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Dear Tamaqua casts bright hope

Dear Tamaqua ... In a New Light.

Tuesday, the borough's downtown teemed with people who had gathered to experience the culmination of Dear Tamaqua.During the two-year project, organizers gathered more than 500 letters from current and former residents, who wrote their memories of the past and hopes for the future. They used that information to create a walking tour loaded with interactive scenes, sounds, tastes and memories.Tamaqua's New Light? It's bright."I think it was wonderful," said Judy Roeder of Tamaqua, who had just finished the 1-mile journey. "The music, the people it was fantastic. I felt like I was meeting old friends all along the way."Marie Hamm Reynolds walked the route with her husband, Jesse."I really liked the way the past and present were blended," she said. "It must have taken a lot of work to pull this all together."It did. The Dear Tamaqua project was a collaborative venture between the Tamaqua Community Arts Center, The Tamaqua Safety Initiative and the Dear Tamaqua Leadership Committee. Touchstone Theatre, a Bethlehem-based group which focuses on creating community-based art, patterned on the project."This was truly a community effort," said arts center director Leona Rega. "So many businesses, organizations and individuals helped and made it possible."Tamaqua Mayor Chris Morrison said that in the history of the borough, one source of its wealth has never changed."We are rich in volunteers," Morrison said. "So many of our residents are involved in this; too many to count."The walking route started at the borough's historic train station, and turned onto Broad Street where Steve Mazur of Tamaqua, started the experience with style as he played an electric guitar while scenes of the borough reeled on a huge screen behind him. The route continued to Hunter Street and West Cottage Avenue before returning to Broad Street and a block party.From there, participants had their choice of conveyance Leiby's Carriage Service, drawn by two shining Belgian horses, a hay wagon pulled by an SUV, driven by Tamaqua District Justice Stephen Bayer, or the Tamaqua Trolley.The various vehicles dropped off their passengers near St. Jerome's Regional School, where dancers from the Pennsylvania Performing Arts Academy and cheerleaders from Tamaqua High School provided entertainment.The route continued to West Rowe Street, where 10 actors, each on individual stages, were spread along several blocks. Each read excerpts from various Dear Tamaqua letters.The letters read by one of the actors, Jacob Gursky, summed up the sometimes begrudging affection past and present residents have for the borough."Dear Tamaqua, I know that you're doing the best you can," Gursky read. "I also recognize that I wouldn't be where I am without you."

LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS Steve Mazur of Tamaqua gave the tour a great start with fantastic guitar work.