By Abby Yoder, 90.5 WESA
Ferment Pittsburgh together with the City of Pittsburgh and several partners organized a first-of-its-kind, county fair-themed festival which took place Sunday, September 17 at Allegheny Commons Park West on the North Shore. The inaugural fair was free to all and focused on promoting local businesses and healthy urban agricultural lifestyles.
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The day featured a variety of hands-on demonstrations and presentations, workshops, contests, live music, farm animals and local food and beer.
Attendees like Jenna DelMonte spent time bottle feeding baby animals, brought by Barnyard Petting Zoo.
“I came to the county fair because I was really interested in seeing what Pittsburgh’s first county fair truly had to offer,” said DelMonte, who added that she was not disappointed. “I was able to feed a baby cow that was really furry, a couple of goats and a pig.”
Visitors could also feed alpacas, donkeys, and sheep — all of the farm animals were less than a year old.
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Live bands, contests and other on-stage events took place throughout the day. The stage kicked off with a classic fair event, a “sweetheart calling” contest. Later in the day, the fair closed out with a unique event called “the Thresh Thrash,” which featured beans being threshed to live thrash metal music.
A contest took place to decide which Yinzer grew the best tomato in Pittsburgh.
Fair-goers were encouraged to bring their homegrown tomatoes. An impromptu board of community participants got to judge.
The Allegheny County Conservation District provided a free, pop up soil testing station to educate visitors on soil health. Attendees could bring garden soil samples to be tested for lead and other harmful chemicals.
“Lead can be a very serious contaminant,” explained Hayly Hoch, natural resources outreach educator. “It’s pretty common in urban green spaces as a result of old infrastructure that utilized lead paint, previous use of leaded gasoline, and pollution from industry here in the region.”
The fair featured several “make-your-own” hands-on demonstrations, from make-your-own sauerkraut to churn-your-own sunflower seed oil.
Visitors were also encouraged to let out some feelings at the “emotional compost” stand by writing feelings on a slip of paper and using a pitchfork to bury the note into a compost pile.
Workshops that took place throughout the day included how to ferment foods, beekeeping and mushroom cultivation — all led by local experts. Local gardeners were also encouraged to bring their unique plant stories to share at the plant stories section of the farm show.
There was no shortage of homemade food either, from a hot dog stand and fresh-jarred pickles, to homemade sweets and free buckets of fruit.