Aside from the regatta there were many different activities going on in downtown Pittsburgh during the first weekend of August. The DreamOn Festival brought music, art and ice cream to Market Square on August 5th and 6th as well as laughter and joy to families from all around the Pittsburgh area. It also served as a fundraiser for Omicelo Cares, a non-profit that teaches high school students about entrepreneurship. I was a teen volunteer for the event and also have benefited from thbe organization’s programs.
Joshua Pollard, founder of Omicelo and Omicelo Cares, grew up in Braddock, Pennsylvania, a very poor neighborhood during his childhood that still faces challenges today. In his teen years he went to Sewickley Academy, a highly-esteemed private school. His observations about people in his neighborhood and those from more prosperous areas sparked his interest in economics and business. During his early years in college he spent a lot of time researching recessions, especially those caused by the burst of the tech bubble and the 9/11 attacks. Over time he began to understand macroeconomics and the importance of finance in the global economy as well as local communities.
As I made my way around the festival I asked Mr. Pollard why he chose to sell ice cream and why he allows teens to help with the business. His response was that ice cream is, “one of the most family-friendly consumer items imaginable and a partnership with the well-known ice cream shop Dream Cream makes the business possible.” Allowing a specific group of teens to run the business is part of providing an experiential learning opportunity for students that don’t have access to high-quality business education in high school. He believes that this business opportunity for teens can improve their overall skill set, too. “My goal in life is to help neighborhoods improve along with the many people who live in those neighborhoods,” he stated.
I was curious to learn how he built the festival and he noted “I have consistently had support throughout my journey to build Omicelo Cares. There has been a combination of friends, family and foundations that have supported the work. I have been able to find dozens of people that believe, as I do, that neighborhoods can improve quickly.” When I noted the size and spirit of the festival, he continued, “Our numbers have risen dramatically since last year, both physically and socially. Our sponsors also came out in force and once the weekend started the sheer diversity was amazing. The festival was fun, peaceful and a fresh reprieve from the subconscious segregation that happens in everyday life.”
Besides ice cream, there were many kid-friendly activities and booths. One of the activities was face painting and henna body art. As I walked around, I saw children decorated with puppy expressions, Spiderman and more on their faces. I even spotted an adult male getting a purple cat face painted on himself. There were also many young women getting henna tattoos. The simple activity of bubble-blowing played a major role in the festival because it brought all the children together. There were also free art activities as well as live performance painting, featuring two men who painting on two big canvases, providing them with a way to expose their talents to viewers as they had a chance to see art from a different perspective.
One event that was really important was an activity called Dream Catching. Led by designer and Thrill Mill program director Kenny Chen, the activity invites people to write their name and dream on a large ice cream cone cut-out and be photographed. The resulting pictures go on display so that people are able to share their dreams with others.
There were also music performances from Mic Blacque, Jasmine Tate, The Funky Fly Project and more. In designing the event, Mr. Pollard was kind enough to also make short performance interludes available for up and coming artists such as O Slice and Solis. These performances played a major role in the festival because people from all around were able to express themselves through music and show their talent. The different genres of music also attracted a large and diverse crowd as they danced and enjoyed themselves. Salsa and country music were part of the mix!
As an Omicelo Cares volunteer and teen, I had a meaningful role throughout the festival that made a positive impact in my life. I spent my days filming amazing moments, such as different age groups and nationalities coming together to dance and laugh. As I captured these moments I put them on the festival’s social media pages (e.g., Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). My role in this festival was very important because I was able to help brand the organization, build my photography skills, and take leadership in a specific task. Some of my time was spent in the media truck where I put photos and tweets onto the big screen. Not only was I the social media specialist, but I also became part of the design team. Personally, I believe that the festival couldn’t have been better. The energy was high and many positive vibes were running through the air. Although the festival has ended, I continue to participate in the Omicelo Cares.
“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doer, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.”