The walkways were packed, the food moved like hot cakes, and the bands were cranking out the hits.

The 23rd annual Palmerton Community Festival got off to a picture perfect start in the borough park Friday afternoon.

The event began with the blessing by the Rev. Nathan Fry, pastor of the Living Hope Lighthouse Church, Palmerton, who stated that it was the volunteers who make the event possible.

Afterward, Tracy Lee, of The Tracy Lee Band, sang a rendition of the national anthem. The Palmerton United Veteran's Organization served as color guard and presented the flag.

Jane Stroup, festival committee secretary, was joined on the Main Stage by various volunteers, whom she referred to as a "phenomenal group" of individuals.

"This year will be the year of the volunteers," Stroup said. "They are the backbone; without them, we would not be here."

Afterward, the volunteers remained on stage to give their names, the respective organizations they support, and the products they have available for sale at their stands.

Jodi Smale, a member of the festival's board of directors, recognized festival officers Susie Arner, president, Dave Dailey, vice president, Dustin Rehrig, treasurer, and Stroup.

The Tracy Lee Band then took to the Main Stage, where it cranked out the hits, followed by The Fabulous Greaseband.

Paul and Andrea Horn of Palmerton, who accompanied their daughter, Addison Horn, 3, said they make it a point to attend the festival.

"We come every year," Paul Horn said. "It's close to home, and we enjoy the food."

Andrea added "it's just a fun thing to bring my daughter to."

Arner said attendance for opening night couldn't have been better.

"We're off to an excellent start," Arner said. "People were able to come for lunch because some of the vendors opened early."

The festival continues today, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, from noon to 9 p.m.

New to this year's event is a free child identification program from the Lehigh Valley Community Resource Center, where they will electronically scan a child's fingerprints and take a video and photo. Everything will be put on a CD, which is Amber Alert certified, at no charge. The free service will be available from noon to 4 p.m. today and Sunday. It is supported by the Lehighton 9/12 Project, and Customer 1 Auto of Walnutport and Lehighton.

Also, the Palmerton Area Historical Society will provide a bus tour of Palmerton at 2 p.m. today and Sunday, in celebration of its Centennial this year. The tour is about 90 minutes long. Tickets can be purchased for $3 at the PAHS booth. For more information about the tour, contact Jane Borbe at (610) 767-5638.

Today's entertainment includes the Palmerton Community Band, from noon to 2 p.m. on the Bandstand; Parrotbeach, from 2-5 p.m. on the Main Stage; Becky and the Beasts, from 5-8 p.m. on the Bandstand; and the Mahoney Brothers, from 8-10:30 p.m. on the Main Stage.

On Sunday, performers will include the Pennsylvania Villagers, from noon to 2 p.m. on the Bandstand; Midnight Special, from 2-5 p.m. on the Main Stage; and Twitty Fever, from 6-9 p.m. on the Main Stage.

A duck race will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday for the West End Fire Co. of Palmerton, and the Palmerton Halloween Parade. There are a limited number of tickets for sale, which may be purchased at the information booth.

Other featured attractions include rides, crafts, games and a Chinese auction. There is no admission charge, parking is free, and handicapped parking is available. No pets, bikes, skateboards or roller skates are permitted in the park the entire weekend.

For more information, contact (484) 225-8368, or visit www.palmertonfestival.com [2].