If you Google search the word “Anawanda,” all you’ll find are a few Zillow listings and a 40-acre lake in the Catskills. But for my family, Anawanda is a place for memories.
The corner of Anawanda Avenue and Castle Shannon Boulevard is where my parents lived after they got married in 1967. My dad, Len, was a musician from East Liberty and my mom, Kathleen, was an employee of Pittsburgh National Bank from Penn Hills.
They were poor, but happy. So when they found out they were expecting, they rented an apartment above a tool company where my dad got his first real job loading tools. They didn’t know much about Mt. Lebanon, but they knew it was safe and walkable—necessities when all you have are love and an umbrella stroller. They both worked tirelessly, my dad learning the business and my mom taking care of their growing family.
The tool business wasn’t creative or remotely exciting, but my dad became really good at it. Eventually, they bought the business, the building, an Oldsmobile station wagon and a house on Orchard Drive.
My mom said she’d sometimes take the long way home, just so she could turn into Mission Hills from Washington Road and drive down her beautiful, tree-lined cobblestone street. It gives me chills to think about how proud she must have been.
After 36 years the tool company closed, but the building remained in the family. During those decades, the Anawanda apartment became a home for my grandparents, and then a bachelor pad for my brother, Dean.
Dean started a business downstairs, Sunburst Sportswear, which he later sold to its current owner. It became and still is the home of my sister Dana’s music studio. And just last year Dana opened a pottery studio in the old living room where I can still hear my pop pop playing Alexander’s Ragtime Band on his Kimball organ.
So in 2021 when Dana and I were talking about how cool it would be to have a little place for my daughter Charlotte to sell her jewelry, we knew there was only one place to do it—the parking lot on Anawanda.
We started planning a little garage sale and decided since we had the space, we might as well ask a few other artists to join. The thought of doing something bigger and supporting local artists was really exciting. (For the full story on Charlotte, our inspiration for the festival, check out the online lebomag article from last year.)
As it turns out, artists are longing for more venues to attend, and within a week we had 15 artists scheduled. I obtained a zoning permit from the municipality and our generous neighboring businesses allowed us to use their parking lots. We aptly named it the “Anawanda Arts Festival” and my husband John created a logo, social media graphics and flyers. It was all coming together.
We had no idea if anyone would come. But people did. Lots of people! That very night we decided it should be an annual event. So—shameless promotion coming—I am happy to invite you to the second annual Anawanda Arts Festival on Sunday, September 11, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
You’ll find some really talented artists, Billu’s Indian Grill food truck, live music and an open mic from 1 to 4 p.m.. My mom and dad are planning what may just be the sweetest duet you’ve ever seen.
This little corner of the world, the corner of Anawanda Avenue and Castle Shannon Boulevard, is where so many family memories were made. It’s where my dad became his own boss and where my Uncle Jim and grandfather retired.
It’s where Graham’s doughnuts were eaten every Saturday and where the best practical jokes ever were played. It’s where my mom first gave us super-duper tuck-ins and where Santa delivered our presents.
It’s where my parents literally lived the American dream. And now it is home to this little arts festival, created for my daughter, and on the same blacktop where my brother learned to ride a bike.
We hope you’ll make it out to the festival this year and maybe even make some memories of your own.