LANSDALE — A century-and-a-half-long event kicked off Lansdale’s greatest week.
Crowds lined both sides of Main Street on Saturday afternoon to watch the city’s 150th anniversary parade.
“It’s nice. We just moved to Lansdale a year and a half ago, so seeing it all is really great,” said Mike Rothwell, holding his son Zachary as he watched his first parade.
“We were very excited to come out and see everyone come together. I feel like a lot of small towns don’t do that sort of thing anymore. And the people sitting next to us are actually our neighbors, so we were like, ‘Hey, nice to see you’,” he said.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Zachary waved as the parade passed. Her mother Paige kept a watchful eye as members of the North Penn Little League walked around handing out slips to register for the league, then a group of kindergarteners marched holding “Class of 2035” and the names of their schools.
Saturday’s parade marked the start of Lansdale’s final week 150th Anniversary Eventsand the Rothwell family looked right in front of Century Plaza, the Main Street skyscraper built before the city 100th anniversary in 1972.
“We’re retired school bus drivers from North Penn, so we’ve driven this route so many times,” said Ann Polto, as she and her husband, Dan, and their friends, Jane and David Youells, were setting up chairs. on the sidewalk just outside Main Street Pizza.
“I’ve been coming here since the first Mardi Gras parade, in the early 50s. It was Friday night and then she was in the marching band later,” David said, as Jane chimed in — “I was 14 at the time,” and the four began naming businesses that had occupied that block in years past, and making their own suggestions, such as adding more gift shops and restaurants, to fill vacancies in that block.
Just after 5 p.m., the parade kicked off on Main Street at Mitchell Avenue, as Police Chief Mike Trail flashed his lights in a police truck, followed by Mayor Garry Herbert waving to the crowds and encouraging them to “Give up for Lansdale!” Let’s hear it for Lansdale! The mayor and his entourage were followed by a group of veterans and their family members, carrying flags from all six branches of the military who also drew cheers and applause as they passed.
Emergency vehicles from several local fire companies passed, flashing their headlights and honking their horns occasionally, before the drum and brass beats of the national champion North Penn Marching Knights, led by elders holding a banner reading “1972-2022: 50 years of excellence”. As the brass beats echoed over the buildings, friends and family took photos and videos and waved to loved ones, while Laura and Jack Johnson of Lansdale waved yellow “Lansdale 150” flags and took everything, including the local elected officials waving to the crowd.
“Nothing like a parade. Such a beautiful weather today. Great day to celebrate 150 years,” said State Rep. Steve Malagari, who is a former Lansdale councilman.
Several council members also joined the parade: Councilor Carrie Hawkins Charlton rode in the back of a borough public works van, followed seconds later by fellow councilor Meg Currie Teoh in a Lansdale truck Electric. As they waved and drove through town amid trucks from borough businesses and nonprofits, Melissa Rittase of Lansdale said she was there to see her friend Teoh, while her daughter Charlie wore a pair of adorably oversized sunglasses and waved to the passing fire engines.
“It’s her first parade. We’re having a lot of fun. The sweets are really exciting,” Melissa said, as Charlie picked up a wrapped lollipop thrown into the Upper Gwynedd Fire Company’s new ‘Quint 80’ fire engine.
Several dozen children in green and white followed, sporting the uniforms of Lansdale’s Cannoneers sports teams, followed by other local utility trucks, then a group on a set wearing colonial-era clothing: the 28th Pennsylvania Regimental Brass Band, sporting red, white and blue. banners and a poster reminding residents to see them again at a municipal picnic next Wednesday.
A Lansdale fixture followed: a truck disguised as a Reading Railroad locomotive and sports signs for Henning’s trains, followed by a framed farmhouse with a member of the Lansdale Historical Society on board. A classic Chrysler led another group in North Penn blue, the North Penn Squires youth football and cheering team waving blue letters ‘NPS’, which were themselves followed by a troop of local scouts, then 1920s era of the North Penn Volunteer Fire Company. Engine “Bertha”, followed by more modern fire trucks.
A silver Mustang drew waves and salutes for its passenger, described by a sign on the door: “Jerry L. Umstead, 91-year-old resident Korean War vet,” who gave a thumbs-up to cheers and applause.
After pausing to let a regional SEPTA train pass through Main Street, children from Kindergarten, the non-profit Manna Pantry on Main Street, and then the Woodland String Band sporting their colorful costumes as seen in the annual parade of Philadelphia Mummers. Wrapping up the show in an umbrella-covered golf cart, Councilor Mary Fuller, head of the borough’s nonprofit Discover Lansdale, which organized the events, and former Councilor and organizer Bill Henning, bearing reminders of events to come. Fuller provided an overview of the week’s events in his remarks to the council on Wednesday, including explaining the start time of the parade.
“Part of the thought process of having this parade in the evening was a throwback to old times in the borough,” Fuller said.
“Also, we thought Saturday night was a perfect opportunity to have people in town, who are hopefully hungry and thirsty and want to shop and participate in our neighborhood businesses. We have a lot of people in town and we hope our local businesses will benefit,” she said.
Along the parade route, blue-shirted Discover volunteers sold commemorative flags and buttons, while handing out flyers with a QR code allowing viewers to vote for their favorite floats.
“It’s once in a lifetime: we only turn 150 once. I hope you all come to the 150th anniversary, Wednesday, August 24,” Fuller said.
That’s when the borough will welcome a “Picnic in the Park” at Memorial Park: starting at 5:30 p.m., visitors can enjoy live music, games, and fun on the official anniversary of the borough’s incorporation in 1872.
“You can bring your picnic baskets, blankets and chairs, but if you don’t feel like packing, there will be food there, beer there,” said Fuller – and those who stick around long enough can take part in a unique one-time group photo that will light up the night.
“We will form the number ‘150’ and take a drone photo, an aerial view from above to commemorate our 150th.”
Saturday will end the anniversary summer with the town’s annual meeting Founders Day Events, including the annual Arts Festival in Memorial Park, a beer garden, food trucks, live music, and more, topped off with a fireworks display at night. The day will begin with an opening ceremony at 10:00 a.m. at the newly installed Michael DiNunzio Senior Memorial Gazebo in Memorial Park, and will include a commemoration of the recent passing of Reverend Sue Bertolette, longtime pastor of the United Church of Christ of St. John’s. who died earlier this month, according to Fuller.
In his report to council, Fuller thanked all of the borough staff and volunteers who contributed to the year’s events, especially Henning. “He’s really put a lot of time and effort into this whole season, and we really appreciate all of his input and activity,” she said.
And for those who would like a lasting memory, the Borough and Discover offer a commemorative book titled “The Visionaries Who Built a Borough”, which tells the stories of Lansdale’s founding fathers. The book is available to order online and copies will be available for purchase in person at Henning’s Trains, the Lansdale Historical Society and at 150th events, according to Discover.
For more information about Lansdale and its upcoming events, visit www.lansdale150.org.