Crowds are huge at festival
LIZ PINKEY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS David Terwilliger, of Appalachia Brooms, demonstrates how to make old fashioned brooms. The original crafters were a new feature at the festival.
After weeks of seemingly endless rainy, damp weather, Sunday's clear blue skies and warm temperatures helped draw even more people to Tamaqua's 27th annual Heritage Festival.
"I think this is one of our largest crowds in recent memory," said Linda Yulanavage, festival coordinator and executive director of the Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce.
"We've had a very steady crowd all day," said Dale Freudenberger, president of the Tamaqua Historical Society, which sponsors the event.
The festival featured its usual array of homemade ethnic foods, representing every corner of the world and an unusually large number of crafters.
"I wonder if it's the economy," said Yulanavage. "More people are trying their hand at getting their wares out. I think most of them have done very well today."
One of the new attractions at this year's festival were three old-fashioned crafters, who gave demonstrations of their "lost" arts, as well as selling their wares.
"We have a glassblower, a weaver, and a broom maker," said Yulanvage.
Cindy Miller, the proprietor of the Summershanty Arts and Crafts Studio, helped to organize the display, which was located on the platform next to the train station.
"I've been knitting since I was in third grade," said Miller. "I am an art teacher and I really liked the fiber arts."
Miller eventually acquired a floor loom and has also been weaving for over 30 years.
Next to Miller, David Terwilliger, of Appalachia Brooms, explained the history of his handmade brooms to festival attendees. Several of the styles that he makes were first made by African-American slaves.
In addition to the crafters, members of the Eckley Players patrolled the area around the Station in period garb and the Breaker Boys entertained the crowds with their wisecracks and musical selections. The train rides, one south to New Ringgold, and two north, across the historic High Bridge, were once again, the main attraction of the festival.
"I'm not sure if they sold out," said Freudenberger, "but we had big ticket sales before Sunday."
The train actually stopped on the High Bridge, allowing passengers to take in the gorgeous array of fall colors and the scenic beauty of the Little Schuylkill River winding its way under the bridge. The ride always consists of two types of people: those who slide over to the edge of their seats in the middle of the car and don't move until the train is well off the bridge and those who press their noses up to the windows. The weather was so beautiful on Sunday, that many of the car windows were already open, which allowed many to get a bird's-eye view of the area.
Elsewhere, there were several other reminders of Tamaqua's rich history. The Hegarty Blacksmith shop was fully operational, with blacksmith Don Campbell wielding his hammer. The Tamaqua Historical Society Museum and the Burkhardt Moser log cabin were open for tours.
Members of the Tamaqua Anthracite Model Railroad club opened their doors to the public.
"Much of the display is based on Tamaqua and Mahanoy City," said club secretary Gene Lutz, who greeted festival goers at the door. The day is a busy one for the club, which also opens its doors during the annual SummerFest.
"It brings the people in; we usually get a few new members," said Lutz. The model includes a replica of the original turntable that used to be in the center of Tamaqua.
Even as the crowd dwindled, and the vendors started to pack up, organizers were already starting to work on making next year's festival bigger and better than ever.
"Every year, we try to add a few new things," said Yulanavage. "The old-time crafters were a big hit. Hopefully, we can build on that for next year."