Festival promotes family, food, fun

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by Genea Webb

For New Pittsburgh Courier

Helping others is something that Cynthia Long enjoys doing.

When she learned that her home church, First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Clairton was trying to raise money for expenses, she knew she had to help.

“Since the church is trying to raise money, I tried to think of something that would reach out to the whole Clairton community,” said Long, who lives in Atlanta but was born and raised in Clairton and First AME.

Enter the Family Fun Festival.

The free event ran daily from July 22-25 and featured career and motivation seminars, jazz by local Pittsburgh musicians, a mime contest, food, children’s games, raffles and a tribute to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

“I decided to have career and motivational seminars to help students who want to further their education and learn career direction,” Long said. “The Michael Jackson tribute came because I’ve always liked Michael ever since I was a kid.”

The seminars were taught by Clairton-based attorney Burrell Brown and retired teacher, Wanda Allen.

All activities were held outside First AME Church, 177 Mitchell Ave.

“It has been a time of fellowship and unity and a time to put (Clairton’s) bad rap behind us,” said Rev. Dr. Judith C. Moore when asked what she thought about the festival. “We wanted to show that Clairton is a great community.”

From the people in attendance, that was easily shown.

“It’s a nice thing and I think it should be going on each summer because it allows people to come together and catch up,” said Joan Luckey, Morning Star Baptist Church member and Clairton, who attended the festival.

Lifelong First AME member, Gregory Stewart agreed with Luckey.

“We used to have street fairs years ago but with the declining population of Clairton we stopped it. But this festival will generate interest in our church and hopefully this will become an annual event and those who supported us this year will support us again.”

Sally Belland-Austin, church trustee board member and Family Fun Festival organizer, said the event was a way for the church and the Clairton community to stay connected.

“We thought we’d do this to help keep families together,” Belland-Austin said.

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