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Under my hat: Addicted to fall festivals

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    Same as other local festivals, Schuylkill Haven Borough Day, held this year on Sept. 20, offered train rides to attract visitors. I’m always in awe of the size of the steam engine. RICK JONES/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    In Wyomissing, canals, mills and farm wagons drew throngs to a scenic riverside venue for the Berks County Heritage Festival, seen here Oct. 1. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published October 13. 2017 06:26PM

It seems I do most of my traveling in the fall.

It’s my favorite time of year because autumn brings with it community festivals that highlight the best of our region.

Each event is unique and each festival showcases the character of the community where it’s held.

I take part in several of the events with my 1890 highwheel riding machine. At others, I’m happy to simply walk around and take a few photos.

In our area, the festivals kick off in September. It seems there’s a different one each week and altogether they run nonstop until the holidays.

Most, such as the popular Palmerton Community Festival, offer free admission.

Jim Thorpe and Tamaqua have been hosting fall foliage events for decades. The themes typically focus on autumn harvest, crafts, trains, history and ethnic food.

The Lansford Fall Festival brings folks together for music, food, pumpkin painting and antique cars.

Most of the festivals take place downtown. But not all.

Each year I visit Coopersburg Community Day. Their special event thrives at a rural park. It’s a fun mix of history, music and crafts. Crowds are always strong.

Another September festival, Schuylkill Haven Borough Day, is known for vintage steam engine rides. Their celebration is one of the largest in Schuylkill County. Without question, trains and railroads are a huge draw.

But some towns focus on river and canals, such as Wyomissing and the Berks County Heritage Festival held in October. The event is strong on history and includes tours of a canal boat, mill and wagon works.

Some of these galas are sponsored by a county or municipality. Others are organized by a civic or volunteer group or similar committee.

But they all have one thing in common: they provide communities a chance to put their best foot forward.

I appreciate the efforts because I realize the hard work that goes into making it happen.

Festivals aren’t a given. They require days of preparation and a tidy sum of seed money. Even then, success isn’t guaranteed.

In fact, I recall a few fine celebrations that folded, such as the Slate Belt Heritage Festival in Bangor, a downtown gala that honored a rich slate tradition.

Same for Northumberland-Point Township Heritage Day. It always was a hit because it emphasized authenticity with a spotlight on colonial times. It, too, folded several years ago.

For years, I took part in the Danville Iron Heritage Festival. That event ended abruptly about four years ago. Believe it or not, a depressed visitor committed suicide by throwing himself beneath the wheels of a moving tourist train. A fun day had turned into tragedy.

The rest of the day’s tours were canceled and the festival was never held again.

And so eastern Pennsylvania has lost quite a few celebrations, some due to lack of volunteers, others to funding issues or even the unexpected.

It’s a shame when festivals cease to exist. They’re a colorful part of autumn. They’re addictive in a good way. Like old man river, they should just keep rolling along.

But such isn’t the case.

To remain viable, these events need public support.

If your town or one nearby hosts a festival, consider yourself lucky and be sure to pay a visit.

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