SHAMOKIN — Thousands gathered along Market Street on a warm, spring Saturday to attend the city’s 14th annual Anthracite Heritage Festival, which began with a foot race and was marked by a number of dedications and special events.
The weather also cooperated throughout the day as temperatures hovered in the low to mid-70’s, accompanied by an intermittent cool breeze at times.
5K and Fun Run
The festival kicked off at 9 a.m. near the intersection of Market and Arch streets with an inaugural Heritage 5K and Fun Run, organized by the owner of Heritage Restaurant, Kathy Vetovich.
A total of 67 runners participated in the race, many of whom reside out of town.
“We have a number of non-local runners who will be joining us for today’s race. One is here from Laporte and another from Royersford,” noted Vetovich. “Today’s race is a benefit for Shamokin Area Businesses for Economic Revitalization (SABER). We decided to put this on today so it compliments the festival.”
In listening to the runners, their reasons for participating in the 5K varied greatly.
“I’m just running today for exercise and enjoy seeing the heritage of Shamokin,” said Stacy Fenix, of Coal Township.
Sheyna Stankiewicz, also of Coal Township, had a different reason for running.
“I’m doing this to help support the Shamokin’s revitalization efforts. It would be nice to get things back into the city again,” she said.
Stretching intently during her warmup routine, Rachel Boss, of Harrisburg, said that she was looking for a race to run this weekend and spotted the Heritage 5K online.
“I’m originally from New England and enjoy running. I signed up for this event online and am looking forward to it,” she said.
Kathy Biscoe and her son, Kole, of Elysburg, also expressed their feelings about running in the race.
“I’m glad Shamokin has an event like this that brings runners and the community together,” said Kathy.
Kole remarked, “Just want to go out, have fun, get a head start on the day and enjoy some breakfast.”
Katherine Hopta, a 2006 Shamokin Area High School graduate who went on to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania and now makes her home in Pittsburgh, explained why she decided to run in the 5K.
“I’m here to hang out with my family for the weekend. My dad invited me to come out and to do this today,” explained Hopta.
The only snafu took place shortly after the start of the race. The runners proceeded southward up Market Street and as they began to circle around to make the turn back downhill northward, at least one vendor began setting up a large tent right in the middle of the road. Vetovich politely requested that the tent be moved out of the way until the runners had passed.
Legacy Park dedication ceremonies
Shamokin Carbons was joined by members of city council, along with family and friends, in a two-part ceremony to officially mark the dedication of Legacy Park, a small plot of land containing the Ann Koshinskie and Stanley Coveleski memorials that is situated between Market and Lincoln streets.
Koshinskie, a local citizen and longtime Shamokin Carbons employee, was honored with a memorial for her many years of dedicated service with the company.
Shamokin Carbons spokeswoman Kenia Pensyl addressed the public at Legacy Park.
“We would like to start by thanking all of you for coming out to our dedication and celebrating Ann Koshinskie’s service to Shamokin Carbons, Rosini Enterprise and the community for the last 60 years,” stated Pensyl.
“Initially, the idea was to dedicate a bench to a local facility of Ann’s choice, as she is an active member, president and instructor in several local organizations. However, after speaking with the city, this plot of land was offered to Shamokin Carbons to further develop into a sitting park as a means to commensurate Ann’s lengthy service of 62 years. As we began the design of the park, Ann made one request: Focus on the heritage, ideologies and ambition of the region. For this reason and with this direction, we have designated this Legacy Park.”
Koshinskie, who started her employment with Shamokin Filler Co., now Shamokin Carbons, in 1957, expressed her sincere appreciation toward the Rosini family and company management for affording her the opportunity to work for their company.
“I’m really honored that they’re doing this for me. I want to thank God, my employer (Rosini family) and my fellow employees,” she exclaimed. “Legacy park is truly beautiful and I also want to thank Jason Soucey for his efforts in helping to move this project forward.”
Members of the Coveleski family were also present for the acknowledgment of their great-uncle and Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Stanley Coveleski and rededication of his memorial in the park.
“Our entire family is thrilled and honored that the City of Shamokin has completed this beautiful park and included the Stanley Coveleski Memorial as part of it,” said Patricia Cove, a great-niece of Coveleski who resides in the Philadelphia area.
Pamela Cove, wife of grand-nephew Edward Cove Jr., added, “It’s always nice to reflect upon the past. For people who visit this area, they can learn a lot about our past and local heritage.”
Also in attendance was Coveleski’s great-nephew Larry Cove, of Catawissa, who released a cage full of butterflies following the unveiling of a new dark blue metal memorial bench by city leaders with Coveleski’s name engraved on it.
Shroyer time capsule opening
Following the unveiling of the Coveleski Memorial Bench, members of city council and the public quickly walked toward the stage located at Market and Chestnut streets for the opening of the Shroyer Dress Co. time capsule, which was preserved at the time of the former factory building’s demolition back in December.
With Shamokin Mayor John Brown holding the American flag high in the air, vocalist Sharon Styer performed stirring renditions of both verses of our national anthem, along with “God Bless America.” It was a patriotic scene befitting of Memorial Day, as members of the audience sang along with Styer in honoring America and the freedom it represents.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance by young Harper Ososkie and opening prayer by the Rev. Sam Bellavia, pastor of the Shamokin Christian & Missionary Alliance Church, it was finally time for the capsule to be opened. Surrounded by members of the Shroyer family, Councilman Scott Roughton and City Administrator Bob Slaby performed the honors. Inside the box was a large envelope which contained a small 1946 photo of Shroyer’s founder and company president John U. Shroyer, who served in the U.S. Army from 1898-1902, and was a Spanish-American War veteran. In addition to the photo, there was a list of several pages that contained the names and addresses of each of the original 700 employees (600 women and 100 men) who worked at Shroyer’s factory.
As the public looked on, many personal thoughts and stories recounting Shroyer’s as a wonderful place and family business to work at were shared by family members.
“Grandpa was the kind of man who was very family and country oriented,” said Jean (Shroyer) Bamford, a granddaughter of founder John U. Shroyer. “This list of employees was like family to him and he loved to make people happy. I recall growing up how he used to hand out quarters to children who walked by his home. Our family would like to thank all the people who are in office right now for allowing us to be a part of this. We’re the third generation representing our family here today. Grandpa started his business by making aprons for postal workers, then later expanded it to dress making.”
Shamokin’s public swimming pool, the Lawton W. Shroyer Memorial Pool, is named after Bamford’s father.
Shroyer family friend Suzette Steinhart also recalled the company founder’s generosity toward everyone in the community, particularly its young people.
“Grandpa, as we called him, used to take all of us neighborhood kids to the bank with him and then out for ice cream together,” she said.
Northumberland County Commissioner Sam Schiccatano spoke of his recollections of what it was like to live at a time when the Shroyer family served as an integral part of Shamokin’s prosperity.
“I grew up at a time when families like the Shroyers were the backbone of our community,” recalled Schiccatano. “The current city administration has been working to restore pride back to our community and it shows. Things are starting to turn around.”
Councilman Charlie Verano added, “The Shroyers are a model family for the Shamokin community.”
Fire truck pull event
Local high school football players from Shamokin Area, Mount Carmel Area, Southern Columbia Area, Danville and Line Mountain competed in the popular fire truck pull event. The Southern team won this year’s competition with a winning time of 21.53 seconds. Line Mountain placed second with a best time of 22:03 and Shamokin Area third at 22:37.
Food and art
Several new vendor stands, such as the “Perk Up Truck,” operated by Michelle Lorah, served up array of fresh fruit smoothies with many unique flavors such as kiwi melon and peanut butter.
Across the way at its stand, the Friendship Fire Co. served up delicious fresh-made burgers, steak hoagies and other items at affordable prices.
There were also a number of returning favorites such as fresh-popped kettle korn and a number of fresh-squeezed lemonade stands. Of course, there was the famous potato cakes, haluski and pierogies being served up at the crowded Our Lady of Hope Church stand.
Music, dancing and train rides
Live music was performed on stage in the morning by Strawbridge, which featured many country and classic songs, and the After Hours Big Band, which delighted afternoon festival-goers with a number of swing-era hits, including Count Basie’s beloved “April in Paris.”
Sisters Arcana Dancers performed their dancing solo and duet routines, while Heath’s Gym Dance Crew’s young members showed off their moves, drawing smiles, encouragement and applause from the crowd.
As always, train rides were also a crowd favorite, with a combined 500 tickets sold between the morning and afternoon excursions of the Anthracite Heritage Express.
“It’s great to see the trains and everyone coming into town like this,” said event coordinator Tara Venna. “As a member of the arts council, I’m in charge of handling the train advertisements, ticket sales and overall event coordination. I want to express my sincere appreciation toward everyone involved with these train excursions, including the SEDA-COG Joint Railway Authority, Penn Valley Railroad LLC and North Shore Railroad System.”
Wagon tours and carriage rides
Festival coordinator and executive director of the Northumberland County Council for the Arts (NCCA) Jeanne Shaffer said that this year’s festival had more attendees than last year.
“I think we have a bigger crowd than last year,” noted Shaffer. “Last year, the wagon tours were running half full and this year you can’t find an empty seat on them.”
The carriage rides also appeared to be doing well.
Bethany Zornek, of Nazareth, sat listening to the After Hours Big Band and expressed her thoughts of the festival.
“I really enjoy listening to the After Hours Big Band, of which my boyfriend’s a member. Walking around here today, I’m noticing how many families are here together,” she said.
Shamokin resident Jeanette Groff was also pleased with the Heritage Festival.
“This is my second year coming here. I enjoy listening to the music and meeting different people, some of whom I haven’t seen in a long time. The food is good and there are many interesting stands,” said Groff.