The 25th edition of the Cambria City Ethnic Festival was off to a roaring start Friday afternoon.
Monsignor Raymond Balta of St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church, a festival organizer and coordinator, said the festival had a good crowd from the time it opened at 4 p.m.
The event is off to a better start than last year, he said.
“They’re seeing old friends and making new friends,” he said. “They’re enjoying the polka music and enjoying the ethnic food.”
New to the festival is an Irish-themed event at the former St. Columba School on the 900 block of Chestnut Street.
Hosted by the The Alternative Community Resource Program, ACRP, which owns the building and uses it for its programs, and Our Lady of Knock Cambria County Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the event features Irish music along with presentations about Irish history and culture.
Bill McKinney of the Hibernarians said they are “really excited about bringing back to life the upper end of the Chestnut Street Midway for the ethnic festival.
“We’re hoping this will be another anchor for the ethnic festival and that the areas will fill in as the years go by,” he added
Frank Janakovic, executive director of ACRP, said a new outdoor playground at the school is available for children to use throughout the festival.
Ray and Amy Falbo of Greensburg have been coming to the ethnic festival and visiting friends since the festival began.
“We like supporting the local churches,” Amy Falbo said while eating at Holy Cross Lutheran Church on Chestnut Street. “The food is delicious and the entertainment is terrific.”
Paul Kushner, co-chairman of the Holy Cross event, said that beyond the food and entertainment, the church was able to welcome several ministries to be a part of its event,” he said.
A youth mentoring program from the YMCA, the Gabriel Project from St. Francis Roman Catholic Church, and Veteran Community Initiatives are the ministries, he said.
Don Gates, a co-owner of Parrot Bay Catering of Chesnut Street, said with the Hibernarians and ACRP hosting a big event, more people are being drawn to his end of Chestnut Street.
“The event is off to a much better start than last year,” he said.
Susan Bigot of California was one of a number of people who took tours of the Cambria City churches.
“The churches are beautiful,” she said as she exited Resurrection Roman Catholic Church. “They’re like the European churches. “They’re magnificent.”
Betty Sestrich, who was working the bakery booth at Resurrection Church with Pat Lushko and Eileen Elder, said business was brisk.
Sharon Burnheimer and Helen Rosage, who were selling instant bingo games at Resurrection, said they had many winners by late Friday afternoon.
Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FrankNews10.