Summer events set to return as Erie County pandemic restrictions ease
Now that Erie is starting to open up again after dealing with the pandemic for over a year, many local festivals and celebrations will return.
The Italian Erie Festival, sponsored by St. Paul’s Catholic Church, is scheduled for August 6-8, and Zabawa, the popular Polish festival hosted by the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, will also be back in August. The German Heritage Festival is scheduled for September 4-5 in St. Nick’s Grove and the Wild Rib Cookoff will also return to Perry Square in September. More than 600 people have already registered to participate in the Barber National Institute’s Beast on the Bay, scheduled for September 11 at Presque Isle State Park.
Unfortunately, it is too late for the volunteers at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church to resume their efforts for the Irish Festival. These types of events require months and months of planning, and St. Pat’s, unlike St. Paul’s and Holy Trinity, does not have a building to store equipment for the festival. But St. Pat’s volunteers are committed to making the Irish Fest 2022 bigger and better than ever.
• Glad to hear that Ron Sertz, Erie’s longtime sports manager and promoter, is feeling good again after a grueling experience in January. After undergoing cancer surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, Sertz, upon discharge, had a sudden loss of consciousness and had a nasty fall. “I fell and landed on my face, which I wouldn’t recommend,” Sertz said.
He broke his neck, his nose in two places and suffered numerous fractures and grazes on his face. Sertz spent another three weeks in the hospital recovering from all of his injuries. The good news is his recovery is going well and he said he was feeling better every day. “As Mark Twain once said,” Ron joked, “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
• When he was longtime athletic director of Cathedral Prep, Sertz’s office was located in the West Tenth Street building which is being razed to make way for the school’s elaborate new addition. The tunnel that led to Prep’s cafeteria is gone, and the plaques that were painted on the concrete walls in honor of the school’s Hall of Fame members are gone.
A mural depicting memorable moments in Prep’s history has also been removed, but the new building promises to provide exceptional amenities for students.
• On the recommendation of Aaron McKrell, I just finished James Conner’s book, “Fear is a Choice”, in which professional football star Erie shares his experiences during his battle with cancer. It’s impossible not to encourage Conner after reading this inspiring book.
The former Pittsburgh Steelers running back now has new life as a member of the Arizona Cardinals, which should allow even Cleveland Browns fans to shoot for him.
• When TV’s Gavin MacLeod passed away last week at age 90, I remembered a story Tim Conway told about his old friend when they both starred on summer shows for kids. Kenley Players. John Kenley of Erie started this theater company.
Conway told MacLeod that he just landed a role on a TV show called “McHale’s Navy.” MacLeod moved quickly and was added to the cast as well. This led to a long television career for MacLeod, who went on to appear on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Love Boat”.
• Heard that John Melody’s new Pier 6 rooftop bar and restaurant, located just south of the Courtyard by Marriott, may open at the end of the month. The new facility offers stunning views of Presque Isle Bay. In the past, when I pissed off Melody about the opening dates of her new restaurants, her response in that rich Irish accent is always the same. “It will be open when it is open,” he said.
• Gordon Lightfoot is back in Erie for a concert on August 14 at the Erie Insurance Arena, which should please his local fans. At 82, Lightfoot’s voice isn’t what it used to be, but that won’t deter those who love to hear him sing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” once again.
• Kathleen Getz, the new president of Mercyhurst University, made a good first impression when she recently visited Erie College and met with staff. Getz, who worked for several years in Erie in what was then Mellon Bank, knows the area well, which is one of the reasons she and her family wanted to return.
• The City of Pittsburgh plans to celebrate June 16 in style this year from June 18-27. The festival is expected to draw thousands of people to Pittsburgh to mark a major celebration for African Americans and people of all colors.
• The recent death of singer BJ Thomas at the age of 78 was reminiscent of his days as headlining at the Erie Summer Festival of the Arts. At the end of his show, Thomas sat down at the edge of the stage and chatted and joked for almost an hour with a fairly large gathering of fans. I remember a woman from Akron saying it was the 23rd time she had traveled to see Thomas in concert.
• During a recent vacation in San Francisco, a puma was captured near our hotel. Forest fires have pushed many wild animals onto the streets there. On a drive to Monterey, a fire department extinguished a small fire near the freeway. The grass is so dry that little fires are breaking out all the time. The amount of smoke from even that small fire left you choking.
Kevin Cuneo can be reached at [email protected].