Crafton Celebrates honors past and present

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Every year, around the Fourth of July, Crafton throws a big outdoor party called Crafton Celebrates, and the festivities have evolved into an opportunity to see old friends and make new ones.

People who grew up in Crafton and moved away return to visit and most residents head to the festival at least once to enjoy the parade, games, food booths, entertainment, contests and closing fireworks.

"It's like a big Crafton reunion. People come back each year for our community party," said Becky Heffner, Crafton Celebrates committee co-chairwoman.

Events began this year on Friday with a parade led by the American Legion Frank R. Kirk Post 145 and the Carlynton High School marching band. It ended Sunday with a fireworks show by Schaefer Pyrotechnics Inc.

In between were contests, entertainment, food booths, a petting zoo, games for kids and plenty of time to meet old friends and neighbors at the Crafton Park on West Steuben Street, where the annual festival is held.

"We had a couple of thousand people just for the parade," Ms. Heffner said.

Pam Palchowski, Crafton Celebrates chairwoman, said the event relies on the efforts of more than 100 volunteers who plan, organize and stage the festival.

The event traditionally has included July Fourth, but this year it was scaled back to three days because a new Crafton Celebrates board was in place, she said.

"A main goal we had this year was to support every nonprofit group in Crafton with a food or game booth, so they could raise money," she said.

Among community groups participating were the C.I.T. Baseball and Softball Association Inc. , which served hoagies, sandwiches, burgers and pizza.

Little Cougar Football sold ice cream, and the Girl Scouts offered a menu of snow cones, hot dogs and pretzels. The Boy Scouts helped to staff game booths.

One aspect of the event Ms. Palchowski was most proud of this year, she said, was that all the entertainment had some connection to Crafton.

The performers were either from the community or had lived in the town at one time, she said.

Various bands, a magic show and a dance ensemble from DanceTime Studio performed on the main stage throughout the festival.

Resident Don Little, a Vietnam veteran, staffed a booth that displayed Crafton High School yearbooks dating back to 1923.

Shirley Scario Karkolla, a former resident who now lives in Beaver County, stopped to talk with Mr. Little and to check out her class picture from the yearbook in 1965 when she graduated.

"We had 95 students, one of the biggest classes," she said.

Mr. Little followed her, graduating in the class of 1966. The last class graduated from the school in 1970, when schools in the community merged with those in Carnegie and Rosslyn Farms to create the Carlynton School District.

Mr. Little said a Crafton High School reunion group is working on a project to create a compact disc archive of every former Crafton High School student.

The group also has preserved memorabilia such as football blankets, sport trophies and cheerleader jackets from the old high school.

"The whole thing is a unique experience. People from all over the country come back every year," he said. "There's a community affection that's instilled here. After a short time, you feel like you belong."


Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer:


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