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New music fest to celebrate coal and coke heritage of region

Music Festival
5/6/2008 —

A new regional music festival will debut September 27 at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus in Uniontown, Pa. A committee of community representatives has been working for more than nine months to design the Coal and Coke Heritage Music Festival, which will celebrate the music, arts and culture indigenous to the coal and coke region of southwestern Pennsylvania, and the pride and progress these industries fostered. A multigenerational and multicultural event, the festival will offer a full day of musical entertainment of all kinds, as well as ethnic food of the region.

The music festival—which should draw visitors from several states—was unveiled at a May 6 press conference and a Business After Hours event held on campus for regional business leaders.

Penn State Fayette Chancellor Emmanuel Osagie says he got the idea for the festival after he came to the area a little more than a year ago and discovered that southwestern Pennsylvania has a unique history and culture. “I have spent a good deal of time in such places as New Orleans and the Philadelphia area, where annual music festivals bring people together. There is a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm each year for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Philadelphia Folk Festival. A similar event seemed like a perfect fit for this area, where a unique history and the melding of so many cultures deserve celebrating.”

A committee was formed in the summer of 2007 and the Coal and Coke Music Festival took shape as individuals from the Fayette County area participated and gave the festival life.

The Coal and Coke Heritage Music Festival will feature a wide range of musical genera, including jazz, folk, country, polka, gospel, bluegrass and much more. Several musical entertainers have already signed on, such as local music icon Harold Betters, NewLanders, Simple Gifts, FiddleKicks, River City Brass Band, The Fabulous Softwinds, Lisa Yvonne Ferraro, and Ferla-Marcinizyn Guitar Duo.

Gina Jones, committee chairman, life-long Fayette County resident and instructor at Penn State Fayette, says, “This festival will offer something for everyone—young and old alike. Keeping the history and culture of this coal and coke region alive is especially important for our youth and young professionals, and passing on the rich traditions from one generation to the next is valuable. Having an opportunity to bring so many people together to celebrate our history, music and cultures is rewarding. It will be a lot of fun!”

The day-long music festival will take place on Penn State Fayette’s 100-acre campus. There will be multiple stages, food vendor booths, arts and crafts displays, and the Coal and Coke Heritage Center will be open for browsing and tours.

The Coal and Coke Heritage Music Festival Web site will provide up-to-date information about the festival as new musical entertainers sign on and other educational-related activities are finalized.

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