Photo courtesy of Kennywood.

Take a culinary ride around the world at Kennywood this summer.

When the amusement park in West Mifflin opens for the season on May 8, visitors can satisfy their cravings for the usual corn dogs, funnel cakes and Potato Patch fries. As a gastronomic bonus, Kennywood will host the Bites & Pints Food Festival every weekend throughout June.

Chef Brian Pekarcik, co-founder of S+P Restaurant Group, will offer a globe-trotting experience for the taste buds. During regular park hours (10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday), seven stations will be set up around the lagoon, each featuring three food items reflecting a different culture.

Chef Brian Pekarcik and Kenny Kangaroo. Photo courtesy of Kennywood.

Those bites — from carne asada and shrimp skewers to bao buns and crepes — will be paired with a curated selection of beer, wine and specialty cocktails. Performers will provide musical accompaniment from the Garden Stage.

Visitors can pay as they go or purchase a Bites & Pints tasting card ($39.99 for eight items and $48.99 for 12) online or at the event. Kennywood season pass holders who purchase a 12-item tasting card will get three items free, for a total of 15.

All-summer and one-day dining passes for traditional in-park eateries and stands are also available.

It’s been a busy off-season at Kennywood, as the park continues to adapt to Covid regulations. In 2020, Kennywood did not open until mid-July and only operated for 45 days (100 fewer than an average year).

“It was difficult, but the silver lining is that we showed we could open safely,” says Nick Paradise, director of corporate communications for Kennywood. “Safety is always first and foremost in our business. People want to feel confident when they’re in the park, so we applied that mindset to the pandemic.”

Kennywood will continue to follow those protocols during its 124th season. Indoor, touch-heavy attractions such as Noah’s Ark, Skycoaster, the 4D Theater, Thomas Town, and the Steelers Experience Building will be closed until further notice.

To keep the season running smoothly like a well-oiled rollercoaster track, an additional 900 seasonal employees will be hired at Kennywood and its sister attractions Sandcastle and Idlewild & SoakZone.

Starting hourly pay rates for employees at least 18 years old or graduating high school seniors is $13 an hour, with select jobs at Idlewild paying as much as $16 an hour.

Seasonal team members will receive a complimentary 2021 basic season pass for themselves and up to three members of their immediate family as long as they apply and complete the hiring process by May 10. In addition to the new pay rates and season passes, staff will receive discounts on dining and retail purchases, advancement and bonus opportunities based on performance, scholarship opportunities and invitations to team-building activities such as galas and movie nights.

Paradise says the park once again will entertain Pittsburghers after Labor Day for events such as Phantom Fright Nights and Holiday Lights, but plans for how those will be executed are, like riders on the Black Widow, up in the air.

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.