Rivers of Steel ignites for Festival of Combustion at Carrie Blast Furnaces
The Carrie Blast Furnaces, a former iron-making factory in Rankin, now serves as the site for everything from music festivals to theater performances to cultural celebrations. But just one event is courtesy of Rivers of Steel, the nonprofit dedicated to preserving kilns and their industrial heritage.
Now, the next Festival of Combustion returns after a two-year pandemic-related hiatus.
“It’s our signature event of the year,” says Chris McGinnis, Director and Chief Curator of Rivers of Steel Arts, which curates programming for Carrie Furnaces. In a telephone interview with Pittsburgh City PaperMcGinnis says most of the events at Carrie’s blast furnaces are organized by outside groups, not Rivers of Steel.
“[The Festival of Combustion] is really the only event that we fully support as an organization that is focused on telling our story and, you know, why the site and the kinds of things that we do as a program are important to the region and to the heritage of the region,” he says.
McGinnis says this year’s festival, which takes place on Saturday, October 8, will feature “a whole lot of new stuff.” He points to the new Heritage Craft tent sponsored by Knob Creek Whiskey.
“It kind of ties into the history of the rye whiskey-making traditions in southwestern Pennsylvania, and kind of relates to the larger focus of the festival, which focuses on the industrial arts. and American craftsmanship,” says McGinnis, adding that crowds can expect whiskey tastings, Appalachian music and other themed activities. “So people can come and experience bourbon and rye whiskey and some of the history and process behind it, and also have a drink.”
The Heritage Craft Tent, described as a mini-festival within a festival, also features blacksmithing demonstrations that recall the fiery, molten past of the Kilns. Along with the burning forge, the event will feature other heat-based activities like welding, iron casting and encaustic art making, as well as flame shows and a final firework display.
Weather permitting, you can also enjoy captive hot air balloon rides — one of the few Burning Festival activities at an additional cost — and hands-on workshops, hosted by local partner organizations such as Contemporary Craft, Assemble Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Glass Center, and more.
McGinnis says this year marks the sixth edition of the festival, calling its return a “big deal” for Rivers of Steel. He adds that being on hiatus since the last festival in 2019, Rivers of Steel had “a lot of time to think about how we wanted to bring the festival back and the things we wanted to change”.
“So in some ways it was good, because we got a chance to really dive into what worked and what didn’t,” he adds. “So we’re very pleased with this year’s event in that regard.”
Visitors to previous Festival of Combustion events will notice the return of scratch molds, where guests can create their own original works and cast them in iron, and the ability to create mosaic art from Fiestaware plates. colored broken.
McGinnis points out that no matter what, Rivers of Steels wants to make sure the community can easily access the festival. He points to litany activities included in the ticket price (advance tickets are $20), from site visits to live music performances, and adds that guests under 18 get in free.
“It’s a really great deal in our opinion,” McGinnis says.
Combustion Festival. 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, October 8. Carrie Blast Furnaces. 801 Carrie Furnace Blvd, Rankin. $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Free for children under 18. For all. riversoftsteel.com