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Is the Arts Festival Cursed with Rain? You Decide.

With the start of the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburghers are asking the annual question: Is it going to rain at the festival again this year?

Photo courtesy pittsburgh cultural trust


The Three Rivers Arts Festival is celebrating its 60th year, and while the festivities attract more than 500,000 visitors each year, it always seems to bring rainy weather along, too. But is this rainy weather stigma true?

For the past three years, there have been scattered showers and a couple thunderstorms during the Arts Festival, according to the National Weather Service. However, these periods of rain have typically occurred in the first half of the festival, while the remainder experienced beautiful weather.

“I think it’s a myth,” says Chuck Beard, art director at Pittsburgh Magazine. “This is my sixth year as a vendor at the festival, and I’ve never had a major problem with the rain.” According to Beard, the wind is actually much worse than the rain because vendors’ products may blow away or get damaged, such as he experienced five years ago when a piece valued at $600 was damaged by the wind.

Katie Koenig, a local artist and vendor at the festival, remembered that same storm five years ago, during her first experience as a vendor.

photo by dave dicello


“During tear down, we had a severe thunderstorm warning along with warnings of flash flooding and a tornado,” said Koenig. “My husband held both the corner of my tent and my neighbor’s tent to keep them from blowing away. I was really lucky that nothing was damaged, but I know a lot of artists lost their displays or work due to the storm.”

While the rain and wind were detrimental for some artists and vendors, painter Mike Schiavone finds that inclement weather can have some perks, too. “My tent is fancy and pretty much waterproof, so I always invite attendees to shelter in my tent when the rain is heavy, which is always fun! It turns into a little party!”

This year, it looks like there will be scattered showers in the beginning of the Arts Festival, according to meteorologist Shannon Hefferan at the National Weather Service. “There will be periods in the day where it will be nice, don’t get me wrong, but that first week of the festival is predicted to be kind of wet, raining off and on, with the low-pressure system lingering.”

As for whether the festival’s rainy reputation is deserved, that’s up to you to decide.

“I believe that it does rain every year during the festival, but that the belief has become more of a myth. With a 10-day festival in Pittsburgh, we are bound to get rain at some point,” said Koenig.

“Our severe weather period is from May until July, so the festival falls in the middle of when we typically experience severe storms and that type of weather,” said Hefferan. “That being said, I won’t say no to the rain theory.”

With Pittsburgh’s ever-so-loved unpredictable weather, though, the forecast will most likely change, according to Hefferan. Who knows? Most of the festival could happen under clear and sunny skies.

Click here for daily updates from the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

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