The Tamaqua Historical Society will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Tamaqua Heritage Festival on Sunday, Oct. 11, in downtown Tamaqua from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The annual event, which is free to the public, celebrates the peak of fall foliage season in the community that serves as the "Gateway to the Anthracite Region."
The 2009 edition of the Tamaqua Heritage Festival will take place rain or shine and will celebrate local heritage and culture in a setting that showcases beautiful fall foliage and bounty of the autumn harvest.
Tamaqua's longtime railroad heritage will be celebrated during the festival. The highlight of every Tamaqua Heritage Festival is the scenic train rides offered from the front of the Tamaqua Railroad Station. Three one hour round-trip train rides will take place at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Passengers will ride aboard vintage restored passenger cars pulled by diesel locomotive.
The 11 a.m. trip will head south to New Ringgold and back. The others will head north to the historic "High Bridge" and back. Both trips offer spectacular scenery along the way. More information is available at (570) 668-5722.
Additional railroad attractions include an open house at the 1874 Tamaqua Railroad Station to give visitors an opportunity to see the restored local landmark. The station re-opened to the public in 2004 following an extensive restoration by Tamaqua SOS (Save Our Station) organization. It is now one of the premier restored railroad stations in the state and houses a restaurant and several shops.
Inside the station, Tamaqua SOS will display rare original newspapers from the Molly Maguire era. The Reading Company Technical and Historical Society will be on hand with historic railroad photographs and other memorabilia along the station sidewalk.
The Tamaqua Train Show and Swap Meet will take place inside the Salvation Army Community Center on West Broad Street throughout the day, with dozens of vendors specializing in toy trains and railroad memorabilia. A unique "steam whistle blow" will be conducted near the Five Points intersection with Brian Ference, who will display and demonstrate his large collection of original antique steam railroad whistles. The Tamaqua Anthracite Model Railroad Club will hold an open house at its headquarters at the corner of West Broad and Nescopec streets. The display includes an oversized, operating HO model train layout, which appeals to young and old alike.
Historical tours will be offered at the 1801 Moser log home, the first home in Tamaqua, from 11 to 4 p.m. at the rear of 302 E. Broad St. Admission is free.
Blacksmith Don Campbell will work at the forge and demonstrate his blacksmithing skills at the 1848 Hegarty Blacksmith Shop throughout the day. Blacksmith Chris Opresko will assist. The Hegarty Blacksmith Shop is located along Hegarty Avenue and was owned and operated by three generations of the Hegarty family from 1848 until 1973. It was the oldest operating business in Schuylkill County when it closed. The Hegarty family donated the shop and all its contents to the Tamaqua Historical Society in 1974. The society restored the shop in years following its acquisition. Admission is free. In front of the blacksmith shop, pony rides will be offered along Hegarty Avenue.
An open house will be held at the Tamaqua Historical Society Museum at 118 W. Broad St., located in the former 1905 First National Bank Building. Many interesting displays and exhibits of local heritage will be featured. Society members will guide visitors through the museum and be available to answer questions. The society is currently planning major renovations to the interior of the museum in the near future.
A historic walking tour of the west end of town will begin at 1:30 at the museum. The tour will last approximately one hour.
An Autumn Harvest Market will be set up at the corner of W. Broad and Hunter streets. In addition, autumn and Christmas decorations and crafts will also be showcased by crafters along the festival route.
Horse-drawn Trolley Car rides pulled by Leiby's famous Belgian Draft Horses will take place around the festival area. This popular attraction originated at the Tamaqua Heritage Festival many years ago and has since become a staple at many festivals throughout the region.
The Gallery at the Tamaqua Art Center on W. Broad Street will be open featuring its newest exhibit. Admission is free. Nature photographer and author Kathy Miller will be signing copies of her latest book.
The Tamaqua Street Machine Association will present an antique and classic car show on S. Railroad Street. The car show draws many beautiful and historic automobiles from all over the region. Registrations are accepted the day of the event. Awards will be presented at 3 p.m. and a disc jockey will provide cruising music all day.
The music of ICE and DJ Brandon Fritz will offer free entertainment along the West Broad Street corridor. The Breaker Boys will stroll throughout the festival performing their traditional folk songs and ballads from days past in the coal region, with humorous historical anecdotes thrown in. The Eckley Players will be on hand, dressed in 19th century costumes typical of mining patch towns of 100 years ago.
The Victorian High-Wheelers of Tamaqua will demonstrate their riding skills on the unique high-wheel bicycles from the 19th century. The Military Timeline performers will represent wars from the past and will man an exhibit along Hegarty Avenue.
Abraham Lincoln may be spotted strolling the town during the day. The Alpaca Farm near Tamaqua will exhibit these special animals along the sidewalk leading to the train station. In addition, Bob Vybrenner of Tamaqua will be dressed as a 19th century mortician and talk about undertaking and mourning traditions during the period.
The Tamaqua Heritage Festival is presented and sponsored by the Tamaqua Historical Society with assistance by a grant from the Schuylkill County Visitors Bureau and donations by local businesses.