The City of Black and Gold turned green last weekend and, yes, it was a big dill.
Picklesburgh returned to Pittsburgh on Friday for its fifth year, bigger than ever. After expanding to from two days to three in 2016, Picklesburgh doubled in size this year, moving beyond the confines of the Roberto Clemente Bridge onto the riverside lanes of Ft. Duquesne Boulevard.
Previous years saw around 200,000 people in attendance, although organizers have yet to announce a total for this year. But despite the bridge being closed at times to handle the large crowds, all was kosher.
“It is really hard for us to wrap our heads around how many people are coming,” said Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “It gives us a reason to show off Downtown.”
The festival, free to pickle aficionados and all others, is a production of the PDP, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering economic vitality and improving the quality of life for residents and businesses.
Organizers were thrilled when Picklesburgh was voted the No. 1 specialty food festival in America by USA Today in the spring, and coverage from Yahoo! News has helped raise its profile as well. But when Good Morning America broadcast live from the city on Thursday ahead of the best stretch of weather this summer, Waldrup and his colleagues were just pickled – er, tickled.
“We have a number of Downtown restaurants that participate in the event itself, but we always hear that the brick-and-mortar stores have so many more customers because of all the people coming to the event,” Waldrup said. “That is exactly what we want – to call attention to all the city has to offer throughout the year.”
Attendees enjoyed creative dishes prepared by multiple vendors, a variety of musical acts, demonstrations on how to prepare pickles, and, of course, the pickle juice drinking championship won by defending champ Joe Moore, who took the $500 prize and retained the title Mayor of Picklesburgh.
Among the competitors Moore defeated were contestants from Massachusetts, and somewhere in the crowd was a group of five women from St. Louis who flew through Pittsburgh International Airport just to attend the festival.
That’s something Waldrup and his team never expected when planning the first Picklesburgh.
“Five years ago, we had a slow weekend in July and the Pirates were out of town,” he said. “We were looking for ways to support Downtown businesses and the community. This has done that and more.”
PDP promotes Picklesburgh as “a culinary celebration that goes beyond the dill pickle to include international dishes, prepared foods and artisan cocktails that feature pickled ingredients.” But, in short, Picklesburgh is really what Pittsburgh is about – gathering with friends old and new to celebrate something special about our city. And that we can all relish.