‘Totally Rad’: Vintage & nostalgia return to Pittsburgh

Brentaro Yamane | Multimedia Editor | Owners of Thriftsburgh, Jen Greenwald (left) and Dan Greenwald (right), practice vintage collecting and resale to satisfy their craving for nostalgia and community.

Hannah Peters | Staff Writer

New to Pittsburgh but old in style, the threads and trends of decades past made a comeback on Saturday for Pittsburgh’s first ever Totally Rad Vintage Fest. For one day only, a collection of vintage vendors compiled their old clothes and memorabilia for a one-of-a-kind shopping experience.

Held at the Monroeville Convention Center, visitors were greeted by a towering neon inflatable archway displaying the words “TOTALLY RAD,” warning of the experience that awaited them.

Coming in all shapes, sizes and styles, a winding maze of 84 vendors filled the space and while the majority of booths focused on clothing, there was a sizable collection of vintage homegoods, video games, records and toys.

“We aim to have vendors that carry a little bit of something for everyone! Vendors focus their inventory on the 80s, 90s and Y2K eras, but may also have some pieces from earlier decades,” read the festival website.

One vendor who embodied this spirit was Thriftsburgh, a Pittsburgh seller who specializes in vintage homegoods and miscellaneous trinkets from the ’80s to the 2000s. Drawing inspiration from their personal lives, owners Dan and Jen Greenwald collect and sell items that they remembered growing up with as a way to share it with others.

“We go out and look for the stuff that we would want for ourselves, and it just so happens that everyone else likes it so it just kinda works out,” Dan said. “We love being a part of someone else’s nostalgia.”

In addition to the many vendors, the convention center was outfitted with 12 unique photo-op locations, a vintage arcade, a live vinyl DJ, concessions, the ‘Rad Rewind Museum’ and an ‘ExtraterRESTrial Chill Zone.’

Like the name implies, the ‘Rad Rewind Museum’ allowed visitors to explore more relics from the past, and at the ‘ExtraterRESTrial Chill Zone,’ shoppers could find comfy chairs and a charging station. These attractions have become a routine part of the Totally Rad Vintage Fest, which recently evolved into a traveling festival.

Founded in 2020, the festival started as a parking lot pop-up in Minneapolis called the ‘Twin Cities Vintage Flea.’ Their first tour launched two years later and has grown to become a 17-city touring sensation, bringing in over 10,000 people to their most attended event.

They are proud of their small roots and make a point to foster a welcoming and friendly space. According to their Instagram, “There are no corporate sponsors, capital investors or production companies pulling strings behind the scenes. We live and breathe vintage and take our responsibility to our community seriously.”

“It sounds corny, but we are very much built by the vintage community for the vintage community,” said co-founder and owner of the show, Sarah Emerson. “We really work very hard to make sure we can keep our costs down for both attendees and vendors while still delivering a premium experience for both.”

“We created this tour not only to help people and small businesses across the country, but we really wanted to bring sustainable vintage fashion and goods to the forefront of culture on a nationwide scale. It’s our driving force that keeps us moving forward.”

This same sentiment was reflected by vintage seller Steve Perry, a former Duquesne student and professor, who sells vintage cards from pop culture collections like Pokémon, One Piece, Garbage Pail and sports for his business, Perry’s Cards.

“It’s definitely an interesting slice of life,” Perry said. “Every show is different, like this one is more fashion oriented so it’s a cool collage of people. It’s been neat being able to interact with folks.”

Vintage looks extended beyond the mannequins as countless fashion-forward visitors sported their own wears, including one pair of seasoned vintage shoppers, Bryan Snow and Lexy Lyle, who were wearing pieces dated back to the 1950s.

“We love the uniqueness of everything,” Lyle said. “Just wearing something that someone’s grandma wore really gets us.”

Claiming to have been to every clothing event, trunk sale and thrift store in a three-hour radius, Snow explained that as vintage pros, this event stood out to them as being particularly uplifting. Despite the event being packed full with curious Pittsburghers and vintage enthusiasts, the aura of the crowd remained friendly and upbeat.

In total, over 6,000 people attended Saturday’s event. A testament to the hard work of the team behind Totally Rad Vintage Fest, Lyle put to words the feeling Emerson and her colleagues hoped visitors would receive when walking down the aisles filled with second-hand treasures.

“It’s the whole ‘I used to have this’ of it all,” Lyle said. “It brings people back, it’s the nostalgia – it’s fun, it’s homey, it’s comforting. It’s like a bowl of hot soup.”