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Tamaqua Summerfest

  • LIZ PINKEY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS The Brandywine Miniature Railroad was a popular attraction for the kids. Engineer Mike McDevitt spent the day driving the small diesel up and down the tracks along Hegarty Avenue.
    LIZ PINKEY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS The Brandywine Miniature Railroad was a popular attraction for the kids. Engineer Mike McDevitt spent the day driving the small diesel up and down the tracks along Hegarty Avenue.
Published June 21. 2010 05:00PM

For the 20th year in a row, Tamaqua started off the summer season with its annual street fair, Summerfest. The clear skies, warm temperatures, and light breeze made for a perfect afternoon downtown.

Many of the popular attractions were back, including the Victorian High Wheelers, Leiby's Belgian horses and trolley, the TSMA antique and classic car show, and the Tamaqua Anthracite Model Railroad Society display.

But the main attraction this year, according to Tamaqua Historical Society president Dale Freudenberger, was the food.

"We've just got it all," he said, "from the ethnic favorites, like haluski and pierogies to the festival favorites, like the funnel cakes and snow cones."

West Broad Street was lined with vendors selling everything from the taste of the Caribbean to Hawaiian tropical ices.

"The cool treats were really the most popular things today, the lemonades, the ice cream sundaes, the Italian ices," said Freudenberger.

Lisa Phillip, the proprietor of Caribbean Cuisine, featured her menu of beans and rice, jerk chicken, pulled pork, and shish kebabs. This was the third year that she attended the festival, and this time, she also featured roasted corn on the cob.

Phillip cooks everything on a large grill that her brother made for her and noted that she has started to have many regular customers who look for her unique offerings. Phillip also brought her younger children with her, and said that they enjoyed helping her and checking out the other offerings in the downtown.

Sue Bittner, and her daughter-in-law, Michelle, stood outside their family store, selling hot sandwiches and drinks.

"Turnout has been good," said Bittner, "a little bit slow, but steady." Summerfest gives the Bittners a chance to expand the typical offerings of their store and also gives the family the chance to spend the day together.

One of Broad Street's newest businesses, the community bookstore, "I Said Read Me!", also experienced steady traffic throughout the day. Proprietor Sarah Fucci had a special offering of a bag of books for $1.

"They're mostly overstocked books, things we can't sell in the store," she said. The bookstore had a book signing early in the day, as well.

Although Tamaqua's fall festival, HeritageFest, is the time where the town's historical features are showcased, they were still drawing large crowds during the Summerfest, as well. Local author Donald Serfass hosted a book signing for his revised edition of Iron Steps, an Illustrated History of Tamaqua. Serfass estimated that he sold more than 150 books throughout the day.

"We had a line here at 11 o'clock," he said. "We couldn't move fast enough."

Freudenberger added that the signing, which benefitted and was located right outside of the historical society headquarters and museum, helped to bring people into the museum, which showcases many items from Tamaqua's history. Hundreds of people leafed through photographs of Tamaqua's past, comparing the present day downtown and finding familiar buildings. Also on display were several signs from the recent past, including Maff Motors, Agosti's supermarket, and Leiby's Restaurant.

Several other activities throughout the day reminded attendees of Tamaqua's past, including a 19th century church service at the Salem U.M. Church on Pine Street, Dr. Wahoo's Traveling Medicine Show and Phydeaux's Flying Flea Circus, blacksmithing demonstrations at the Hegarty Blacksmith shop, and the Brandywine Miniature Railroad Rides.

Michael McDevitt, the engineer and owner of the Brandywine Northern RR, experienced a few mechanical difficulties early in the morning, but to the relief of the children in attendance, was soon able to get up and running. The miniature diesel engine and cars were all made by McDevitt, who has been a regular at area festivals for more than 20 years.

"I think this is my fourth or fifth year here," he said. McDevitt said that he has been in the same location for several years now and people know to look for his unique ride. "The kids just love it," said his wife, Jane, who has watched an entire generation of festivals' kids grow up riding the family's train.

South Railroad Street was once again the scene for the Tamaqua Street Machine Association's annual cruise.

"We had about 40 cars," said organizer Kathy Maruschak. "Everyone likes this event because there's so much else to do." It's a great way to celebrate summer and a great day to celebrate fun."

The TSMA awarded three prizes, as well as a Mayor's Choice award, to the participants and donated $200 to the Tamaqua Library. The winners were: 1st place Scott Serfass, 1985 MonteCarlo SS; 2nd place Carl Gerber, 1969 Charger; 3rd place Earl Billig 1929 Ford. The Mayor's Choice award went to Louie Slakoper and his 1969 GTO.

"We're pleased with the overall success of the event," said Freudenberger. "This has become the way a lot of people celebrate Father's Day. It's a real family event."

This historical society will now begin working on its next big project, the restoration of a huge brass clock that will be returned to its original location on the front of the museum building and begin preparing for this fall's HeritageFest.

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