Almost immediately after celebrating America’s independence, Philipsburg residents are already preparing to give thanks.
Philipsburg Heritage Days began in 1997 as a way to celebrate the town and the accomplishments of those who call it home. This year’s festivities will focus specifically on men and women who serve — whether as a member of the Pennsylvania State Police or as a part of the Moshannon Valley Emergency Medical Services.
Altruism is not entirely without its spectacle. The six-day celebration, which will begin on Tuesday and end on Sunday, will also include a parade, a car show and live music.
Event co-founder and chairman Jim Pollock recently discussed the methods and meanings behind Philipsburg Heritage Days.
Q: How many years have you spent as the chairman of the Philipsburg Heritage Days committee?
A: Mel Curtis and I founded Philipsburg Heritage Days in 1997 after the bicentennial. Mel served as the chairman and I was co-chairman. He organized the event and I took the responsibility of all of the fundraising and marketing. After four years, Mel, due to his growing family and new job, left the committee. I became the chairman and have been chairman for 14 years. My co-chairman is Harry Wood.
Q: How many committee members are there?
A: We currently have 14 committee members. Each is assigned a specific job, which they are totally responsible for.
Q: What does the celebration of Philipsburg Heritage Days mean to you personally?
A: The Philipsburg Heritage Days celebration means to me a time to promote our town and celebrate some unique treasures we have and, over time, take for granted. Philipsburg has a rich history and a storied past. As older residents of our community pass on, it is important for those remaining to embrace our rich heritage and pass it on to the youth and new people who become residents of the area.
Q: What do you think it means to the community at large?
A: Heritage Days has become a time for the community to celebrate a huge family reunion atmosphere. People who no longer live in the area make plans to come back for family and class reunions. Also, a number of people have chosen this time to start their life together. Each year, we have several weddings planned for this time. We have also noted a number of people who visit the area from out of town, attend our events and are overwhelmed with the cozy “hometown feel” that they get and return in following years. It is definitely a community-wide celebration.
Q: Heritage Days has been held for almost 18 years now. How do you continue to evolve from year to year while still maintaining a sense of tradition?
A: For an event to stay attractive to people, there must be some change to keep it fresh and interesting. Each year, we look at the entertainment, vendors, crafters and even the parade to see how we can make it better and more appealing to a larger audience. However, there are some things that will remain a constant and will not change. One, for instance, is we open Heritage Days with a community ecumenical vesper service. All churches are invited to participate. After the religious part is completed we recognize companies and organizations that are celebrating a significant milestone anniversary. We have celebrated companies and organizations that have been in existence in our community for over 125 years. We feel that it is very important to recognize individuals and organizations that contribute to our community and quality of life.
Q: Are there any new events or activities that have been added to the schedule this year?
A: This year we are welcoming about 12 new vendors who will be joining our family. These vendors consist of food vendors, commercial vendors and craft vendors . We decided that we would like to have some different types of marching bands. We formed a relationship with the Small Drum Corps Association that covers the Northeast United States. Through this relationship we are having three new drum and bugle corps who will attend with the possibility of one more joining before the parade. After the parade, the participating drum and bugle corps will do a music competition on Front Street. Each will perform a few numbers and then all of the corps will do two to three songs together. If this program generates interest we will continue to expand this in future years.
Q: When does the planning process for something like this begin? How long does it take?
A: After Heritage Days is over, we take two weeks off. We then meet and do a very thorough evaluation of all of the events. We are very hard on ourselves and are committed to having one of the best festivals. We are not afraid to add or delete activities that will make our event better. We then discuss options and what topics we want to feature for the next year. Once the committee comes to a positive consensus on a theme, we then announce the theme to the public and work on it until the event begins. We meet monthly until April and then meet every other week up to the start of Heritage Days.
Q: What are some of the challenges of putting this together every year?
A: One of our main challenges every year in planning Heritage Days is the lack of volunteers. Our committee members wear several hats during the celebration. Another problem we face each year is our budget. We are blessed with some great individual and business benefactors who contribute to our funding of our activities. It is disappointing that the larger brand-name companies who do considerable business in our town neglect our requests to financially support our community project.
Q: What’s your favorite part of Heritage Days?
A: I would like to say Tuesday through Sunday, but I would say the Vesper Service. It is so uplifting to see people from all faiths come together to thank God for the blessings on our community. The old saying that “God constantly give us what we need and not necessarily what we want” holds true for our lovely town. We have seen many ups and downs, but on every occasion, we come back on top stronger and better than before. To hear of the businesses and organizations who have struggled over the years who every day continues to serve our town is truly a blessing.
Q: This year’s theme is a Salute to those Who Protect and Serve. What goes into the process of deciding each year’s theme? Why did now feel like the right time to explore this one?
A: At our review meeting in July last year, a topic of discussion prior to the meeting was the financial problem our town’s fire companies were having and a possible thought of a merger of the two companies. Eight members of our committee either belong to the Reliance Fire Company or Hope Fire Company. It was suggested that with the great working relationship we have with the Philipsburg Barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police and Centre County Sheriff’s Department that we include the fire companies and the Moshannon Valley Emergency Medical Services and create a theme to honor those who protect and serve us.
Q: What are some of the things you’ll be doing to honor those who protect and serve in and around Philipsburg?
A: We will be honoring the Philipsburg Barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police, the Centre County Sheriff’s Department, and Philipsburg Fire Department consisting of Reliance Fire Co. No.1 and Hope Fire Company No. 2 and the Moshannon Valley Emergency Medical Services at our Vesper Service with special awards. During the week, the Pennsylvania State Police and Centre County Sheriff’s Department will be present at the celebration to answer questions from the public. Reliance Fire Company No. 1 and Hope Fire Company No. 2 will have their equipment on display for people to look through and see what a fireman must wear and equipment they use at a fire or other emergency. The Moshannon Valley Emergency Medical Services will also have their equipment on display and will be presenting programs to children and their families about their equipment and what they do in the ambulance to save lives.
Also all of the groups will be honored during the parade.