The Wilkinsburg CDC recently kicked of their inaugural The Wilkinsburg Two Way Street Fest, a celebration of the strong bonds of community and a concerted effort to change the landscape of a once bustling epicenter. About 50 vendors lined Wood Street, which is currently under planning for a conversion from one-way to two-way for increased business exposure and traffic flow. A bounce house, climbing wall, doggie treat station, food trucks, complementary adult beverages, and even an extreme pogo stick team were on hand to usher in a new wave of hope and excitement.
Wilkinsburg has been the subject of mostly negative media over the years, as drugs and crime take precedence over all of the hard work and progress that’s actually being made, but with this event, and an influx of art and more prevalent community groups, the landscape is vastly changing for the good.
“I’m so happy to see the city putting in an effort into the people of our town. We love it here and our community is not all about crime and drugs. We have kids, we have hopes and dreams like everyone else. I’m happy that we’re not being forgotten,” said Mary E., an event goer.
In addition to the street vendors, an outside organization joined forces with the CDC to offer more engagement. The Sanctuary Project Block Party for Peace held games and other activities for kids. Also on tap for the day, members of the skate community put on a free skate jam and workshop.
“Man, this is great for my kids. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this in the years I’ve lived here. I don’t know if my son would have ever even known what a rock wall was if it wasn’t for this event,” said Patrick Jones, an event attendee.
Often, we look at urban neighborhoods like they’re the Serengeti, driving through and never really seeing the fabric of the town. I’m just as guilty as the next person. My father owned an eye practice on Wood Street for 10 years. I spent a formidable amount of time getting fish sandwiches, writing people’s license plate numbers in my official spy journal, and wondering when in heaven’s name we were going back home. It was cool place to be. It was busy, very busy. My parents bought my first turtle from a pet store in Wilkinsburg. Tragically, Leroy didn’t make it very long under my rule.
Wilkinsburg was a place I felt safe as a kid. It certainly wasn’t home, but it was a place I found comfort, and I suspect many other people who do call it home, find comfort as well. As the WCDC continues to produce family friendly gatherings with a twist, they will foster a sense of definable community with tangible opportunities.
For more information on the WCDC, visit them online.
Photos by Julie Kahlbaugh