Bassel & The Supernaturals performs on June 5. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

“It’s really a dream come true,” says Sarah Aziz, director of the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. “We are able to return to Point State Park for components of the festival while also featuring so much of the Cultural District through our planned gallery exhibitions, public art pieces, Artist Market sections and performances on the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s Riverside Stage at the Allegheny Overlook Pop-Up Park.

Free, timed entry tickets are no longer needed for any component of the festival (previously, organizers planned to require tickets for Dollar Bank Main Stage productions, Riverfront Stage shows and the Artist Market), so guests can simply show up with their mask on.

Artist Janel is working on a street mural along a closed section of Fort Duquesne Boulevard. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust will be maintaining its own enhanced health protocols to create the safest festival environment. All staff, volunteers and artists will utilize the CLEAR Health Pass app prior to checking in each day of the festival. Masks will also be required for all visitors in all locations indoor and outdoor.

The arts festival has long been a major attraction and a boost to the tourism industry, which generated $6.5 billion and supported close to 44,000 jobs across the county in 2019. They dined in local eateries and filled the county’s 6,400 guest rooms. Covid wiped out 25,000 of those jobs and reduced hotel occupancy by 62 percent.

Jerad Bachar, president and CEO of VisitPITTSBURGH, says travel isn’t expected to return to 2019 levels until 2023. But, he adds, there is hope.

VisitPITTSBURGH recently launched a marketing campaign called Only in Pittsburgh that highlights attractions, activities and sites tourists can only experience in the Steel City. The effort targets people within a four-hour drive of Pittsburgh — including Baltimore, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. — and will be extended to fly markets later this summer.

“We are fortunate to have fantastic hotels, award-winning restaurants, fun attractions, a thriving arts and culture scene and a growing craft brewery trail in our city, but this campaign also promotes our Only in Pittsburgh treasures,” says Tom Loftus, chief marketing officer with VisitPITTSBURGH. “We feel that there’s no better time to show off all Pittsburgh has to offer, especially as research points toward an extreme pent-up demand for travel.”

The David L. Lawrence Convention Center will host more than 50 events in 2021, including the RV Show on May 15. General Manager Tim Muldoon says it would be counterproductive to separate vaccinated and unvaccinated attendees.

“The Convention Center is all about bringing people together; it’s critical to what we and our clients are trying to do,” he says.

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.