Tamaqua puts its best foot forward every year on the second Sunday in October - and so does Mother Nature.

The Tamaqua Historical Society will present the 27th Annual Tamaqua Heritage Festival free to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on October 9 in downtown Tamaqua, rain or shine. The annual event celebrates the fall foliage season in the community that historically has served as a 'Gateway to the Anthracite Region.'

"For many who attend the festivals in Tamaqua, it is a time of homecoming to get together with family and friends who they have not seen since the last festival," says Dale Freudenberger, president, Tamaqua Historical Society. "Many stay for the weekend with family or friends and visit the festivals together."

The festival encompasses seven blocks of the Tamaqua National Historic District and attracts thousands each year to celebrate local history and culture.

Tamaqua's long time railroad heritage will be celebrated. The highlight of each heritage festival is the scenic train rides offered from the Tamaqua Railroad Station. Three one hour round-trip excursions will be offered beginning at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. The morning trip will head south to New Ringgold and back. Afternoon trips will travel north to the famous Hometown High Bridge and back.

Passengers will ride aboard vintage restored passenger cars pulled by diesel locomotive.

"Both trips offer spectacular scenery along the way and advance ticket purchases are recommended," said Freudenberger. More information is available at the Chamber of Commerce office, 114 West Broad Street, or by calling (570) 668-1880. Organizers said tickets are also available in advance at the 'Old Station Candy Shop' located in the Tamaqua Railroad Station. Any remaining tickets will be sold the day of the festival in front of the train station on a first come, first served basis. Advance ticket purchases are encouraged, said organizers.

Additional railroad attractions include an open house at the restored 1874 Tamaqua Railroad Station to give visitors an opportunity to see the accurately restored local landmark. The station re-opened to the public in 2004 following extensive overhaul by the Tamaqua SOS (Save Our Station) organization. The station houses a restaurant and several shops. Tamaqua SOS will display rare original newspapers from the Molly Maguire era.

A toy train and railroadiana show will be held at Hometown Fire Company, SR54, during the day. A unique 'steam whistle blow' will take place near the Five Points intersection. There, Brian Ference will display and operate his large collection of original antique steam railroad whistles including some new acquisitions this year. The Tamaqua Anthracite Model Railroad Club will hold an open house at headquarters at the corner of West Broad and Nescopec streets. The display includes a huge operating HO model train layout.

Approximately one hundred crafters and vendors are expected to line the festival route offering handcrafts, jewelry, woodcrafts, holiday decorations, artwork, crystal, clothing items, and more. A new addition to this year's event are 'old time hand crafts' which will line the sidewalk from Broad Street up to the train station.

Free historical tours will be offered at the 1801 Moser log home, the first home in Tamaqua, from 11 to 2 at the rear of 302 East Broad Street. The home will be staffed by period-costumed guides.

Blacksmith Don Campbell will be working the forge and demonstrating his smithing skills in 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. Admission is free.

The Tamaqua Historical Society Museum located in the former 1905 First National Bank Building will be open for visitors. Displays and exhibits of local heritage are featured. At the front of the museum, the society will feature a display of Rush Township history in honor of the township's 200th birthday. The society hopes to begin major renovations to the interior of the museum in the next year or so.

Two Autumn Harvest markets will feature seasonal fare and supplies, said organizers. In addition, horsedrawn trolley car rides pulled by Leiby's famous Belgian Draft Horses will take place. This popular ride originated at the Tamaqua Heritage Festival many years ago and has become a staple at many festivals throughout the region.

Another popular addition to the festival - the Tamaqua Street Machine Association antique and classic car show on South Railroad Street - draws many historic automobiles from all over the region. Registrations are accepted the day of the event beginning at 10 a.m. and awards will be presented at 3 p.m. A disc jockey will provide music during the day.

The Military Timeline presenters will represent the Revolutionary War, The Civil War and World War II with displays on West Broad Street near the American Legion Home.

A WMGH Radio live broadcast of the Polka Program with Polka Joe Manjack will broadcast between 10 and 1 in front of the historical society museum. From 1 to 5, sounds of DJ Brandon Fritz will pick up following the Polka Program. The legendary 'Breaker Boys' will stroll throughout the festival performing traditional folk songs and ballads from days past in the coal region. Local folk musician Jay Smar will perform songs about coal region heritage and culture, positioned near the Hegarty Blacksmith Shop. Several members of The Eckley Players will also be on hand dressed in 19th century costumes, typical garb seen in mining patch towns a hundred years ago. Eckley Village will also present a display of coal mining memorabilia representing local roots. The old time sounds of a calliope organ will be featured across from the train station from 12 to 3.

More than a dozen local organizations will also participate. Among the food fare will steak sandwiches, homemade bleenies, funnel cake, French fries, pizza, burger and hot dogs, home baked goods, deep fried cheesecake, pulled pork, fresh squeezed apple cider and birch beer on tap more.

More information is available at the Chamber of Commerce office, 114 West Broad Street, by calling (570) 668-1880.