Western Pennsylvania is home to a wide variety of ethnic groups that have all worked together to build the mosaic of culture, industry, and religion that characterizes our region. In the 1960s and 1970s, cultural groups from McKees Rocks and Stowe Township would come together to hold the Sto-Rox Nationality Festival to celebrate this diverse heritage. The festival began in 1969 with the aim to “generate a spirit of cooperation and sharing of cultural backgrounds and ideas from the many nationality groups and peoples in this area.” Participants included groups representing the African-American, Carpatho-Russian, Croatian, German, Greek, Irish, Israeli, Italian, Lebanese, Lithuanian, Native American, Polish, Scottish, Serbian, and Ukrainian communities.
The Sto-Rox Nationality Festival was the combined effort of multiple religious and civic organizations hoping to not only highlight their unique heritage but also learn about and appreciate the culture of their neighbors and friends. The festival consisted of food stands and informational booths created for each of the participating groups as well as a parade and several musical and dance performances. A sampling of these performers includes the Masterson School of Irish Dancing, Trinity A.M.E. Zion Vesper and Youth Choir, Israeli Rishona Dancers of Hashachar, American Indian dancers, and Folklore D’Italia. The festival lasted for three days in September with multiple groups performing each night.
The Sto-Rox Nationality Festival Records in the Thomas and Katherine Detre Library and Archives consists of scrapbooks containing photographs of festival participants and events, programs listing brief histories of each nationality group and the daily schedule of performances, and newspaper clippings featuring stories about the preparation and events of the festival. The collection’s finding aid can be found here.
Each year the festival programs also contained recipes from the different cultural groups. These recipes include desserts, entrees, appetizers, and side dishes that reflect the variety of culinary dishes found in each culture. Below is a recipe from the Irish booth at the 1976 festival. As the motto on the festival program states, the Sto-Rox Nationality Festival was indeed “Something to crow about!”