Cynthia Closkey


Making a Big Dill Out of a New Annual Event


Established in 1994, The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) is charged with promoting and marketing the Downtown Neighborhood through developing and implementing innovative programs and initiatives. As the long-time headquarters of the H.J. Heinz Company, the PDP Team got to thinking – what if they closed down a major bridge for two days and celebrated everything related to pickles and pickling? Could it be branded? Could it be promoted? Would people show up?

With an impressive track record of producing cherished annual events like Light Up Night, the PDP needed this inaugural celebration of all things sour to leave a sweet impression.


Working with what we took to calling the “PDP Pickle People,” Shift was charged with developing the whole package: logo, website, social media platform, PR launch, and sponsorship package.


At its May 13 public launch, the media quickly got into the punny act (“An event to relish!” – KDKA-TV; “Dill-ightful!—NextPittsburgh) helping to drive early interest in the city’s newest festival.

Over the course of July 17-18, under the whimsical countenance of a 35-foot flagship pickle balloon hoisted atop the Ninth Street Bridge, more than 70,000 people sampled a variety of pickled delights from more than 40 vendors and enjoyed the music of more than 15 acts. Major sponsors included such heavyweights as H.J. Heinz, BNYMellon, Future POS, and Whole Foods.

While the average American consumes roughly nine pounds of pickles a year, we’d venture that for these two days in July, Pittsburgh had that beat by a mile. Until next 2016, at least.