Sunshine, blue skies and the aroma of mouthwatering food made for a state of serenity as the 24th annual Palmerton Community Festival experienced a picture-perfect start on Friday.

The festivities got under way in the borough park when festival committee secretary Jane Stroup welcomed the Palmerton United Veteran's Organization, which served as color guard and presented the flag.

That was followed by the Rev. Nathan Fry, pastor of the Living Hope Lighthouse Church, Palmerton, who gave the invocation.

Mayor Chris Olivia welcomed those in attendance, and noted there has been a festival in the borough for 49 years.

Olivia said the [Palmerton] Hospital Festival, as it was then known as, began in 1965, and continued for 25 years until 1989. It then became the [Palmerton] Community Festival 24 years ago in 1990.

He then stated "Can you imagine all the volunteer hours that have been dedicated to a successful festival for 45 years?

"We must offer our thanks to each and every one who helps make this festival a success," Olivia said. "Our special thanks to Sue Arner, Jane Stroup, and Dave Dailey, whose leadership makes our festival possible."

Olivia added "It is proof of the vibrant community known as Palmerton; a thriving downtown, a beautiful pool, our wonderful schools, library and parks. A community that has a sense of pride."

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the Living Hope Lighthouse Church choir sang their version of the national anthem.

Stroup then asked for a moment of silence to remember the veterans and all service men and women.

From there, it was time for some classic rock from the 1960s and 70s courtesy of Olde Friends, which served as the opening act on the main stage. The evening's entertainment was rounded out by the Fabulous Greaseband.

Aside from its entertainment, the festival also boasts countless food vendors, plenty of rides and handmade crafts, demonstrations, bingo, games, and a Chinese auction.

Tracie Henry, of Palmerton, who accompanied her son, Cooper Henry, 4, said she's attended the event for as long as she can remember.

At the other end of the park, Nichole Bognar, of Palmerton, watched as her son, Matthew Breiner, 4, and niece, Angela Bognar, 6, took their turn together on the Pony Carts ride.

"I come every year," Bognar said. "I enjoy the food, and the kids enjoy the rides."

Others, such as Palmerton Area High School juniors Keira Gasper, Ashley Lalik, and Matt Myers, were content to mingle as they sat and enjoyed some of the festival's tasty offerings.

"I love the food," Gasper said. "I like just to hang out with friends."

Susan Arner, event chairwoman, said the festival's opening "went smooth."

"The weather is absolutely awesome and perfect," Arner said. "We couldn't ask for anything better."

Arner said she was extremely pleased with the turnout, and added that the festival committee continues to take lots of suggestions for new ideas for next year's silver anniversary event.

She estimated that over $1 million has been raised for various organizations in the 24 year's since it became the community festival.

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

Today's entertainment lineup consists of the Palmerton Community Band from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the bandstand; Changes in Latitude from 3-6 p.m. on the main stage; Becky and the Beasts from 6-8 p.m. on the bandstand; and The Mahoney Brothers from 8-10:30 p.m. on the main stage.

Also today, the Lehigh Gap Nature Center will be on the bandstand from 1:30-2:30 p.m. complete with snakes and turtles. In addition, Horsehead Corporation will conduct guided bus tours, which will feature a drive-through of the operation. The bus tours are scheduled for 12:30, 2 and 3:30 p.m. Sign-up sheets for the tours are available at the festival.

Sunday will see performances by Rehab X from noon to 2 p.m. on the bandstand; Midnight Special from 2-5 p.m. on the main stage; and Twitty Fever from 6-8:30 p.m. on the main stage. The always popular duck race will be held at 5 p.m.

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 on the festival, visit www.palmertonfestival.com [2].