After months of planning, filming, and interviews, "Our Town: Jim Thorpe" will premiere tonight. The documentary will broadcast live on WVIA at 7 p.m. A rebroadcast of the live premiere will air again at 9 p.m.
The "Our Town" documentary series is unique in that it is not filmed by professional videographers or narrated using captions or professional voice-overs. The entire documentary is filmed and narrated by local amateur videographers and photographers who live or work in Jim Thorpe. Documentary topics were chosen by town residents who attended WVIA sessions in Jim Thorpe
"This is not a film that was made by an outside camera crew or editors. The content of this documentary was chosen by the people of Jim Thorpe," said Lisa Mazzarella, a producer and host for WVIA. "That will maybe make it unique to any films that have been done before Our Town."
Jim Thorpe was originally considered for the project because of its beautiful views and wealth of diversity. It is the first town in Carbon County to be documented in the "Our Town" series.
"Jim Thorpe was chosen because it's extremely picturesque," said Mazzarella, noting that once the documentary team began talking to local residents, they realized that the town had so much more to offer than pretty views and tourist attractions.
"There's also a lot of great history. People talk about the town, but most people don't know much about Jim Thorpe beyond its beautiful mountains and scenery. Nature was very kind to your area it truly takes your breath away. But what should be highlighted even more are the people who make Jim Thorpe happen."
She noted that some of the topics residents chose to highlight include the community's habit of giving back, whether through local nonprofits or helping disabled children through its annual fishing derby and Special Olympics events, and restoring old buildings to their former grandeur while preserving their historical character.
"They also picked some things that will surprise you, quiet things that really define the people who live here," she said. "Our viewing audience is going to see a town that gives back. It's a beautiful thing. When you combine the area's natural beauty with the beauty of the people, it makes it a really sweet place to live."
Other topics to be addressed during the documentary include the town's rich history, from the Switchback Gravity Railroad to the Molly Maguires, architectural treasures, and the town's current art and music scene. Natural attractions including Jim Thorpe's lakes and forests and hiking, biking, rafting and other outdoor opportunities will also be addressed.
"I'm not asking the people of Jim Thorpe to look at their town with new eyes, but maybe that they gain a renewed sense of appreciation for what they have as a community," said Mazzarella.
Entertainment during the premiere will be provided by local artists. Free Range Folk will perform selections from its recently released CD, including the song "Lehigh." The Bach and Handel Chorale will perform the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's "Messiah."
"I couldn't think of any better way to capture the spirit of this town," she said, noting that WVIA was thrilled to have local talent featured during the premiere. "It's going to be a fun time. We are going to have a terrific show tonight."
The premiere will air during WVIA's semiannual fundraising drive. The documentary serves as a way to share our area's small towns with WVIA viewers, while also raising awareness of the unique position that public broadcasting stations are in to share these types of stories. Jim Thorpe residents who took part in the documentary will be seen live during the premiere, assisting with the fundraiser and answering phones for WVIA supporters.
WVIA is a public broadcasting station (PBS) that serves northeastern Pennsylvania and the central Susquehanna Valley. The station reaches more than 20 counties within Pennsylvania.