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2018 in Review: Saying goodbye to St. Patrick, hello to gondola

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    The 2018 Native American $1 coin features Jim Thorpe on one side and Sacagawea on the other. The coin is available at Jim Thorpe Neighborhood Bank. Call for details. ILLUSTRATION BY BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

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    Members of the Palmerton UVO cross the new pedestrian bridge in Jim Thorpe Monday morning. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

Published December 29. 2018 06:37AM

It’s been a fruitful year in Carbon County, and as the new year approaches, as does the promise of even more progress. Here’s a look at some of the business and tourism news from 2018.

Bagpipes were blown for the last time at Carbon County’s final St. Patrick’s Day Parade held in March.

The 21-year-old tradition, which drew around 10,000 people to Jim Thorpe annually, was put to an end, in part, due to financial strain.

Some good news out of Jim Thorpe: The borough’s namesake, Jim Thorpe, graced a $1 coin.

The 2018 reverse design from the U.S. Mint depicts Jim Thorpe with the foreground elements highlighting his football and Olympic achievements. Inscriptions are “Jim Thorpe,” “Wa-Tho-Huk” (Thorpe’s Sac and Fox tribe name), “United States of America” and “$1.”

In the pre-sale, collectors ordered a combined 1,150,800 Jim Thorpe coins through roll, bag and box options. The coins were available at local banks as singles, rolls of 25, bags of 100 or a box containing 250.

Flashback to 1976, the idea of a gondola bridging Jim Thorpe and Flagstaff Mountain was just an April Fool’s joke posed by the Times News. But earlier this year, Marion Hose Bar owner Andrew Roberts’ $14.5 million proposal sparked promise of revitalizing the century-old Flagstaff Ballroom. As of October, the project would include building a gondola that would run 2,600 feet from Flagstaff to the intersection of Race and High streets, a five-story hotel and $1 million in ballroom renovations.

In April, Giant Food Stores announced the construction of six new stores, including one in the building at 300 S. Best Ave. in Walnutport which is slated to open in 2019. It will be the first time the company has made ground in borough, but the chain has already made headway into the county. There has been a location in Lehighton since 2001.

Speaking of breaking ground, Versum Materials, an electronic materials company, opened its $20 million technology center in Hometown with a ribbon cutting and a tour of the facility that housed Air Products and Chemicals Inc. As of April, Versum employed about 250 people at its Hometown location.

Last summer, members of the Jim Thorpers bicycle team christened the Mansion House Bridge, which carries the Delaware & Lehigh Trail across the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe. The bridge has been closed because more work is needed, but once completed, the decades-old project will establish a 57-mile uninterrupted stretch from Glen Summit, Luzerne County to Cementon, Lehigh County.

Seven solar-powered parking kiosks replaced Jim Thorpe’s 77 coin-operated meters downtown, taking root on Broadway, Hazard Square and Susquehanna streets in the borough. The kiosks accept cash, quarters, credit cards and debit cards.

The former Carbon County Prison turned museum on West Broadway in Jim Thorpe was put on the market by its owners, Betty Lou and Thomas McBride. The building housed the county’s official jail between the years 1871 and 1995, but it is best known as the site where seven Irish coal miners and members of the Molly Maguires, a secret society of labor activists, were hanged.

The McBrides hope that the building’s new owners, whoever they may be, will maintain the institution’s use as a tourist attraction.

Lansford’s annual Labor Day music festival, Zoostock, came under new leadership, and got a new name: LOCStock and Barrel. Its new home is now in Lehighton, rather than Lansford, at the Lehighton Outdoor Center, 123 Lehigh Drive, Lehighton. Jerry McAward, owner of the outdoor center, said that he plans to revive a former Zoostock fundraiser, Rafting Against Cancer.

The Tamaqua and Schuylkill County Chambers of Commerce signed an affiliate agreement in early December.

“Tamaqua is one of Schuylkill County’s best-kept secrets. There are many great businesses in the area and it’s time to make them known to everyone in the county. It makes sense for both chambers to work together. This is a perfect way to open the eyes of people in the county to see what Tamaqua has to offer.”

Jennifer Drake, president of the Tamaqua chamber, sees the agreement as “a way to share successful ideas and events with an overall goal of strengthening the business community, here in Tamaqua and throughout Schuylkill County.”

By bringing Tamaqua into the fold, the Schuylkill Chamber now has affiliate agreements with nine chamber type organizations, representing 809 members.

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