A Family Visit to Steel Stacks

A Family Visit to Steel Stacks

By Kelly DiCesare

Here’s a trivia question for you: Where can you find a battleship gun, a kid’s concert series called Peas & Q’s, and a
McLaren? Give up?

Answer: SteelStacks, Bethlehem

Being recent transplants to the Lehigh Valley from Pittsburgh, I thought it would be fun for our family to go on a local field trip, and what better place to head than SteelStacks? I had grand plans. I thought I could incorporate the whole (drum roll please) “Pennsylvania Steel History” into a wonderful learning adventure for our kids. Our home of our past meets our home of our present. Pittsburgh/Bethlehem – what two places could have more in common? I was going to seize the day. I was going to ring the bell of knowledge. It was going be great.

Oh – if I may digress for a sentence or two. I’d like to say hello to all of the ‘burgh-ers in the area. “Go Stillers!” (That’s Pittsburghese for “hello.”)

When we arrived at the ArtsQuest Center, I noticed there was a children’s show about to start. It was part of the ArtsQuest Peas & Q’s series, which is a free family event every Saturday morning.

W-H-A-T?? Oh… it was meant to be. I grinned with delight and bustled in to get some seats.

Packed. P-a-c-k-e-d, I say. Who was this magical performer who was such a draw? Or were people here because it was free? Or were people here because it is pouring out?  Or was it the infamous parent/kid-trade off?  “We’re going to run you little dumplings into the ground all morning in hopes of catching a breather in the afternoon.”  Guilty as charged on this end.

We still had a few minutes before the show so what does every mom do when we have time to spare… we feed our children. I sent my kids to the Mike & Ike Café where they were caught in the delicious dilemma of what to get. Should they buy the seven-pound box of Mike & Ike’s or the 13-pound box of Mike & Ike’s?

And then suddenly a hush came over the crowd.

He sauntered up to the stage. Dave Fry. Two chords into his show, I realized people were there for him because he’s pretty awesome. There was no introduction. He just launched into a song, and obvious crowd favorite, “I Like Peanut Butter.” They went wild – well, as wild as a room full of prepubescent pixies and their parents can get.

Dave Fry is not your “typical looking” kid’s performer. There are no striped suspenders or whirly-bird hat; there is no over-amped-sing-songy-hyper voice or gimmicks. Dave Fry looks like the dude who stood behind you in line at a convenience store, but he can charm a crowd. He is rather Pete-Seeger-esque, and to me, that is such a breath of fresh air. He sits on his stool with his guitar and sings fun songs about jelly in a dish or snails. Period. No 3-D light shows, no glitter falling from the sky, no t-shirt cannons being shot into the crowd. The only thing Dave Fry shoots out is the occasional barb to parents threatening, that if they don’t start participating, he will play the same chord for the next hour and a half. I like that kind of old-school entertainment, and I like my kids to see it as well!

Between songs about giants and a bathtub, I took a minute to take in my surroundings.

And “Wow!” I think the ArtsQuest Center is awesome. The exposed steel, the art, the concrete floors, the exterior window walls that look directly onto the untouched steel plant… all beautiful. That’s the interesting thing about Pittsburgh vs. Bethlehem. Pittsburgh has the subtle steel history. Pittsburgh still has the smoke stacks at Homestead, the soaring U.S. Steel building down town (or dahntahn for the ‘burghers), the Frick mansion and gardens, and the donations from Carnegie’s philanthropy. Bethlehem is in-your-face steel. Here’s our steel plant. We loved it, and we still love it. In fact we love it so much, we are going to make it a destination location. And as the cherry on top, we are going to move this giant steel crane and plop it outside of our casino. Baam! Try NOT to know what we are all about after you see THAT!

What is going on here? A happening about as rare as a field of unicorns… dads were dancing!

I mentally rejoined the crowd in the middle of a song about a swim in the ocean that went horrible wrong, only to look over and see my 11-year-old laughing out loud and my 7-year-old dancing in the aisle. That made the morning! But, in the midst of that warm-and-fuzzy moment, my eyes shifted, and I became somewhat disoriented. What is going on here? A happening about as rare as a field of unicorns… dads were dancing! I told you Dave Fry could charm a crowd.

After the show, we moseyed around. We looked at and talked about the giant steel battleship guns that were by the Sands, we ooohhhed and ahhhhhhed over the McLaren that was on display, we checked out the movie theater, and we looked at the beautiful glass sculpture that hangs in the stairway of the ArtsQuest Center. What a great Saturday morning!

So here’s another trivia question for you: where do you go to teach your kids all about steel history (which you don’t get around to doing), see a children’s show (that turned out to be one of the best you’ve seen in your 11 years of mothering) and see an unbelievably expensive car (and spend most of the time screaming at the top of your lungs DO NOT TOUCH THATTTT!).  Oh, and where do you find yourself buying your first piece of concert swag ever. I didn’t do it when I saw Dave Matthews; didn’t do it when I saw GNR; didn’t do it when I saw the Rolling Stones. But, stand in line for Dave Fry stuff – yep.  Did it here.

Answer: SteelStacks, Bethlehem

Oh – and I can’t forget… Go Stillers (that’s Pittsburghese for good-bye.) Yeah, I know… they say that a lot.

For a list of SteelStacks activities and shows, please visit steelstacks.org.

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