Jeannette to celebrate 125th anniversary in late July
Jeannette is preparing to kick off its annual Community Days Festival in three weeks, but this year's event will be much bigger and pack much more meaning into the days' celebrations.
This year, the City of Jeannette is celebrating the 125th anniversary of its birth. Many residents and business owners have been preparing for this celebration for a long time.
Lee Matchett, owner of Opus 11 on Clay Avenue, is just one of those volunteers.
Matchett, who works primarily as a Certified Public Accountant, and his family have been a part of the Jeannette community since his grandparents moved to town in 1932. Earlier this year, Matchett decided he wanted to be part of the 125th celebration and began to volunteer his time.
“I was 11 during the 75th anniversary and I remember it,” he said. “I remember the big parades, the huge pageant and a lot of activity going on.”
Those memories, added to what he feels is a need for more positive public relations in the city, fuel his passion for the project.
“Jeannette is not unlike all other towns dealing with this post-industrial time. I'm looking for ways to get some positive PR in Jeannette. I don't know the answer other than trying to bring people to town to see the positive image of Jeannette. To see that it's a great little town. It's home,” said Matchett. “It's a really good group of people here who believe strongly in their community and who want to see it grow.”
Many of those who share those feelings have been hard at work on the Community Days committee this year and the result will be four days of events, food, rides and entertainment. The celebration runs July 24 through July 27 in the lot on Magee Avenue. Midway rides will return to the festival and there will be a car show, the annual battle of barrels, a hot wings contest, fireworks and the annual parade.
There will be plenty of ethnic food, craft booths, bingo and events.
Being part of the group to bring all of this to city, Matchett said, has given him the opportunity to meet new people in the community and has been a positive experience for him.
He's most looking forward to the parade — which will be July 27, beginning at 1 p.m., along Clay Avenue.
“Jeannette has a really great parade history, it's been a long tradition,” he said. “I remember my dad telling me about the annual school picnic parade when he went to Jeannette High School. They would have the parade and go to a chartered train that took them to Idlewild. They would uncouple the train cars, which would stay at Idlewild, and at the end of the day they would bring the locomotive back, blow the whistle and everybody would pile back on the train.”
He's looking forward to working at the beverage booth and staying involved throughout the festival.
“I've never been a person who was able to donate money to a local cause, but I can donate my time to those efforts,” said Matchett.
The 125th Anniversary Committee is made up of Cris Lowstuter, who has led Community Days efforts for years, and members of the Jeannette Historical Society, in addition to other longtime and new volunteers.
“It's a group of hardworking, dedicated volunteers who have a love of their community and who are proud of their community,” Matchett said.
The festival will be open from 5-10 p.m. July 24 and 25. On July 26, it is open from 4-11 p.m. and on July 27, it runs 2 p.m. to midnight.
On July 24, a car cruise will begin at 5 p.m. along Magee Avenue next to the festival.
On July 25, the DeStella Dance Centre will perform at 5 p.m., the battle of the barrel featuring local fire departments will begin at 6, Jeannette Community Band performs at 7 and at 8:15 the Dance Factory will perform.
On July 26, Hey Nostradamus performs at 5 p.m., at 5:30 the Great Ancient Trees go on, at 6 p.m. The Ugly Sweaters perform and at 7 p.m. the Playin' Favorites Band hit the stage.
On July 27, the parade steps off on Clay Avenue at 1 p.m., featuring the Gelder Family as grand marshals.
At 3 p.m., Back in Time, featuring Jeannette's own Paul “T-bird” Kettren will entertain. At 5 p.m. the parade winners will be announced.
The hot wings eating contest sponsored by Pitzer's Townhouse kicks off at 6 and Jeannette's own Eastcoast Turnaround begins at 8 p.m.
The fireworks spectacular is set to cap the night at 10:30.
More information on festival events will be in upcoming editions of The Jeannette Spirit.
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-838-5154.