Summer time occasions set to return as Erie County pandemic restrictions ease

Now that Erie is starting to open up again after coping with the pandemic for more than a year, many local festivals and celebrations will return.

Erie’s Italian Festival, sponsored by St. Paul Catholic Church, is set for Aug. 6-8, and Zabawa, the popular Polish festival hosted by Holy Trinity Catholic Church, will also return in August. The German Heritage Festival is scheduled for Sept. 4-5 at St. Nick’s Grove and the Wild Rib Cookoff will also return to Perry Square in September. More than 600 people have already signed up to participate in the Barber National Institute’s Beast on the Bay, set for Sept. 11 at Presque Isle State Park.

Things to do:Find summer concerts, festivals and more events to attend in the Erie area in 2021

Unfortunately, it’s too late for the volunteers at St. Patrick Catholic Church to restart efforts for the Irish Festival. These types of events require months and months of planning, and St. Pat’s, unlike St. Paul’s and Holy Trinity, does not have a building to store the equipment for the festival. But St. Pat’s volunteers pledge to bring the Irish Fest back in 2022, bigger and better than ever.

The Zabawa Polish Festival is scheduled for Aug. 27-29 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Erie.

• Glad to hear that Ron Sertz, Erie’s longtime sports executive and promoter, is feeling well again after a harrowing experience in January. After having cancer surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, Sertz, upon his discharge, had a sudden blackout and took a nasty fall. “I fell and landed on my face, which is something I wouldn’t recommend,” Sertz said.

He broke his neck, his nose in two places, and suffered numerous facial fractures and abrasions. Sertz spent another three weeks in the hospital recovering from all his wounds. The good news is that his recovery is going well and he said he’s feeling better every day. “As Mark Twain once said,” Ron joked, “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

More:Ron Sertz steps away from Erie Sports Commission

• When he served as Cathedral Prep’s longtime athletic director, Sertz’s office was located in the building on West Tenth Street that is being razed to make way for the school’s elaborate new addition. The tunnel that led to Prep’s cafeteria is no more, and gone are the plaques that were painted on the concrete walls in honor of the school’s hall of fame members.

A mural depicting memorable moments in Prep’s history has also been removed, but the new building promises to offer some outstanding amenities for students.

More:Construction of Salata Technology and Innovation Center begins at Cathedral Prep

Erie native and Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner carries the ball during against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y. on Dec. 13.

• At Aaron McKrell’s recommendation, I just completed James Conner’s book, “Fear Is a Choice,” in which Erie’s pro football star shares his experiences during his battle against cancer. It’s impossible not to cheer for Conner after reading this inspirational book.

More:Author, McDowell grad McKrell explores Soul of Erie sports in new book

The former Pittsburgh Steelers running back is now getting new life as a member of the Arizona Cardinals, which should allow even Cleveland Browns fans to pull for him.

To the Cardindals:Erie’s Conner signs with Arizona Cardinals, ending his time with Steelers

• When TV’s Gavin MacLeod died last week at 90, I was reminded of a story Tim Conway told about his old friend when they both starred in summer shows for the Kenley Players. Erie’s John Kenley started that theatrical company.

Conway entioned to MacLeod that he’d just landed a role in a TV show called “McHale’s Navy.” MacLeod moved fast and was also added to the cast. It led to a long TV career for MacLeod, who went on to star in the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Love Boat.”

More:Gavin MacLeod, ‘Love Boat’ and ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ actor, dies at 90

• I hear that John Melody’s new Pier 6 Rooftop Bar and Restaurant, located just south of the Courtyard by Marriott, could open as soon as later this month. The new establishment offers fabulous views of Presque Isle Bay. In the past, when I’ve bugged Melody about opening dates for his new restaurants, his reply in that deep Irish brogue is always the same. “It’ll be open when it’s open,” he says.

More:Jennie Geisler: Pier 6 Rooftop Bar & Restaurant nears opening on Erie’s bayfront

Gordon Lightfoot

• Gordon Lightfoot is returning to Erie for an Aug. 14 concert at Erie Insurance Arena, which should please his local fans. At 82, Lightfoot’s voice is not what it was, but that won’t deter those who love hearing him sing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” one more time.

• Kathleen Getz, the new president of Mercyhurst University, made a good first impression when she recently visited the Erie college and met with staff members. Getz, who worked for several years in Erie at what was then Mellon Bank, is familiar with the region, which is one reason why she and her family wanted to return.

More:Kathleen Getz to replace Michael Victor and become 13th president of Erie’s Mercyhurst University

• The city of Pittsburgh is planning to celebrate Juneteenth in a big way this year from June 18-27. The festival is expected to attract thousands to Pittsburgh to mark a major celebration for African-Americans and people of all colors.

More:Juneteenth: PA Supreme Court orders judicial system to observe Black emancipation anniversary

• The recent death of singer B.J. Thomas at 78 brought back memories of the time he headlined Erie’s Summer Festival of the Arts. At the end of his show, Thomas sat down at the edge of the stage and chatted and joked for nearly an hour with a pretty large gathering of fans. I remember a woman from Akron saying it was the 23rd time she’d traveled to see Thomas in concert.

More:B.J. Thomas, who sang ‘Hooked on a Feeling,’ ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,’ dies at 78

• During a recent vacation in San Francisco, a mountain lion was captured near our hotel. Wildfires have driven many wild animals into the streets there. During a drive to Monterey, a unit of firefighters put out a small fire near the freeway. The grass is so dry that little fires erupt all the time. The amount of smoke from even that small blaze left you choking.

Kevin Cuneo can be reached at

Columnist Kevin Cuneo.

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