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Lansford keeps heritage alive

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    The M&J Big Band of Pottsville belt out classic tunes from the Dorsey Brothers and others during the Ethnic Festival in Lansford on Saturday. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS

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    Perfect weather greeted attendees at the Ethnic Festival in Lansford on Saturday. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app for a photo gallery of the event. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS

Published July 09. 2018 05:20PM

The Lansford Alive Events Committee has successfully created a tradition in its Music in the Park series.

On Sunday evenings throughout the summer, the sounds of big band and classic rock lure people from Lansford and beyond to the bandstand at Kennedy Park.

Once a year, the churches and organizations of the borough join in, turning the event into a full-on festival.

The annual Ethnic Festival took place Saturday, with more than 100 people gathered in the pleasant weather.

The event celebrated the various ethnicities, including Slovak, Polish and Lithuanian, that make up Lansford’s tradition.

The M&J Big Band channeled the most famous musicians to come from the coal region, the Dorsey Brothers, as well as other big band classics like “As Time Goes By.”

Local churches, vendors and organizations represented each brought their own different offerings to the event.

St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church sold 600 pierogies. The members of the former St. Michael’s/St. Katharine Drexel Church sold bleenies, the traditional potato pancake of the area.

There were other options too, like Caribbean jerk chicken and meatball sandwiches from the Friends of the Lansford Pool, who are raising money to help reopen the borough’s swimming spot.

Around the corner from the festival, Lansford artist Rene Novak displayed the fourth edition in a series of portraits honoring women who worked in the textile mills of the Panther Valley — many of whom reflect the ethnic diversity of the valley.

Women employed at the mills, Novak said, became an important, if not controversial, source of income for many families in the valley after the mines closed.

Novak uses canvas and markers, which give the portraits an industrial look.

“It’s all simple materials,” Novak said.

The events committee’s stated purpose is to hold events that will not only entertain Lansford residents, but give people from around the area a reason to revisit Lansford, and keep coming back to town. The ethnic festival is in its third year. Music in the Park has been taking place for five.

“Now people say, ‘Lansford, that’s where they have the big bands,’” said Irma Leibensberger, a member of the events committee.

Those in attendance said the ethnic festival and Music in the Park are a great way to spend a summer evening.

“It’s a nice place to sit and meet your friends,” said Romaine Karnish.

The M&J Big Band has played at Kennedy Park for three years in a row now, and director John Shoener said they love coming back.

“It’s a little drive to Lansford, but it’s always a great crowd,” Shoener said.

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