Two-hundred-fifty years of coal, 100 years since World War I and 45 years since the local historical society was founded — an event this weekend in eastern Schuylkill County offers a lot to look back on, and a lot to look forward to.
The 34th Tamaqua Heritage Festival, organized by the Tamaqua Historical Society, will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday in downtown Tamaqua. The event will feature vendors of all kinds, music, historical exhibits and more, and will be held rain or shine, according to Dale Freudenberger, historical society president.
“The Tamaqua Heritage Festival is a community celebration of the rich history and culture of the greater Tamaqua area. Over the years, it has become sort of a homecoming, where we find that families that have roots in Tamaqua come back to town for the heritage festival,” Freudenberger said. “Relatives from out of town get together, come downtown to have a good time and celebrate kind of the last hurrah of summer season, start of the fall/autumn season as well as the holiday season.”
The festival has taken on a unique motif this year in honor of the quarter-millenium since coal brought people to the area, and gave birth to these communities, Freudenberger said.
“It’s like a yearlong celebration. We’ve done a couple of events throughout the year. When we were planning our heritage festival, we had a little bit more of a special twist on it. We have a couple of things that are geared toward coal history and coal heritage
and culture as part of our festival celebration.”
Some of those things include exhibits at the Tamaqua Area Historical Museum, 118 W. Broad St., such as the discovery and mining of coal, the railroads used to transport the black diamonds, immigration, Molly Maguires and much more, according to a historical society press release.
At the Museum Annex and Gallery at 114 W. Broad St. there will be a special art exhibit titled the “Art of Anthracite” which will feature about 40 paintings by Tamaqua native Harry K. Snyder, with some depicting coal breakers throughout the Anthracite Coal Region. Another exhibit will feature Tamaqua artist John G. Scott, and, the press release noted, the gallery will be featuring a new painting by him.
In addition to the anniversary of anthracite, there will be a special display and re-enactors honoring the 100th anniversary of World War I.
Moreover, the organization that makes the event possible — the Tamaqua Historical Society — will be celebrating its 45th year of documenting the area’s past goings-on and educating the public.
“It’s a long time,” Freudenberger said. “I never dreamed we’d be celebrating the 45th anniversary. Not that it wasn’t a good thing from the start. It’s just a long time; I’ve just never looked that far ahead . ... I’ve been here as a member of the historical society for 44 of those 45 years.”
And, despite the looming threat of some side-effect precipitation from Hurricane Michael, Freudenberger believes luck is on the side of Tamaqua when it comes to these events.
“In 45 years of doing this, we’ve never canceled and have never been what I would call ‘rained out,’ ” he said. “Our track record has been very fortunate.”
Rain or no rain, history or not, there will be plenty more to experience in the borough’s downtown, from Don Campbell hammering away at iron at the 1848 Hegarty Blacksmith Shop; author Daniel Urban, a Coaldale native, signing and selling copies of his new book “Grow Up Already!”; a variety of music, from live musicians Jay Smar or Dave Matsinko, or selections from WMGH’s Polka Joe Manjack; pints of brew from Stoker’s Brewing Co., including Patchtown Brown, a nut brown ale made especially for the fest; Leiby’s Carriage Rides; tours of Padora’s more than a century-old coal-fired bakery; and an absolutely colossal variety of food.
For more information, contact the Tamaqua Historical Society at 610-597-6722; email Freudenberger at firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit the historical society Facebook page.
Bob Mischak, Edwardsville, left, and Bob Vybrenner, Tamaqua, check out a Howitzer shell casing that was part of a special display during last year’s Tamaqua Heritage Festival. This year’s festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday in downtown Tamaqua.