It was seven days shorter than usual, but the Three Rivers Arts Festival, now under the management of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, returned last week to a refurbished Point State Park to celebrate its 50th year.
After being a ward of the Carnegie Museums -- the last few of those years financially troubled -- the popular annual festival has a future that is no longer in question, if its latest run is any indication.
Two years spent in exile while Point State Park underwent rehabilitation couldn't kill the event's spirit. Downsized, but spiritually rejuvenated, the arts-music-and-food fest returned to the spot where old friends could find it and new friends could bask in its cleaner, more eco-friendly ambience.
The performance stage with its eclectic lineup of local and national acts returned. Crowds for the Wailers and the Black Keys were large and enthusiastic. Food vendors reported record sales. Long lines at the Artists Market made up for the indifference of previous years. People were buying art and crafts again.
Unfortunately, the Cultural Trust didn't have time to negotiate the quality gallery, plaza and sidewalk space that the festival needs to showcase public art properly. Original visual art will return in 2010, reclaiming its place as an integral part of the show.
Attendees and sponsors were pleased with the retooled festival and feedback was overwhelmingly positive, according to the organizers. The public may even see days added next time. Now that the Three Rivers Arts Festival has gotten its second wind, it's bound to make it another 50 years.