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Pittsburgh welcomes international neighbors at unique festival
Last Friday evening, I followed the tones of a lone saxophonist whose sultry notes lured me through PPG Place. As I crossed over into Market Square, I was met by the swirling sights, sounds and aromas of World Square, a vibrant global marketplace that will return again this weekend (June 9 through 11). The daytime heat began to simmer as Latin beats filled the near-summer air, and the sun slowly slinked behind towering buildings in our midst.
World Square, a free, all-ages celebration of 30 immigrant and newcomer communities that call Pittsburgh home, is happening again this spring thanks to the support of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and media sponsor WYEP, plus the collaboration of 10-plus diverse community groups that make up the steering committee.
Offering a multilayered perspective, “World Square - Welcoming All of Pittsburgh’s Neighbors” features art, crafts, music, dance and cuisine from international residents who all contribute to the city’s rich tapestry of beauty and diversity.
During our visit, we sampled a delicious Nepalese chicken dumpling from Namaste Momo Corner and flaky empanadas from El Chaqueno, an Argentinean and Dominican-inspired food truck (whose chimichurri sauce was remarkable and the sweet alfajores extra tempting).
From Cafe Filipino, who will host its own events Sept. 23 and Oct. 8, we tried a delightful pancit stir-fry noodle tray and wee cashew tarts called pepitas de kasuy.
At the KizzleFoods booth, we learned about “fresh and earthy” sun-dried specialty spices from Nigeria. The woman beyond the counter said that they often do pop-ups and similar events like this, since it’s a great way to reach out to folks and meet other community members.
In front of the El Rincon Oaxaqueno tent, a colorful spot for tacos, quesadillas and other Mexican takeaway treats, two customers giggled their way through half-successful attempts at ordering in Spanish. The kind, patient cashier responded with a big smile as he played along: “Algo mas?” (“Anything else?”)
Other merchandise for sale ranged from exquisite beaded jewelry and calligraphy creations to hammocks from 3 Rivers Outdoor Company. New additions this coming weekend will include The Young Dreamers’ Bookstore, Endless Imagination LLC and Eb Art & Photography.
Funsho Ayanfe of LACRIM WORLD, who learned about World Square from a friend, said, “It’s important to me because it’s a great way to present the brand locally and be part of something great.”
Their brand stocks fashionable African attire that fits individual styles; at the event they’re selling custom-made vintage pieces (shirts and trousers, shorts and T-shirts) as well as some examples of traditional design.
Under a grove, where the remains of daytime rays sliced through the branches, I spied a few happy kids playing on a gigantic Connect 4 set. Back up at the music tent, an African drummer had taken the spotlight, marked by his turquoise-hued instrument and an elaborate, traditional headpiece.
Several uninhibited youngsters swirled to the rhythm while, on the park’s periphery, a few older residents played a casual game of chess and laidback cyclists strolled bikes through the downtown action.
Afterward, we meandered less than 10 minutes to another hub of activity, this time by the water, where the Three Rivers Arts Festival featured even more talented musicians (some with big names!) and tasty local food. This free gathering, which brings electricity to the stretch of land directly across from PNC Park (packed with Pirates loyalists the night we were there), will return again next weekend too. Happy exploring!
Freelance Writer & Editor
Corinne is happy to be back closer to home (D.C.) after 11 years in the glorious Pacific Northwest. Though she cherishes global adventures, she also lives for discovering local gems, from the best spots for coffee, conversation and soul-nourishing music, to water activities and trails on which to walk a loveable little husky. You can follow her on Instagram at @travelcorx