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  • Nine-year-old Elizabeth Horton from Morristown, N.J. takes a hard-hitting swing at a pinata in Josiah White Park during her family's visit to Jim Thorpe during the Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce's 18th Annual WinterFest Weekend.
    Nine-year-old Elizabeth Horton from Morristown, N.J. takes a hard-hitting swing at a pinata in Josiah White Park during her family's visit to Jim Thorpe during the Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce's 18th Annual WinterFest Weekend.
Published February 20. 2012 05:02PM

The streets, shops, and businesses of downtown Jim Thorpe bustled with activity over the Presidents Day Weekend as the Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce hosted its 18th Annual WinterFest Weekend.

Multitudes of visitors toured Broadway and Race Street, shopped the shops and galleries, and dined in the restaurants in the historic county seat community.

There was something for everyone, including ice and wood carving demonstrations, Civil War reenactors, horse-drawn carriage rides, strolling musicians, the Jim Thorpe Mug Walk, and in the evenings, live entertainment at the Mauch Chunk Opera House.

The ice and wood carving demonstrations took place in both Josiah White Park and in front of the Mauch Chunk Opera House, with both locations including a wide variety of sculptures.

A popular event was the chamber's fundraiser Mug Walk, during which visitors who purchased a Jim Thorpe mug could look for signs that indicated participating shops and stores which would fill those mugs with something free, including cookies, soup, coffee and other surprises.

"We doubled our mugs from last year from 150 to 300 and we sold those out Saturday by 3 p.m.," WinterFest coordinator Mike Guy noted. "We got about 70 extra mugs from a local business for Sunday and we also sold them out by 11 a.m."

As for the WinterFest overall, Guy went on to say that "we are very, very, very pleased with this year's turnout.

"While it could have been just a few degrees cooler for the ice sculpting, the weather was excellent and we had a super weekend."

Guy also noted that the chamber had offered free space to sell things in Josiah White Park to nonprofit organizations such as the Girl Scouts, Lehighton Band Booster Club, Carbon County Friends of Animals and the Bach and Handel Chorale.

One special highlight for the youngsters present in town each day was the smashing of candy-filled pinatas in Josiah White Park, which were donated by Rainbow's End.

On Saturday afternoon Faculty Brass, a Lehighton-based quartet, performed tunes of all genres from marches and polkas to recent pop tunes as they strolled up and down Broadway.

Also drawing a lot of interest were the Civil War reenactors of the 69th Pennsylvania Irish Volunteers, who put on a living-history display both days.

The 69th was the only Pennsylvania regiment to carry the green Irish flag into battle. This battle flag was given to the regiment by the people of the city of Philadelphia.

The regiment was recruited from Philadelphia's Irish militia companies of the 2nd Regiment. Pennsylvania Militia and was mustered into service on Aug. 19, 1861, with its first action at the Battle of Balls Bluff.

The 69th served in the Peninsula Campaign, during which it was complimented by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker for making "the first successful bayonet charge of the war."

The unit played a large role at the Battle of Gettysburg, helping repel both Brig. Gen. Ambrose Wright's charge on July 2 and Pickett's Charge on July 3.

Its casualties over the last two days of the battle were enormous, losing 143 men out of 258, including its colonel, lieutenant colonel, two captains, and a lieutenant. The regiment's ranking officer, Maj. Duffy, was seriously wounded, but refused to give up command until the battle was over.

On both Saturday and Sunday the chamber presented free kids' shows, courtesy of Al Grout, an entertainer who has been performing since 1977, and does more than 200 shows a year.

The shows, which were held at the Mauch Chunk Opera House on Saturday and at the Mauch Chunk Museum on Sunday, were well received and drew good audiences.

Each day's events wrapped up with live entertainment at the Mauch Chunk Opera House.

On Saturday evening at 8 p.m., audiences were treated to the British blues band Savoy Brown.

On Sunday evening at 5 p.m., The Allentown Band, which was founded in 1828, performed concert band music at a world class level rarely heard.

Their venue is much like that of famous band leader John Philip Sousa, who actually appeared many times at the Mauch Chunk Opera House around the turn of the last century.

There was something of interest for almost everyone at this year's Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce 18th Annual WinterFest Weekend.

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