The July market’s brew-off inspired the Oktoberfest celebration. (Courtesy PGHRetail)

by Lindsay Allen

Crowds  gathered in Brighton Heights from the Northside and across Pittsburgh on Saturday for the last of the California Markets summer series. Brighton Heights adds fifth market to summer lineup
Stephanie Stauffer, organizer of the event series and founder of PGH Retail, did not know what to expect of the Markets idea from the outset.

“We didn’t really know what was going to happen,” said Stauffer. “Before, when I started looking around, working with the BHCF [Brighton Heights Citizens Federation] for this grant project, it [the business quarter of California Avenue] was half empty vacant retail lots.”

As the summer progressed and each market, occurring of the second Saturdays of June, July, August, and September, grew more people to the area, Stauffer saw a positive change in the community.

“By the time we got to July, it was up to 89 percet capacity. There’s only one vacant storefront at this moment. Three different stores opened to the public,” said Stauffer. “It was kind of dual purpose: to draw attention to Brighton Heights and to the city in general and to bring people in that might not have been there and to also bring our community out.”

Overall, she thinks the markets succeeded with engaging the community and is impressed with the turnout.

“We got a really great turn out in the beginning, and then as the summer went on, we were definitely competing with other markets and other events happening at the same time, so it was a bit of a learning curve,” said Stauffer. “We got a lot of our community out, but it was a little tougher reaching out to other folks from outside the community involved because there were so many other different things that were going on.”

Each month’s market had its own theme: an artful crosswalk and wine tasting in June, a barbeque cook-off and homemade beer brew-off in July, a puppet and drum parade in August, and a fashion show and family pageant in September.

“Each month had its own engagement because each was directed at different markets,” said Stauffer.

The success of July’s home brew-off inspired organizers to host a fifth market on the evening of October 12with an Oktoberfest theme.

Brighton Heights can also expect another line-up of events at the California Markets next summer, and Stauffer is eager to cater to the community’s suggestions.

“We would like to have more input to see what we can do differently. It’s all about our community,” said Stauffer. “I think we were really successful in bringing our own community out and drawing attention to our community and our local businesses, and it has also brought people from outside the community who really enjoyed being there and want to come back.”

Lindsay Allen studies at the University of Pittsburgh and hails from Eastern Pa.