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Another year of high riding comes to an end

Published December 05. 2009 09:00AM

The cold weather has arrived and another highwheel season ends.

The hobby of demonstrating 125-year-old bicycles takes my friends and me to about 30 events each year. Most are in Pennsylvania, along with a few in New York and New Jersey.

The biggest event once again was the annual Scranton St. Patrick's Day Parade. They had over 100,000 spectators lining the streets and countless others watching on television.

But crowds also were strong at other St. Pat's parades we visited in Wilkes-Barre, Girardville and Allentown. We also enjoyed the Northumberland-Point Township 7th Annual Heritage Day, a smaller but richly cultural festival held May 9. That event emphasizes heritage and originality, and is true to its mission. They avoid anything new or contemporary.

Every year we volunteer at festivals that salute coal mining. The Shamokin Anthracite Heritage Festival and Parade on May 22-23 was again a large-scale celebration that literally took over the downtown. In Lansford, the Second Annual Coal Miner's Heritage Festival took place on July 12 at the No. 9 Mine and it was apparent that the affair is growing in leaps and bounds.

In Bangor, industrial contributions of the slate industry take center stage every July at the Slate Belt Heritage Festival. That two-day event draws visitors to Bangor's downtown area and we've been part of it for several years.

In Danville, the big draw is strong as steel. Their weeklong Iron Heritage Festival honors all things iron. The highwheel bikes are a hit there and I usually run into someone from home.

Some events honor the general heritage and multicultural aspects of the local population, such as celebrations held each year in Mahanoy City, Tamaqua and Shenandoah.

This year, we missed the Shenandoah event because it fell on the same day as the Schuylkill County Volunteer Firefighters Convention Parade in Tamaqua. Paying tribute to volunteer firefighters is a must and a priority, and so we chose that event over the one in Shenandoah.

Ironically, it was our first-ever Tamaqua parade, even though we've been based there for 9 years.

Each year we take part in Civil War Weekend and other activities at Eckley Miners Village - and we did so again in 2009. But I'm not sure what the future holds now that the state is taking a step back from the commitment at Eckley. I hope the site survives.

We rode in Emmaus for the first time. The Emmaus 250th Anniversary Parade took place Aug. 15 and it was a big affair. We were positioned not far from the Pencor float featuring the newspapers of East Penn Publishing and the TIMES NEWS. I felt right at home.

Our participation in several events had to be canceled due to rain. We missed out on Belvidere, NJ, Victorian Days, the Milton, Pa., Harvest Festival, and the Millersville University Community Parade, the latter event we've done for years.

We also took part in a few non-heritage celebrations held just for fun, such as the Hazleton Funfest Parade and Schuylkill Haven Borough Day.

One yearly event salutes an entire county. We again joined in the Berks County Historical Society's celebration held in Reading. It's always difficult to ride the large highwheels on the busy city streets, but we somehow manage.

Speaking of difficulty, riding the vintage highwheels on the streets of center city Philadelphia was off the charts in terms of challenging. But we did it. We were invited there in July by Historic Philadelphia, Inc., and had a busy day.

Five of us rode the large-wheeled bicycles from the Betsy Ross House to the Liberty Bell and then around center city all day long. Traffic was heavy. Philadelphia motorists slowed down to stare at the odd-looking machines. City police weren't sure what to make of our presence. We tied up traffic but got through the day without being arrested. That's always good news.

The folks at Historic Philadelphia want us to return next year - something we'll think about over the winter as another busy season of high riding comes to an end.

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