Demonstrations of dancing, glass blowing, music and martial arts accompanied balloon creations and food and drink vendors for a multi-faceted celebration in Aspinwall.
The first Big Night Out, presented by advocacy group Aspinwall Neighbors, drew more than 1,500 people to the ballparks on August 11.
Non-profit and community organizations had information booths. The Aspinwall and Sharpsburg Fire Departments, along with Foxwall EMS, brought vehicles for the kids to explore.
“It’s just that the community comes together to have a good time,” said Sarah Shaffer, President of Aspinwall Neighbors. “Everyone goes out to be with their neighbors and have fun. The weather has been perfect. It was a great evening. Our restaurants ran out of food faster than any other year. This is the largest number of people we have ever had. We crushed everyone, there were so many people.
For many years the group held a similar event called National Night Out. With cover charges of $5+, the event served as a fundraiser for local police and emergency services.
Admission was free this year thanks in large part to many sponsors, including Chad Gregorini of State Farm in Aspinwall, Rick Baker of PrintTech and UPMC St. Margaret.
Planning for Big Night Out began in January. More than 30 people volunteered to organize the event.
“We couldn’t do this without the community volunteering their time, our board members, our neighbors,” Shaffer said. “Everyone who has done even a small part of this, none of this would be possible without this group. We are an organization run entirely by volunteers.
Aspinwall Police have raffled off dozens of prizes for children. Officers also provided badge stickers, bags with coloring books and bicycle safety literature.
“It worked out really well,” Police Chief Dave Nemec said. “We had the kids coming in, the parents coming in. We get to interact with both…. It’s a great event because there are so many people, so many families, new faces, new children.
Nemec said there were no problems throughout the day and everyone was in good spirits.
The folks at the Riverfront Theater Company shared their musical talents. Young Brothers Tae Kwon-Do students and instructors gave demonstrations. They also taught some punching and kicking techniques.
Dancers from Sharpsburg-based Art in Motion got people moving in front of the stage.
“You think playing in front of a lot of people, it can definitely be intimidating,” said lead instructor Simon Phillips, of Pittsburgh. “It’s much more fun and relaxing for us to invite people over.
“We like to invite the community (to dance). It doesn’t matter what you look like, whatever your condition. You can join us. It really annoys us to dance with people instead of dancing for people.
There were several recycling and waste stations throughout the grounds. This was part of a partnership with the Pittsburgh Resource Council to make the gathering a zero-waste event, with sponsors and attendees encouraged to use recyclable and compostable materials.
There was an adult drinks area called The Neighborhood Lounge. Distilleries and breweries showcased some of their specialty drinks with volunteers checking IDs at the door.
Pittsburgh Glass Center instructors Beyvan Schantz and Leana Quade demonstrated how they can manipulate glass into beakers and other objects.
They brought a mobile kiln, which heated the materials to around 2,000 degrees, and used steel and wooden tools.
Quade also had fun showing viewers just how thin heated glass could be stretched before it broke.
People interested in attending the next Big Night Out or learning more about its presenters can go to aspinwallneighbors.org.