The Danville Heritage Festival, borne from the Iron Heritage Festival two decades ago, returned to Montour County last week, drawing large crowds.
Even as we teeter on the brink with increases in COVID, it was nice to see the event go off as “normal” as possible.
Van Wagner, local renaissance man — i.e. teacher, historian, musician, logger — has been involved with the festival since its inception in 1999.
He knows more about the county than just about anyone. He understands how important it is to celebrate the region and how what happened in the past has molded us into the Valley we are today.
“It is so important to celebrate our rich heritage,” he said. “Our region has a story that deserves to be told. It’s the story of iron, farming, logging, Native Americans, transportation, health care and medicine, and so much more. This festival celebrates the ‘who’ we are as a people.”
Dozens of vendors lined Mill Street on Saturday to sell their goods. Others were on-hand for real-life history demonstrations and other outlets that tell stories of who we are.
Bill Williams, a game warden supervisor with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, was at the festival to show off the agency’s Operation Game Thief trailer. He shared information on the dangers of poaching. And, he shared stickers and gadgets like an elk call with little kids drawn to the trailer by the large bear pelt and animal skulls.
David Fowler, of Abandoned Mines of Pennsylvania, taught residents about mining’s generations-old impact on the region. Wearing clothing that miners from the 19th century would have worn, Fowler carried a tiny lamp to pass on his knowledge and lessons of the industry in the Valley.
A day earlier, Wagner led an Iron Ore Mine Hike, where hikers learned more about the hundreds of underground iron ore mines, that fed the borough’s burgeoning iron industry.
It was a similar story of history, albeit with a little more of a gossipy tone, in Mifflinburg last weekend.
There, the new “Scandals and Scoundrels” tour, offered by the Mifflinburg Buggy Museum, featured all of the gossip around town — from 150 years ago.
During a 90-minute walk throughout the borough, tour guide Mary Sullivan, told of everything anywhere from divorces of the “day,” all the way to the hidden histories of Northumberland County’s founders.
That too, is part of who we are.
Being able to pull both of these events off in person was a bonus. The 2020 Danville event was virtual, featuring essays, videos and events online using social media.
“It worked, but it wasn’t the same as in-person,” Wagner said. “The idea of being back in person has everyone very excited.”
They should be. Learning the who, how and why we are the way we are is always an eye-opening experience.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.