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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Riverlife hosts Neon & Nature Party at the Pier

Are you ready for an electrifying good time (cue Eddie Grant song)?

They'll be plenty of proof that summer is far from over on Friday, September 7th, when Riverlife's always anticipated Party at the Pier animates a new amenity along the North Shore.

Marking Riverlife's third annual Party at the Pier--and christening a brand new location--the chic confluence for a cause will celebrate the city’s vibrant waterfronts and related redevelopment efforts, while raising awareness about the mission of the Downtown-based nonprofit.

Expected to sell out (to date 400 tickets have been sold)--last year some 600 supporters flocked to the event--this year's Party at the Pier is debuting a new theme and a new waterfront venue. Setting up shop in the North Shore riverfront amphitheater at Rivers Casino, the bright bash will be fully tented and decked out in a display of luminous entertainment.

Opened in 2009, the amphitheater was designed by Pittsburgh-based Strada and Las Vegas-based Bergman Walls. In 2012, the amphitheater won an Honor Award from the PA/DE Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Dubbed an "electric playground," the party's Neon & Nature theme encompasses and highlights the surrounding water and riverfront amenities, locally sourced fare, live entertainment, and--we hope--even the couture. Pier partiers will be treated to the kinds of skyline views that have landed Pittsburgh on countless best of lists and travel destination guides.

The urban riverfront oasis will also feature fresh fare created by Richard Marmion, executive chef at Rivers Casino--with all dishes including farm-to-table locally sourced ingredients--signature Boyd & Blair, Jim Beam Devil’s Cut and Guinness cocktails and a fireworks display. In between waterfront star gazing, swing to music by the five-piece Brazilian rhythm ensemble, Timbavida, and groove to dance mash-ups spun by DJ Tommy J during the event's signature Neon Dance Party.

Bright lights, big rivers

A celebration of light of water, light and color--both visually and symbolically--the event is designed to (ahem!) illuminate the transformation of the city's river fronts over 15 years.

"We are seeing more vibrancy and the electricity of people and activity humming along the river fronts, when in the past these areas were very industrial and disconnected from the neighborhoods. We look forward to highlighting the space to a new audience. It's a gorgeous public riverfront park with amazing views of the water and downtown," says Stephan Bontrager, with Riverlife. "It's an entirely outdoor fully tented event on the river side of the casino. The space in particular will work very well with the new features we have planned."

Bontrager adds that Neon & Nature's event chairs, Renee and Lucas Piatt, were selected because they have been champions of Downtown Pittsburgh's riverfronts, including their work on developing the River View apartment complex and  River Hounds Stadium on the South Side. "They help us to tie in with upcoming projects. It was a natural fit to have them involved," says Bontrager.

But don't stay ashore all night: Hop aboard the Gateway Clipper for a private 20-minute jaunt up the Allegheny, to bask in the water's reflective aura, check out redevelopment projects along the shore and take in Downtown's stunning skyline. But do don your most eye-popping Day-Glo threads or that leopard print cocktail dress and head down to the river.

Confluence for a cause

All proceeds from Party at the Pier benefit Riverlife's work to reclaim, restore and promote Pittsburgh's riverfronts, in projects that emphasize a connectivity to commerce, economic development, tourism, and quality of life. In 2011, more than $132,000 was raised to support Riverlife's work in Pittsburgh.

Highlighting a different riverfront park each year, Party at the Pier also serves as an important advocacy event, raising awareness and support for Riverlife’s work creating Three Rivers Park, downtown Pittsburgh’s continuous 13-mile riverfront park system.

Major projects for 2012 and 2013 include the completion of a critical bike-ped connection that will connect the Smithfield Street Bridge to the Mon Wharf via new switchback ramp--eventually linking the Great Allegheny Passage to Point State Park.

Additional projects Riverlife is focused on include Allegheny  Riverfront Green Boulevard, a walkable riverfront community plan for The Strip District and Lawrenceville, environmental clean-ups and the rebuilding of some of the riverfront's natural habitats.

All of Pittsburgh--and its diaspora--is eagerly awaiting the auspicious occasion slated for early summer of 2013, when the switch will be flipped to turn on the iconic fountain at Point State Park. Bontrager explains that work on the foundation currently includes refurbishing and replacing stone, cleaning the granite basin, and adding a water feature and new lighting.

Purchase tickets now.

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