A giant Heinz pickle balloon floating high over Downtown Pittsburgh’s Roberto Clemente Bridge can only mean one thing: Picklesburgh has touched down.
The free, annual food festival, lasting from July 26 to July 28, celebrates much more than just traditional dill pickles — the celebration features international pickled dishes, artisanal cocktails with pickled ingredients, a selection of handcrafted foods from local restaurants and even demos on how to pickle at home. The pickle-themed festival was recently rated by USA Today as the nation’s best speciality food festival. This year, it’s got even more pickle-related fun in store than ever before.
According to Colton Gill, the digital and online content coordinator for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, which runs Picklesburgh, the festival is emblematic of the City and its history as home to the H. J. Heinz Company.
“To the City of Pittsburgh, Picklesburgh represents the history and heritage of the City while highlighting what’s currently putting Pittsburgh in the spotlight around the world,” Gill said in an email. “Picklesburgh attracts around 100,000 fans each year, with everyone from the pickle-curious to pickle fanatics in attendance.”
Gill added that this year, Picklesburgh is going to be the largest it has been since it began in 2015. The festival will double in size, taking over Fort Duquesne Boulevard between Stanwix and 7th streets in addition to the Roberto Clemente Bridge. The increase in space will allow more vendors the opportunity to provide samples and sell their specialties to attendees.
One of the vendors attending the festival is Aunt Carol’s Gourmet Dips, a Pittsburgh-area company that started nearly 12 years ago. According to Lynn Grimes, a sales representative at the store, Picklesburgh offers a unique experience to display the store’s special pickle-flavored dips to the public.
“We are one of the original vendors at Picklesburgh. It has been growing since the past four years, now they have taken it partly off the bridge and onto the streets,” Grimes said. “During the festival, we hope to see a bigger customer base and, hopefully, show our signature dips.”
According to Gill, the festival’s size isn’t the only big change coming this year — the annual pickle juice drinking contest has also expanded. As always, contestants will compete to be crowned the mayor of Picklesburgh and receive a $500 cash prize.
“One of the most popular parts of the festival is the contest where thirsty pickle fans compete to see who can drink a quart of pickle juice the fastest, with last year’s winner setting a festival record of just over six seconds,” Gill said. “This year’s contest will be expanding to all three days, with 10 preliminary rounds over the course of Friday and Saturday and the winner of those rounds competing in an ultimate drink-off on Sunday.”
Gill said Pittsburghers should attend Picklesburgh because it presents not only an opportunity to experience the City, but to also have fun while exploring Downtown.
“There’s no better way to experience summer in the City of Pittsburgh than at a pickle festival held on one of our iconic bridges in picturesque Downtown,” Gill said.
Albert Tanjaya, a rising senior computer science major, said Picklesburgh offers an amazing summer experience to get to know the City and its food culture.
“Picklesburgh is such an iconic thing to do in Pittsburgh over the summer. That’s why I am interested to go for two things,” Tanjaya said. “The food, because who doesn’t want to try a bajillion pickles, and also the iconic Heinz pickle pin from Picklesburgh.”
Tanjaya said Pickesburgh also provides an opportunity to also explore the City with friends.
“I would encourage all my friends to attend at least once, this is why I’m here in Pittsburgh,” Tanjaya said. “It is a very fun event with all the vendors and activities going on.”