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Ford City's Heritage Days celebration returns

| Monday, July 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
BRIGID BEATTY I LEADER TIMES Martin Stapchuck, of West Deer Township, Allegheny County, sets up a booth in Ford City Community Park Sunday in preparation for Ford City Heritage Days. He and his wife, Karen Stapchuck, will be selling quilted items made by Karen during the festival.
BRIGID BEATTY I LEADER TIMES Alex Kacor, bingo chairman of Ford City Heritage Days, prepares to call numbers during a bingo event Sunday in Ford City Community Park. Sunday’s Bingo is one of the preliminary events which helps kick-off this week’s festival.

The Fourth of July will, once again, begin and end with a bang in Ford City.

Ford City Heritage Days promise to provide area residents with five days of fun that they have come to expect since 1980.

“We have new vendors and new food booths this year, but much of what we do remains the same.,” says Heritage Days committee chairperson Bobbi Jo Furlong. “That's what's great about Heritage Days. People count on certain activities that have become tradition. We continue to do them because it works.”

This year's theme is “Celebrate a Red, White & Blue Christmas.”

According to Furlong, “The committee thought of Christmas in July. Since we try to always honor our service men and women, we based our theme on a song whose lyrics read like a poem about a little girl who is missing her armed services Dad at Christmas.”

Tom “Padre” Hrabosky of Ford City has helped to make this happen for 30 of those 33 years. Although his involvement in Heritage Days this year was affected by recent hip replacement surgery, Hrabosky fully intends to come off of the injured reserve list to do what he enjoys the most — fireworks.

“George Zambelli taught me how to set off fireworks in 1983, and I've been doing it since then,” Hrabosky says. Three of us, Greg Dinko, Joe Gispanski and I, still do it the old-fashioned way.”

Hrabosky explains that the art of fireworks has been influenced by the science of computerization. The process is now digitized and is much less hands-on for most; however, there are still those, like the Ford City team, who manually load and launch these sophisticated sky lights.

The launch pad for the sky show is located in Ford Cliff, near the high school's baseball field. Hrabosky and company have no secret game book or recipe for their fireworks show. This veteran of explosion says, “There are patterns that you can follow. Some have names like chrysanthemum, but we don't use those.”

So, to what does he owe this sparkling display? It appears that this threesome creates as they go and the crowds keep coming back for more. “In all of the years that I've done this, I've never had any complaints,” Hrabosky says.

Although the approach to this may be freestyle, the process is definitely carried out in a safe and responsible manner. Such entertainment involves multi million dollar insurance coverage.

The sky will light up on Thursday, July 4, beginning at 10 p.m.

Another area where there is no number to take for the complaint line is the parade. No one likes rain on their parade, including Hrabosky. According to this longtime volunteer, the Ford City Heritage Days celebration's parade has enjoyed a phenomenal run of fair weather. With the exception of showers at the conclusion of one parade, this grand finale has been marched under dry skies for nearly three decades.

“At times it was challenging and sometimes frustrating, but I've had 29 years of rain-free parades,” says Hrabosky. “I've never heard anyone say that it was a lousy parade —that makes you feel kind of good.”

And, in between the fireworks and firemen's parade, there will be food galore, fun rides, craft/artisan booths and musical entertainment.

Saturday's 5K race will start at 9 a.m. and will follow the same course; however, the race is organized by the Ford City Football Boosters.

Bobbi Jo Furlong reminds area residents that they are supporting many worthy causes with their food purchases. “All of our food booths sponsor charitable groups, so when you buy your food, you are helping someone in need. “

Opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. will start the festivities on Wednesday. Sunday's Polka Mass and afternoon musical performances wrap up theannual event.

Ford City Heritage Days offers a welcome diversion at summer's midpoint. So, bring someone to celebrate the variety of ethnic groups that call Ford City home at a cost that gives you plenty of bang for your buck.

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