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Post Pandemic Pause, Pittsburgh's Picklesburgh Festival Proceeds

Picklesburgh returns this week. After going dark last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the big, pickle-themed Downtown festival will take over The Andy Warhol Bridge and a swath of Fort Duquesne Boulevard for three days with pickled food, beverages and more.

In 2019, event organizer the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership estimated that 200,000 people attended the festival — the fifth since its founding in 2015. The year’s Picklesburgh — the sixth — will be “bigger than ever,” according to the PDP, but that’s mostly because the event’s footprint will take over an extra block of Fort Duquesne Boulevard. And the three dozen vendors will actually be a bit fewer than usual — all of which should help patrons of the outdoor event with physical distancing to help stem the spread of COVID-19.

“There’s going to be more space. There’s going to be more seating,” said Russell Howard, PDP’s vice president for special events and development. “I think people are going to feel very comfortable being outdoors at this event.”

Organizers will require unvaccinated attendees to wear facemasks.

Otherwise, Picklesburgh will be familiar to past attendees. Vendors will offer not only traditional pickles but also Asian delicacies, ice cream, candy, sauerkraut, stuffed pretzels and artisanal cocktails with a pickled flavor profile. Two stages, on Fort Duquesne Boulevard and at the north end of the Warhol Bridge, will host live music.

Another abiding attraction is the Pickle Juice Drinking Contest.

“It’s no-holds-barred, it’s great fun, it’s who can drink a quart of pickle juice in the shortest amount of time,” said Howard. “It’s hotly contested. There’s a lot of competitive tonality between the different neighborhoods, between the different people.”

Howard said competitors have even traveled from outside Pittsburgh. Preliminary rounds begin Friday, with the finals on Sunday; the winner will be crowned “Mayor of Picklesburgh” and receive a $500 prize.

Picklesburgh runs from noon-10 p.m. Fri., Aug. 20, and Sat., Aug. 21, and noon-6 p.m. on Sun., Aug. 22. Admission is free.

The festival is presented by Kraft Heinz, whose oversized dill pickle balloon will adorn the Warhol Bridge. More information is here.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: bodriscoll@wesa.fm