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Canal festival a step back in time for many

  • SHARON STANLEY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Some canoe riders get ready to depart while others prepare to jump in at the canal boat launch Sunday.
    SHARON STANLEY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Some canoe riders get ready to depart while others prepare to jump in at the canal boat launch Sunday.
Published October 22. 2013 05:00PM

Under a clear and breezy sky Sunday, thousands of eventgoers enjoyed a step back in time at the 33rd annual Canal Festival along the Lehigh Canal in Walnutport.

"It's a beautiful day," said Donna Buhay of Slatington, who was there with her husband, David, and their 12-year-old neighbor Emma Wetzel and her family.

"We come almost every year for the music and food and to see our friends, neighbors and the canal. It's just an enjoyable family day. "

"It's been perfect weather," agreed Walnutport Canal Association President and festival committee member Everett Kaul about the balmy, 61-degree day as he stood in period attire outside the Canal Locktender's House Museum, waiting to sign guests in for guided tours.

In regard to the atmosphere of the annual festival itself, Kaul noted that the WCA likes to keep the event geared toward historical displays and entertainers from the 1800s and early 1900s rather than having it have a more modern, amusement ride feel.

"We like to stay away from a carnival-type atmosphere," he said during an earlier interview Thursday, "and we always will."

Indeed, there were plenty of historical arts and crafts displays and demonstrations to be found there, including some Early American reenactors at an impromptu cooking and blacksmithing site, a flax weaver in period clothes demonstrating how local farmers fashioned some of their harvest into tow ropes, several reenactors in 1800s garb at a Victorian funeral display at 429 S. Canal St. and more.

Overall, there were more than 100 different vendors, entertainers, crafters and events at the festival, including returning bands like Big Valley Blue Grass, hayrides, wagon rides by Leiby's Carriage Service's Belgian horses, canoe rides and a casting contest on the canal, a basket auction and pumpkin painting.

The WCA, the nonprofit organization incorporated in 1982 that hosts this free event, also added some new displays and events in its newly constructed, and still partially unfinished, WCA Heritage Center next to the canal pavilion.

One such event was a poetry reading by published, and oft-awarded, poet and Walnutport native Paul Martin. Also scheduled were a new "panning for gold" kids competition, a potter and a forester, said Festival Committee Chairman Greg Soltis.

As in years past, food and beverages were also available throughout the festival, both from vendors and from the WCA. In fact, anyone dressed in Civil War or Victorian-era costume got their dinner free from the WCA at its canal pavilion location.

At least three vendors, including William and Carol Mondjack at the Mondjack Honey stand and Lori Diefenderfer at the Walnutport U.C.C. Church stand said they believe the festival was especially well-attended this year.

Proceeds from the weekend's events go to help fund the WCA, said WCA 2nd Vice President and festival committee member Margaret Kaul. She also mentioned that a very important source of income for the canal festival is sponsorships and grants and that major sponsors this year included Blue Ridge Communications, The Lehigh Valley Regional Council of the D&L Trail Alliance and Susquehanna Bank.

Other sponsors were, among others, the Woman's Club of Slatington and a grant from the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The weekend's canal festivities actually began on Saturday with several other fundraisers, including a 12th annual 6K Towpath Trot, a Fun Run & Walk for ages 13 and under and, later, a first-ever "Feast-ival" fundraising dinner at the canal pavilion.

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