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Pittsburgh parade celebrates city’s 200-year history

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Pittsburgh parade celebrates city’s 200-year history

Yuanyuan Xiao / For The Pitt News

Yuanyuan Xiao / For The Pitt News

Yuanyuan Xiao / For The Pitt News

Yuanyuan Xiao / For The Pitt News

By Yuanyuan Xiao / For The Pitt News

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Thousands of Pittsburghers filled the streets of Downtown Saturday morning to wish their city a happy 200th birthday.

The Office of Mayor Bill Peduto organized the bicentennial parade, which was themed around the area’s history, to celebrate Pittsburgh officially becoming an incorporated city in 1816. The parade, which lasted about two hours, started from Liberty Avenue and 11th Street and finished at Point State Park.

More than 100 Pittsburgh organizations participated in the parade, including the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Rotary Club and cultural heritage groups from 22 countries.

Notable Pittsburghers, including former football player Franco Harris, former baseball player Kent Tekulve – who played when the Pirates won the 1979 World Series – and former professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino, also joined the parade. People dressed as historical figures from Pittsburgh — including Mr. Rogers, Andy Warhol and Andrew Carnegie — waved to spectators as they passed.

Four hundred descendants of Pittsburgh’s past mayors, most flying in from across the country and some across continents, marched carrying banners about their family contributions to the city. Herbert Denny, the fourth great-grandson of first Pittsburgh mayor Ebenezer Denny, said his ancestor’s biggest achievement was constructing and improving Pittsburgh’s roads and wharves.

“At that time, wharves were very important because the boat traffic in the river was vital for commerce,”  Denny said. “That’s what he accomplished while he was in office as the first mayor.”

Ebenezer Denny, who was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, got his start in government in 1797 as an Allegheny County commissioner. He was the treasurer of Allegheny County from 1808 until 1812, when he returned to the army for the War of 1812. Denny then served as Pittsburgh’s mayor from 1816 to 1817.

“[The bicentennial celebration] is a great festivity and it’s great that everybody showed up,” Denny said. “To get that many people in one place is an accomplishment and we have to give credit to the mayor’s office and Gloria Forouzan [the mayor’s office manager] for coordinating us.”

Jackie Lowrie, a descendent of Mayor Matthew Lowrie, who served from 1830 to 1831, said she has been traveling between Texas and Pennsylvania since last year to look up ancestors. According to Lowrie, Mayor Lowrie- her fourth great-uncle – isn’t the family’s only link to public service. His brother Walter was the only U.S. senator ever elected from Butler County before becoming the Secretary of the Senate and eventually Secretary of the Foreign Board. He served in the Senate from 1819 to 1825.

Lowrie said she is proud that more than one of her family members had served the city and country.

“I was born in State College and I’m proud of being a Pennsylvanian,” Lowrie said. “[Pittsburgh] is the friendliest city I’ve ever been to. People here are very nice.”

Pittsburgh continued celebrating with a Bicentennial Showcase in Market Square and an evening celebration featuring fireworks and live music at Point State Park. 

Maryann Vallus, who has lived in Pittsburgh her entire life, said she loves Pittsburgh and is glad to witness the city’s transition into a place with an increasing number of young people.

“I love to be on campus. I love to see the youth. I love to see that energy. Younger people have that passion because they have a future to look forward to,” Vallus said. “It’s hard to keep that up as you get older and travel through the problems of life. But when you see those young people, it gives you that enthusiasm.”

Vallus said coming to see the parade was her way of showing gratitude towards the city.

“Two hundred years is a [commemorative] moment,” Vallus said, “I’m just grateful to be a Pittsburgher.”

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Pittsburgh parade celebrates city’s 200-year history