Summer and fall converge to make it one of the year’s best months for local events.
1. ReelAbilities Film Festival at SouthSide Works Cinema: September 4-11
A courageous amputee who swims, bikes and runs from Seattle to San Diego. A passionate teen with autism communicating through hip-hop. And the profound experiences of filmmaker Kyle Anne Grendys — the 75th person on the planet to be born with Fraser syndrome. These are some of the compelling true stories that will inspire cinephiles during ReelAbilities. Catch some of these 22 films and accompanying events, including the Pittsburgh premiere of “Bedlam,” the first feature documentary to explore the crisis of caring for mentally ill citizens in ERs, jails and homeless camps. Buy tickets.
2. Pittsburgh Irish Festival at The Lots at Sandcastle: September 6-8
Trace your clan, savor Guinness-infused fudge and sip hearty mead during three days packed with Irish heritage, cuisine and culture. You can try everything from honey made with whiskey to comfort foods like coddle and boxty — all washed down with frothy libations. Try ancient Celtic axe throwing and learn about Highland games, pop into the Cultural Cottage, Scottish Village and Authors’ Corner to get steeped in history and cuddle with Irish canines. And for wee kiddos: the Loch Ness Monster Bounce House and musical demonstrations. Buy tickets.
3. A Fair in the Park in Mellon Park: September 6 – 8
Whether you grew up attending and now take your own kids or you’re new to the Burgh, A Fair in the Park is a great place to kick off back-to-school season with a new crop of original art. Nearly 100 skilled artisans from around Pittsburgh and the U.S. will converge on bucolic Mellon Park to celebrate the golden anniversary of this September staple. New this year: a retrospective looking back at the Fair’s favorite past exhibitors, who will be on hand to talk about their creations, careers and the art world. For multi-sensory fun, check out the live music, artist demonstrations and food trucks.
4. The Bash at City Theatre: September 7, 6:30-11:30 p.m.
If you love contemporary theater, don’t miss this late-summer block party. Throughout City Theatre’s cool Bingham Street campus, bash-goers will be treated to pop-up performances, including a sneak peek of Lauren Yee’s “Cambodian Rock Band” — one of this year’s most talked about plays. Jill Sobule and Liza Birkenmeier will preview their world-premiere show “F*ck7thGrade,” while 1Hood Media and DJ QRX will host a groovy dance party. South Side’s top mixologists will serve signature cocktails, food trucks will sell everything from BBQ to pierogies and don’t miss the new benefit auction featuring globe-trotting theatrical excursions. Buy tickets.
5. Art on Fire Celebration & Auction at Nova Place: September 13, 6-11 p.m.
Things will heat way up at Pittsburgh’s only glass art auction. Love hand-fired glass art but think you can’t afford it? Art on Fire is a terrific opportunity to buy stunning glass objects — from chic dishware and jewelry to bold sculpture — at great values while supporting Pittsburgh Glass Center’s mission. Some 200 pieces of one-of-a-kind work by internationally renowned glassmakers (such as honorary artist Shelley Muzylowski Allen) will be featured in silent and live auctions. The fiery festivities will also feature music by the Pittsburgh Cello Quartet, cocktails from Crown Royal and collaboration brews from the Pink Boots Society. Buy tickets.
6. Jazz Poetry Festival at Alphabet City: September 13-28
If you love cultural happenings, plan to spend most of September on the Northside. Nowhere else in the region can you see 26 poets from 13 countries alongside five national jazz ensembles — all for free. No two Jazz Poetry Festivals are ever alike, because each year brings never-before-seen collaborations between local, national and international writers and musicians. New this year: a showcase of powerhouse female-led jazz groups featuring pianist Mara Rosenbloom and the Flyways with four acclaimed poets. Using language and music to transcend cultural barriers, the dynamic festival helps City of Asylum celebrate global communities and defend freedom of expression. View a schedule.
7. Highmark Blues and Heritage Festival at August Wilson African American Cultural Center: September 20-22
Downtown will rock when legendary blues masters fill the August Wilson Center and spill out onto Liberty Avenue with live music. Inspired by the AWC’s groundbreaking namesake and the iconic genre of blues, the festival reflects the culture of the African Diaspora, celebrates African-American perspectives and inspires new generations through music. Headliners are 12-time Grammy-winning gospel singer CeCe Winans and blues harpist Charlie Musselwhite. Don’t miss Saturday’s free performances by Alton Merrell, Soulful Femme and Third World. It all kicks off at Friday’s Taste of Blues Party with the Billy Price Brand and Cash Box Kings, vendors and luscious BBQ from Pittsburgh’s top chefs. Buy tickets.