HAZLETON — In spite of overcast skies, Hazleton celebrated Funfest’s 40th year on Saturday with a slew of children’s activities, talent presentations, bingo, food vendors and a classic car show.
Mark Evans, who grew up in the city in the 1960s, said he comes back to his hometown each year for the opportunity to meet up with longtime friends and catch up on the year’s news.
This year, Evans was sporting a new camera, hoping to “catch the lines” of a Cadillac Fleetwood that took its place among dozens of classic, antique and muscle cars in the car show that took up one end of Broad Street.
To Evans, even the buildings on the street provided a chance to tell a story and share a memory.
Looking up at a second-story apartment, he said, “My grandmother grew up there. It was very nice.”
Evans also spoke of Carmen’s Restaurant and its humble beginning in a small building on Broad.
“It started small, still, the food was amazing,” he said. “And Carmen’s remains on this street, so I always stop in to say hello and see what’s going on and get something to eat.”
Mary Malone, president of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, said area residents returning to their roots and longtime citizens embody the spirit of the Funfest tradition.
“We have committee members whose parents helped start the event all those years ago,” she said.
Malone also credited various organizations and their willingness to partner with others to make Funfest a successful, family-friendly event.
“The First Presbyterian Church historically provides children’s activities and this year is partnering with Lackawanna College, giving away book bags,” she said. “Those kind of partnerships work.”
Malone said the celebration was “rain or shine,” with some activities based inside and provisions made for vendors to move inside at any time during the two-day event.
The rain held off through most of the late morning and early afternoon before picking up at about 2:30 p.m. But some people were seen arriving with umbrellas, determined to explore the multiple-block street fair.
Volunteer firefighter and city councilman Tony Colombo was on hand providing coloring books and information to children attracted to the fire vehicles on display.
“The fire trucks bring children to the event, who bring their parents,” said Colombo. “We get to provide information on fire safety and get to know families.”
Josh Walper, also a firefighter, said the children were especially attracted to the ladder rack which rose 100 feet above Broad Street.
“The fire department has made coming to Funfest a tradition,” said Colombo.
Sandy Repanshek, Drums, brought her granddaughter and niece, both 7, to take part in the children’s activities, especially the crafts. There was also a special station set up for cookie-decorating.
“But we hardly got past the bounce house,” she said.
Some were simply enjoying the reprieve from the humid weather that dogged the area in recent weeks.
“I’m enjoying being out in the colder weather,” said Evans, as he worked his way through the classic car section of the festival. “I think it’s refreshing.”
Funfest continues Sunday with a parade that steps off at 2:30 p.m.