The old TV show “The Office” was right. “Ain’t no party like a Scranton party cause the Scranton party don’t stop!” Scranton Tomorrow, an organization that is dedicated to improving the city’s environment for residents and visitors, celebrated Scranton’s 150th birthday on April 23, 2016. It was called Charter Day. On this day, Scranton had many events held downtown to commemorate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the city.
It all started with the ringing of church bells and sirens. They rang for 150 seconds in honor of the Scranton’s age. The Lackawanna County Historical Society gave tours around Lackawanna County Courthouse Square. Visitors of Scranton had the chance to see some of the downtown buildings in both the commercial district (Hotel Jermyn on Spruce Street, Scranton Times Building on Penn Ave., etc.) and the Gothic district (Scranton Cultural Center on Washington Ave., Lackawanna College on Vine St., etc.).
The Pennsylvania Quilters Association displayed quilts, which were made by members, inside Scranton City Hall. It was called Sesquicentennial Quilt Exhibit. Quilts were hung on both sides of the hallway. There was one called “Ocean Frolic”, which was designed with fish and other sea animals. It was made by Kim Courtright and quilted by Debbie Grow. Another one was designed with twelve baskets, one representing each month. It was called “Calendar Baskets”. This one was made by Kathryn Foley and quilted by Debbie Grow. A few members of the quilt association sold raffle tickets for a quilt called “Pennsylvania Blue Baskets”.
Downstairs in the City Hall’s basement, Scranton’s Civil War Museum, aka Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Museum was open. It displayed memorabilia of the Civil War including pictures such as ones of battles and ones of soldiers from Northeast PA. Dale Keklock, who was dressed as a Civil War commander, was there with his wife Joyce Keklock, who was also dressed in 1800’s attire, to explain to visitors about the Civil War items displayed. Dale is a historian and photographer of Historical-Data.com. He is also a member of The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Auxiliary #10, Camp #8. He is the master of ceremonies of the upcoming 115th Annual Observance of Memorial Day, which will be held on May 30, 2016 at Dunmore Cemetery.
The GAR Museum also exhibited mortar shells encased in glass. There was also a horse artillery from Scranton’s Post 139. Veterans used to fire the cannon while dragging it in Scranton’s parades. The museum also had a separate room with memorabilia of the Spanish-American War of 1898. This room displayed an old drum, which was used by veterans of Gobin Camp No. 41of Scranton. There were also old photos of veterans gathering in Scranton locations such as Nay Aug Park in 1913 and St. Peter’s Cathedral in 1922. Mark Zurinski, volunteer and history buff, was in this room to answer questions members visitors had. His great-great grandfather was a Civil War soldier named Oliver Roushey, who lived in Dallas, PA.
The GAR Museum opens every 3rd Saturday of each moth from 12pm to 3pm. Outside the museum in the hallway, Wendy Conrad Belaski and Julie Snell Esty, both dressed in 19th-century widow dresses, had their display from their business called Widows’ Wanderings. They had funeral memorabilia from the late 1800’s such as mourning pins and cabinet cards, which used to be given to widows to remember their deceased loved ones. They also displayed a proposal for the removal of the dead from the Battle of Gettysburg, which was issued in October, although the battle was in July, meaning that there were so many dead bodies from that battle that it took months to remove them all.
Charter Day continued at the Mall at Steamtown, where there was a Lego Contest for kids age 5 and up. The kids were allowed to make anything as long as it pertains to the city of Scranton. The Lego creations needed to be two feet high, three feet wide, and three feet in depth. Lucia Dudziec made a birthday cake with the message ‘Happy 150th Scranton’, which was also made by Legos. Other entries included Cooper’s Seafood Restaurant and the gorge at Nay Aug Park. The judges were: Bill Courtright, mayor of Scranton, Amber Cholish, children’s programming coordinator of the Scranton Public Library, and Joe Kenney, general manager of the Mall at Steamtown. There was also a People’s Vote, in which people received a ticket to write down their favorite entry. The judges decided that all of the kids were winners.
At Center Court of the mall, there was a Choral and Dance Showcase. Lori Singer and Peju Simoyan sang songs such as Pharrell’s “Happy” on the stage while the Kennedy Creek Strummers, Scranton’s first ukulele group, played their music. Step by Step Dance Studio performed swing and ballroom dances in front of the stage. They also performed at their dance studio later that evening. They called it ‘A Dancing Doubleheader.
The Pop Up Studio held a scavenger hunt in downtown Scranton. It started at Scranton City Hall, where participators received their first clue. Participators included TMGeniuses, which are staff members of TMG Health in Jessup, PA and staff members of Treasure House Development Center in Scranton. Each team wore matching outfits. TMGeniuses also wore red shirts. Treasure House members, which were all girls, wore bright colorful clothes, face paint, and leis, which earned them The Peppy Award. Each team went through many buildings and ended at the Radisson Hotel, which had a birthday bash for the Sesquicentennial.
The Radisson Hotel’s birthday bash was free admission. There were two bands performing: The Gerard Mayer Show Band played jazzy show songs, such as ones from Barry Manilow, at the lobby; Picture Perfect performed rocked out at the Showmobile. People had fun, mingled, and danced at this party.There was also slices of birthday cake, which were up for grabs on a table near the fountain. The hallway had Scranton merchandise, such as the board game Scrantonopoly (Scranton version of Monopoly) and shirts advertising Pete Bordi’s Restaurant, a currently defunct restaurant that was in downtown Scranton. Across from that, there was a table displaying winning entrees of the Charter Day Coloring Contest. All of the designs were either building events pertaining to Scranton. It included: the 1877 attack upon the mayor, which was colored by Vallery Oentoya of the United Neighborhood Center (UNC); the Scranton Republican, 1879 colored by Emma Pace of the UNC; the Scranton Iron Furnaces colored by Robyn from Valley View Terrace.
Charter Day concluded with a fireworks display. At 10pm, people inside the Radisson stepped outside the building to watch the fireworks launched by the Scranton Fire Department. Mayor Bill Courtright led a countdown before the first firework set off in the sky.
April 23 was a fun day for Scranton. Thanks to the members of Scranton Tomorrow and also the many sponsors such as WNEP 16, Times Shamrock Communications, Lamar Advertising, and the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, and many local organizations, Charter Day was a big success in honoring the city’s big milestone.
“It’s been a great day in Scranton,” said Andrea Mulrine, president of the 150 Anniversary Committee. “We started with church bells throughout Scranton and ended with fireworks.”
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to work with the community in planning the entire day,” said Leslie Collins, executive director of the 150th Anniversary Committee.