Why, and how, are Pittsburgh residents trying to avoid Little Italy Days? | Pittsburgh City Paper

Why, and how, are Pittsburgh residents trying to avoid Little Italy Days?

click to enlarge Why, and how, are Pittsburgh residents trying to avoid Little Italy Days?
CP Photo: Rayni Shiring
A Terrible Italian Towel at Pittsburgh's Little Italy Days on Fri., Aug. 19, 2022
How can an event meant to celebrate the cultural richness of a neighborhood produce such divisiveness?

The social pendulum for Little Italy Days, an annual festival that, for just over two decades, has highlighted Bloomfield's Italian heritage, swings between such extremes that it's impossible to ignore. On one hand, the festival does attract thousands of visitors to Liberty Avenue — around 100,000 attendees each year, according to organizer Sal Richetti — so, clearly, there's a demand for it.

On the other hand, those living in the heavily residential neighborhood have expressed increasing amounts of rage over the growth and direction of the festival, which they view as a major, short-term disruption to their lives. That the festival also, they believe, gives little back to the community — something pointed out in a Sopranos-themed meme recently posted by the Pittsburgh Personifed Instagram account — has only added to public dissatisfaction.

The ire has manifested in a number of ways, from the @lil_italy_days parody account to a short documentary showing how the festival went from a quaint, community celebration to an alcohol-fueled mess of outside vendors hocking gutters and deep-fried Oreos. The claims of racism don't help either.

Business owners on Liberty have also voiced frustration with the event, even going as far as to close up shop over its duration (this year, the festival takes place from Aug. 17-Aug. 20). This includes Linea Verde Green Market and Thyme Machine, a local sandwich pop-up that dubbed the festival "Little Evacuation Days" in an Instagram post.

If many see "evacuation" as the only option, then what, exactly, are people — specifically Bloomfield residents — doing to avoid Little Italy Days?

When Pittsburgh City Paper posed this question on social media, the responses were varied. Some have opted to attend other events, including, in Twitter user @jtrpgh's case, Steel City Ska Fest, a weekend music festival taking place at Spirit in Lawrenceville.

"Generally staying home but might make exceptions for the Bloomfield Saturday Market and the Italian Feast Fundraiser for Shepherd Wellness," says Twitter user @sam_shur, referring to a Bloomfield-based organization that helps people living with HIV/AIDS.

Some Bloomfielders plan to stay home, either voluntarily or not so voluntarily. Twitter user Tyler McAndrew (@tyler_tyler_tyl) says he's "very much staying home," while Twitter user @PiratesSign says they plan on, quote, "Mostly hunkering down and watching New Girl. Will get groceries tomorrow, make sure to park the car and don't move it. Sneak down to Angelo's, Pleasure Bar, Paddy Cake and any other Bloomfield businesses' booths. Complain on the internet."

"Trapped because if we move our cars, we won't ever get a parking space when we return home!" replied Twitter user @BWStdentService.

While most replies were less than enthusiastic, at least one user seemed excited, proving that love still exists for the festival.

"Not avoiding it. Embracing it. My parents are traveling out from Baltimore for it," says Twitter user @TheWillardYears.

Pro-Palestine protestors demonstrate a die-in
20 images