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Celebrating hometown pride

Williamsport Days is community event steeped in tradition

Williamsport Days is community event steeped in tradition

August 24, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

WILLIAMSPORT - It was only last February that Dave Walker visited Williamsport. By May, he was calling it home.

He had spent most of his adult life working in Washington, D.C., and was growing weary of traffic congestion, noise and the high cost of living. As he approached retirement, he began looking for something he thought he would never find - a small town that hadn't been affected by sprawling urbanization.

He found it in Williamsport.

Within a few short months, Walker said he has been welcomed into the community and feels a sense of peace that he never felt in a metropolitan area.

"I'm enjoying a slower pace," he said.

On Saturday, Walker joined his friends and neighbors for a slice of Americana - a community festival that was all about hometown pride.

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For the 33rd year, thousands of people gathered at Byron Memorial Park and other points throughout town to celebrate Williamsport Days.

"This is very much a community event," said Bobbi Cole, chairwoman of this year's festival. "Everybody in Williamsport makes plans around this weekend."

Cole said about 10,000 people were expected to attend this year's celebration.

Williamsport Days began last week with a concert and fireworks on Wednesday, a community picnic and swim party on Thursday and a street dance on Friday.

The event concludes today.

In addition to craft and food vendors at Byron Memorial Park, Saturday's activities included trolley rides, historic exhibits and displays at Williamsport Museum/Springfield Barn, tours and children's activities at the C&O Canal/Cushwa Basin Visitor Center and a book sale at Williamsport Memorial Library.

It also was an opportunity for many area residents to hold yard sales, Cole said.

"That has become a community tradition, too," she said.

Cole said more than 150 vendors have set up stalls this weekend at Byron Memorial Park, offering everything from floral arrangements and candles to jewelry and pottery.

"Ninety-five percent of everything here is handmade," Cole said. "The vendors have a lot of pride in their work, and this is a great opportunity for them to showcase their talents."

Even the food is homemade, including homemade ice cream, funnel cakes and kettle corn, she said.

Cole said the eight-member committee works hard for nine months out of the year to make Williamsport Days a success.

"But it's worth it," she said. "This is a close-knit community, and this event is a way to come together to show our pride. I want to keep this festival alive and growing so young people will understand what tradition is all about."

Among the thousands of people browsing the vendor displays was Katie Mroz of Williamsport, who was accompanied by her daughter, mother, sister and nephew.

"This is a real family tradition," she said. "We come out every year to shop and spend time together."

Mroz said she hadn't purchased anything yet, "but we just started. Give me a little time and I'll find plenty of things to buy."

Cassie Stevens had been at the park for only 30 minutes, and already had her arms loaded with purchases.

"Believe it or not, I'm doing Christmas shopping," the Williamsport resident said. "It's never too early - even if it's August."




If you go

What: Williamsport Days

When: Today, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Byron Memorial Park and other locations in Williamsport

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