In many ways, Jim Thorpe was an ideal location to film the first "Our Town" documentary in Carbon County. It has picturesque views, a lively arts and music scene, and enough history to keep even local residents coming back to learn new things.
But what truly makes Jim Thorpe special: Is it the fall foliage, or the Christmas lights blazing each night on Broadway, both calling to tourists and locals alike to stop and enjoy the view? Or is there something more, hidden beneath the surface, that makes a small town great?
"There are many things that make Jim Thorpe special," said John Drury, founder of the Mauch Chunk Museum and owner of the Inn at Jim Thorpe. "The scenery, the architecture, the history. What is also special are the type of people who are attracted to the area the art people, the small businesses, the new pioneers of our area, so to speak. There are also a lot of wonderful people in town, who have lived here all their lives."
"Clearly tourism is a big part of Jim Thorpe, but we found that it goes far beyond tourism," said Lisa Mazzarella, a producer and host for WVIA. "There are some good-hearted people who work diligently for this town, and they just want to see their town happy, and strong, and thriving. I think that's a great goal for any community."
She noted that the area has a very strong sense of community not unusual for a small town, where neighbors know each other well and often bond together to achieve a common goal. It is this small-town heart that comes across best in "Our Town: Jim Thorpe," revealing a town that cares enough about the past and the future to preserve its treasures and ensure that tomorrow will be better. Simply taking time out of their busy schedules to take part in the "Our Town" series revealed a hint of this community's spirit.
"It's a very moving thing, to think that people took time out of their schedules because of the belief in their town. They didn't have to do this, and they could have very easily said 'no, thank you.' But they took the time, and they spoke with great heart, and great emotion, and a sense of spirit about wanting to make things better. When you put all of these pieces together, how can you not be moved? It's a story of the people, filmed by the people and captured by the community."
She noted that one underlying theme of "Our Town: Jim Thorpe" seemed to be giving back, whether it be through local nonprofit organizations or individuals taking the time to preserve the area's history and restore antiquated buildings to their former splendor.
"Those who can, give back," said Bob Stevenson, president of the Rotary Club of Jim Thorpe. In addition to the Rotary's active roles in the community, the club also works to preserve and promote the historical aspect of the town. Stevenson's home on Millionaire's Row is often open to the public during the Rotary's Victorian House Tour.
"I feel blessed to be able to live here," he added. "One of the ways we can give back is to open up the house for tours. It blends into the big picture of community support."
"I was especially impressed with all of the good that the people of Jim Thorpe do," said Mazzarella. "If I had to focus on one theme, it would be giving back. You don't find that in a lot of towns. It's a very good thing."
WVIA is a public broadcasting station that serves northeastern Pennsylvania and the central Susquehanna valley. The station reaches more than 20 counties within Pennsylvania.
"Our Town: Jim Thorpe" will be rebroadcast on WVIA on Saturday, Dec. 22 at 9 p.m. and on Sunday, Dec 23 at 1 p.m.