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Weeklong celebration to mark Irwin's 150th anniversary

Tony LaRussa
| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Irwin Councilwoman Debbie Kelly admits that putting together a worthy celebration to mark Irwin's 150th anniversary has been a daunting task during the past two years.

But the difficulty hasn't been because of a lack of interest or volunteers ready to step up and make it happen.

“Our goal was to make this the biggest party Irwin has ever seen,” said Kelly, who has been helping to coordinate the borough's sesquicentennial anniversary.

“But we realized that throughout the year there are so many activities going on here that we had to kick things up to make this important milestone something special.”

Some of the signature events in the borough during the year include the annual light-up night, which draws an estimated 10,000 visitors; a Chili Cook Off and Wing Thing; the Main Street Car Cruise; an ethnic festival and spring craft show; several Jazz Nites and concerts in the park; and a Halloween parade.

Organizers felt their event had to keep pace not only with those of the present but also precedent.

After “trotting out” the program booklets that had been produced for the borough's 50th and 100th anniversaries, organizers realized they needed to change plans from a one-day event to a week's worth of activities.

“They had things going on every day of the week for those anniversaries, so we thought we'd do the same thing,” Kelly said. “I think we've put together a multi-day celebration that offers something for everybody to enjoy.”

Karen Glass, who has been coordinating the Aug. 9 parade, said the level of excitement in the community has been growing as the anniversary approaches.

“There's definitely a good bit of buzz going on around town for this celebration,” said Glass, a professor of theater technology at Seton Hill University. “There's also been a good number of people who have been commenting on our Facebook page that they have relatives from out of state who are coming back to be part of the events that are planned.”

Some 95 units have already committed to participating in the parade, Glass said.

“The Norwin High School Marching Band has invited alumni band members to march with them, and we have the Syria Shriners Band, the Latrobe VFD Pipes and Drums and the Pittsburgh Steeline drummers,” she said.

Local elected officials and dignitaries — including Irwin Mayor Dan Rose, who will serve as grand marshal — will participate, and the parade will feature celebrities such as Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Elroy Face, who played on the 1960 World Champion team; Ms. National Pennsylvania 2014, Kandace Gary, who lives in North Huntingdon; Bill Priatko, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1957; and Deputy Grand Marshal Captain “Wild Bill” Wichrowski, star of the TV reality show “Deadliest Catch.”

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2360, or at

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