Annual celebration in Shenandoah to feature art, food, diversity
The migrants — and the culture they carried with them — that converged to work in the one-time bustling mining region will be celebrated this weekend in a community that may best epitomize a little slice of Americana.
Shenandoah will host the 20th anniversary of its Heritage Day, which will be held Saturday starting with the Parade of Nations at 10 a.m. in the borough’s downtown, according to Mary Luscavage, executive director of Downtown
Shenandoah Inc., the revitalization group that coordinates the event. The festival is free, open to the public and will be held rain or shine.
The event is unique in that it’s not a celebration of a singular heritage on one day, or of strictly American heritage, but of all the different ethnic groups that exemplify what nascent America was like.
“Normally when a town celebrates their heritage, they celebrate the heritage of the town, where we celebrate the heritage of our ethnicity, because we’re so diverse here. We have so many ethnicities in this town. It’s not just Eastern European, it’s not just Greek, it’s not just Ukrainian, it’s not Hispanics … there will be a showing of almost all ethnicities in the parade,” Luscavage said.
The nations marching in the parade include Bulgaria, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Israel, Ireland, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Puerto Rico, Slovakia, Ukraine, and of course, the U.S., Luscavage said, adding that the Divine Power of Christ Church will fly under 10 flags this year. Included in the parade will be a “special contingent” representing miners to mark the 250th anniversary of anthracite coal being found in the region.
In addition to the miners in the parade, John Bova, a son of the miner who passed away in the Sheppton Mine Disaster, will be showing kids how to crack coal.
“I think it’s an art more than anything else,” Luscavage said.
This year’s parade grand marshal will be Pete Vernalis of Vernalis Restaurant, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
“Pete’s been very instrumental in the town throughout his life. He was very instrumental in Miners Memorial, and very instrumental in the chamber of commerce,” Luscavage said.
The parade will run from Jardin Street to Cherry Street, down to Main Street and follow Main to the Shenandoah Senior Living Community, where a presentation to the grand marshal will be made, along with many musical performances
with a taste of every nation. Performers include Shaina Graff, the Shenandoah AllStar Polka Band, J.T. Thomas and DJ Khemist.
And, Luscavage said, new this year will be a few art-centric displays.
“We wanted to do something to kick this off with it being the 20th, so we decided to do an art show. We did one before for the centennial and it was very successful, so we decided to do it again,” she said.
The art show will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Divine Mercy Roman Catholic Parish’s St. Stephen Hall, 101 S. Main St. The event will include artists from the Shenandoah area, Walk In Art Center and students. One artist will even be doing a street-performance instruction on painting, Luscavage said.
There was also a home decorating contest, the idea of resident Mary Ann Pronio, where about 13 houses were decorated, and three winners were chosen during the week. The winners will be announced this weekend, with first prize winning a historical throw from DSI; second, a gift basket from Mrs. T’s Pierogies; and third, a gift certificate from Francesco’s Ristorante. All were “very nicely done,” Luscavage said, adding all were done with a particular ethnic twist.
Elsewhere, The Greater Shenandoah Area Historical Society, 201 S. Main St., will be open from noon to 4 p.m. to exhibit the borough’s melting-pot history.
And, in addition to the many craft vendors that will be selling everything from matryoshka, icons and woodworkings — “There’s nothing you can’t find here,” Luscavage said — there will be that staple, the items that by most standards define a culture: Food.
Many of the nations marching in the parade will have their own stands, Luscavage said, adding that everything from pierogies, halushki and kielbasa to Egyptian specialties and fine Mexican cuisine from La Casita de Familia will be available.
“I wish everybody would stop by, enjoy the festival, enjoy the parade, go to the art show, check the windows out, come back and eat, enjoy the music and the day.” Luscavage said.
For more information about the 20th annual Heritage Day and the festivities it entails, visit DSI’s website at www.downtownshenandoah.com or call them at 570-4622060.
“I wish everybody would stop by, enjoy the festival, enjoy the parade, go to the art show, check the windows out, come back and eat, enjoy the music and the day.” Mary Luscavage Executive director of Downtown Shenandoah Inc.
Amy, left, and Anne Andruscavage, both of Shenandoah, represented Lithuania during last year’s Parade of Nations as part of the annual Heritage Day. This year’s event will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday in Shenandoah.
Greg Taylor, Shenandoah Heights, waves to the crowd in patriotic attire during last year’s festivities.