“The magic and wonder of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ makes it a timeless classic, and one that has been enjoyed by people of all ages,” said Funfest executive director Judiann McGrogan. “Everyone knows the classic story of Dorothy, and her fanciful trip to Oz, where she meets new friends, finds adversity, and discovers the power she herself possesses to change her fate. This uplifting message, and the enchanting story that goes with it, will be told through the events of Funfest Weekend.”
McGrogan added that the theme will also coincide with the completion of the Hazleton Area’s own special thoroughfare. “The yellow brick road led Dorothy and her friends to happiness and prosperity. And in a small way, the Broad Street Corridor project, which is expected to be completed by September, will mean all positive things for Downtown and the Greater Hazleton Area.” As a result, Funfest plans to celebrate the completion of the construction project during the festival weekend.
The Corridor Project was years in the planning, and began in earnest in 2010. Its overall goal was to widen Broad Street (Route 93) through West Hazleton and Hazleton, providing turning lanes and additional space so that traffic can move more freely through the busiest sections of town. The project also added new sidewalks throughout the corridor area, as well as new street lights, traffic signals, and signage.
Funfest is the Hazleton Area’s largest festival, held along Broad Street in Center City each September. The organizers have weathered corridor construction over the last four years, but McGrogan says thanks to the cooperation of PennDOT and the project’s contractors, the overall effect on the event was minimal. “We are most grateful to PennDOT construction manager Patty Fritsky for working with us to assure that Funfest would be able to go on without a hitch, despite the fact that we were using five blocks of the busiest construction area each September. She and the staff of Pennsy Supply provided us with continuing updates so that we could plan our event accordingly.”
Funfest is a committee of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, and the Chamber has served as a liaison between project staff and the Downtown business community.
The Funfest Committee has already begun planning ways to incorporate the “Yellow Brick Road” theme into Weekend activities. Parade balloons will help celebrate the movie theme, and parade entries will also be encouraged to use the theme in their planning. “The Wizard of Oz” was based on a novel which many considered the first American fairy tale, L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” first published in 1900. The film, which starred Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, and Margaret Hamilton, was nominated for six Academy Awards, and its iconic song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” won for Best Original Song. This month’s Academy Awards ceremony paid tribute to the movie.
This year’s Funfest logo, once again created by Precision Design of Hazleton, reflects the theme through its own yellow brick road and silhouettes of the story’s main characters. “We would like to thank Dave Haupt and his staff at Precision Design, who have once again captured the spirit of our theme,” McGrogan said. Precision’s graphic artist Edwin Etero created the logo. It will be seen on many of Funfest’s publications over the next few months, as well as on commemorative pins distributed to Funfest Sponsors. It also adorns the Funfest website. The logo features the name and logo of Funfest’s presenting sponsor, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Mohegan is in the second of a three-year commitment as Funfest’s chief sponsor.
Funfest, now in its 36th year, is the largest event of its kind in Luzerne County. Its highlight, the Funfest Parade, runs through West Hazleton and Hazleton, and the event’s street fair gives nonprofit organizations the opportunity to raise funds and spread the word about their groups. Funfest is a free event, with no admission costs, no parking charges, free entertainment, and free activities for all. The festival is funded in part by funds raised through business sponsorships.
Funfest is currently in the process of seeking sponsors for the event. Sponsorships vary from the full corporate sponsorships (Gold, Silver and Bronze), to event, entertainment, and banner sponsorships. Logo placement, signage, and multi-media publicity are some of the perks of sponsorships, and there is a category for every budget. Businesses interested in the Funfest sponsorship programs are asked to contact special events coordinator Julie Ferry at 570-455-1509. Information on sponsorship, as well as on Funfest Weekend, can be found at www.funfestpa.org.
(Information from Judiann McGrogan)
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