Jeannette will have no Community Days festival this summer
For the first time in many years in Jeannette there will be no summer parade, no fireworks and no Community Days festival.
For many years the summer parade was part of an annual Fourth of July Celebration that dated back, at the very least to the 1950s, although old pictures abound of other summer parades for firemen's conventions that date back to the early 1900s.
According to Cris Lowstuter, former chairwoman of Jeannette Community Days, “Community Days, at the Magee Avenue parking lot was started about nine years ago. Before that, there were two committees for the Idlewild Community Picnic and the Fourth of July Celebration.”
Lowstuter said she had served on the Community Picnic committee for 18 years while the annual Fourth of July celebration committee operated separately.
“We both had a lack of funds and volunteers, so we came together about nine years ago for Community Days,” said Lowstuter.
Lowstuter resigned three years ago as chairperson, but returned in a consulting capacity for the 125th Anniversary.
“Three years ago we (the committee) handed Community Days over to the Jeannette Firemen's Activity Association, I stayed on as a consultant, but last year was rough because my mother was sick.”
Due to her mother's illness, Lowstuter let everyone know she could not return to the committee.
“I love doing it and I loved working with my vendors,” said Lowstuter.
Former mayor Robert Carter submitted a letter to city council last week to be read at the June meeting about the lack of a community celebration this year.
“Cris made it clear that she it was her last year,” Carter said. “Last year's event was really large and after it was over, nobody wanted to do anything.”
In his letter, Carter highlighted the positive aspects of the celebration.
But, Carter, Lowstuter and committee treasurer Russ Wallace were in agreement that the event is a huge undertaking.
“As soon as the event is over, you have to start planning again,” said Carter.
Lowstuter and Wallace both said that fundraising is key to the event and needs to be worked on throughout the year to raise enough money for the event. Carter said the budget for Community Days was about $23,000, but Wallace estimates that it was a bit more than that.
Last year, Elliott Company donated $10,000 to the event committee which assisted with a larger fireworks display and the committee also paid the bill for overtime bill for extra police protection during the event since the 125th anniversary festival was four days instead of the usual three in prior years. In prior years, Excela Health had donated to the event.
Wallace said the fireworks alone cost about $8,000.
There is some seed money left in the treasury should there be interest in planning an event for next year according to both Wallace and Carter.
Lowstuter said, “There are four key elements — volunteers, sponsorship, dedication and the willingness to put in long hours.”
“It is a matter of knowing who to call,” Wallace said. “I was one person and I couldn't do it by myself. Everyone just kind of fizzled out. “
Carter agreed and said, “We had a good rapport with all of our vendors and we had a lot of contacts. There is a lot of planning involved. Bands like East Coast Turnaround have to be booked a year in advance. These things don't just happen.”
Lowstuter, Carter and Wallace all said the volunteers kept dwindling each year, which made pulling off the event even harder.
“Nothing was planned for this year,” Mayor Richard Jacobelli said. “I would like to have a 5K run and a car show, or at least something on Clay Avenue.”
In past years, the City of Jeannette provided the Magee Avenue parking lot at no charge, and also paid the electric bill for the event. However, the amusement rides and many of the food vendors supplied their own electricity.
Robbins Electric also did all the wiring and electric work for the event, which Carter said “was a two day job, that they donated.”
Any residents or interested parties who would like to resurrect Community Days, should call the Jeannette Fire Department at 724-527-4000 and leave a message for Carter or Wallace.
Margie Stanislaw is a contributing writer.