First Night Pittsburgh Brings Downtown Alive With More Than 100 Events In 45 Venues

English: Downtown Pittsburgh

English: Downtown Pittsburgh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can ring in the new year at home with Ryan Seacrest — sadly, we lost Dick Clark this year — or you can join the crowd at one of the city’s most festive celebrations, Highmark First Night Pittsburgh.

As Stefon would say on “Saturday Night Live,” it has everything: Bollywood dancers, Japanese sword dancers, rockers, hip-hoppers, puppet paraders, treasure mappers, unicycling jugglers, human pinatas — no, not really pinatas, but that’s about all it doesn’t have.

It begins at 6 p.m. Monday with a Dollar Bank Children’s Fireworks Display and a performance by Adam Brock & The Soul Band on the Dollar Bank Stage at Seventh Street and Penn Avenue.

The evening concludes with a performance by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, a New Orleans jazz/R&B institution since 1977, and then the Countdown to Midnight and Future of Pittsburgh Grand Finale atop Penn Avenue Place and Fifth Avenue Place.

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Schuylkill Among Rivers Nominated For State’s 2013 ‘Best’ List

Six rivers have been nominated for Pennsylvania’s 30th annual “River of the Year” award, which the public can vote on through Jan. 18.

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Ph...

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Photograph, not copyrighted Ed Yakovich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Philadelphia region’s very own Schuylkill River is among the nominees this year, with the award’s state and non-profit sponsors touting the 128-mile Schuylkill’s resurrection from a “dead river in the mid-1900s” to one that “touches countryside and urban life” alike.

But the votes aren’t flowing as quickly for the Schuylkill in the first week of voting as some of its competitors. The other nominees are: the Juniata River and Swatara Creek in southcentral Pennsylvania; the Kiskiminetas River and Monongahela River in the southwest and Lackawanna River in the northeast.  The contest’s first week of voting, Dec. 18 through Dec. 24, put the Schuylkill in third place with 19 percent.  The Lackawanna has 31 percent and the Monongahela has 22 percent.

“We still have three weeks to go, so we’re hoping for a push,” Schuylkill River Development Corp. President and CEO Joe Syrnick said today.

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Annual First Night Celebrates City’s Diversity New Year’s Eve In Downtown Scranton

picture-0571The tradition of kicking off the new year with a bang – not to mention a little music, magic and more – remains alive and well in the Electric City.

For the 14th consecutive year, First Night Scranton will draw visitors to the city’s downtown, where a slew of venues will host activities and live performances on New Year’s Eve.

This year’s family-friendly event will bring attention to Scranton’s diversity through the theme “New Year’s Eve Around the World.”

“What we kind of focused on was how the ethnicity of the city is evolving and changing,” First Night project director Paige Balitski said.  “And we thought, you know, we should revisit what ethnicities were in the beginning of Scranton and what it’s changing into and adding to all of that.”

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Presence Of ‘Amish Mafia’ Felt In Lancaster City

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Discovery Channel’s popular television show “Amish Mafia,” the lead character, Lebanon Levi, is portrayed as a sort-of Amish Vito Corleone.

“Lebanon Levi is the cops,” another character, Esther, says in one of the episodes. “He is the courthouse, he is the bank and he is the insurance company.”

Karin Meacham is making the most of her Lancaster city store’s 15 minutes of fame — delivered in an unmarked envelope by “Amish Mafia.”

Visitors to Art & Glassworks, 319 N. Queen St., are greeted at the front door by a sign bearing a photo of Levi and the faux warning — “This store is protected by Lebanon Levi.”

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‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Chef To Sizzle At Roma Ristorante

English: City of Allentown from east side

English: City of Allentown from east side (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While farm-to-table is a notable dining trend, Roma Ristorante is about to introduce TV-to-table fare to the culinary lexicon.  A special dinner hosted by the Allentown restaurant on Jan. 21 will feature a live demonstration by chef Clemenza Caserta, an alumnus of Fox Broadcasting’s popular “Hell’s Kitchen” series.  Caserta, who hails from Staten Island, was among the contestants in this year’s 10th season of the cooking competition that stars fiery-tempered celeb chef Gordon Ramsay — the sole judge of the show.

Eighteen initial contestants, chosen from 200,000 applicants, according to Caserta, are divided between two teams, with one chef eliminated each week.  The final six compete individually and receive a coveted black chef’s jacket.  Caserta withstood the blistering harangues of Ramsay to enter this elite group of finalists, exiting the show in the number four spot.

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Pennsylvania Posts Largest Decline In Unemployment In 30 Years

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The number of Pennsylvania‘s unemployed decreased by 16,000 in November, the largest decline since 1983 and the second largest decline on record.

The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in November, down three-tenths of a percentage point from the October rate of 8.1 percent, according to a press release from the state Department of Labor and Industry.

This was the lowest rate for Pennsylvania since June.

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Northern Berks Regional To Cut 1 Officer, Keep 2 Older Cars

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bowing to pressure to cut costs, the Northern Berks Regional Police Commission is going to trim one police officer and forgo plans to replace two of the department’s older cars.

The commission unanimously approved a $1.95 million budget Wednesday that keeps spending at 2012 levels and is nearly $290,000 less than the draft version presented earlier this month.

The police commission, composed of elected officials from Ontelaunee and Maidencreek townships and Leesport, said the municipalities could not afford to pay more for police coverage in 2013 and earlier this month asked the department to find places to cut costs.

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No Boyertown Tax Hike, But Water Rates Rise

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After approving a $1.5 million budget without a tax increase, Boyertown Borough Council endorsed a 9.35 percent water rate hike Wednesday in hopes that it will offset a $100,000 decline in commercial and industrial water revenues.

The 6-0 budget vote maintains the current property tax rate of 5.14 mills, leaving the annual tax bill for a property assessed at $100,000 at $514.

By raising water rates, the borough council hopes to generate an additional $150,000 in revenue, with the extra $50,000 acting as a cushion against rising expenses and preventing more rate hikes in the near future.

Council hopes to have the new rates take effect in the first quarter of 2013 and will vote in February to authorize them if the water authority approves them next month.

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