Rick Hiduk Fall 2015
Two of the most anticipated events in northeast Pennsylvania this year are the Nicholson Bridge 100th Anniversary Celebration, which will be held on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 11 and 12, and the annual Bridge Day street festival in Nicholson on Sunday, Sept. 13. Organizers expect as many as 20,000 visitors to make their way to the Wyoming County borough of 746 residents over the course of three days.
The once world-famous Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct has suddenly found itself back in the national spotlight as it reaches the century mark. In addition to its residents, heritage organizations, railroad enthusiasts, media outlets, and elected officials from Nicholson to the nation’s capital are gearing up for what could very well be the greatest event there since the 2,375-foot-long railroad bridge was opened in 1915.
The Nicholson Heritage Association (NHA), which was formed in 1990 to coordinate the bridge’s 75th anniversary celebration, will kick off the 100th anniversary on Sept. 11 with a wine and cheese party at Catholic Hall at 5 p.m. According to NHA president Marion Sweet, photos and memorabilia from Nicholson’s past will be on display, and student essay winners will read their stories. There will be entertainment and food vendors along Main Street until 10 p.m.
Even more entertainment and family-friendly activities are planned for Sept. 12, beginning at 10 a.m. Numerous speakers, including public officials, railroading buffs, and other historians, will make presentations, and dance and martial arts students will offer demonstrations into the afternoon. A grand parade of floats and marching units is planned for 3 p.m.
The NHA’s celebration will culminate with a large block party in the downtown area in the evening on Sept. 12 featuring live music. The bridge will be lit up for the occasion, and there will be a fireworks display. Local fire companies, churches, bars, and restaurants will serve food throughout the event, and Sweet promises that there will be an abundant variety of things to eat offered by professional vendors right on Main Street.
“Twenty-five years ago, the whole town ran out of food,” Sweet said, recalling the 1990 event. “We won’t do that again, and we figure this one is going to be much bigger.” So much bigger, in fact, that visitors are encouraged to park in designated areas north and south of town along Route 92, from which they can take advantage of continuous shuttle service to and from the festival area.
“I think that you’re going to see a lot of railroad buffs,” said NHA grants committee chair Josh Stull, noting that social media is buzzing with excitement in advance of the celebration. “We didn’t have that to get the word out for the 75th anniversary.”
While guests are in town, Stull invites them to visit the Historic Delaware, Lackawanna, & Western (DL&W) Railroad Station, which is currently under restoration to become the Nicholson Tourism Center, housing a museum and serving as NHA headquarters. “Once it’s renovated, there will be interpretive exhibits about the bridge and Nicholson. We want to create a link to the historical aspect of the railroad,” Stull explained.
“There are a lot of really neat things going on this year,” said Nicholson Women’s Club president Michelle Heron, in reference to the added involvement of NHA and Steamtown National Historic Park. “Everything’s going to be that much bigger. There will be more food. More of everything.”
Heron noted that Steamtown will offer special passenger excursions from Scranton to Nicholson for all three days of the celebration, with plans to shuttle passengers from the top of the bridge to the festivities 240 feet below. “The best way for people to really enjoy the day is to not have to worry about driving around town,” Heron remarked.
The street fair on Sept. 13 will feature crafts, food, and entertainment from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A mix of nearly 100 vendors will offer ethnic dishes, jewelry, floral wreaths, and items created by artisans on site such as woodcarving, wool spinning and soap making. Local restaurants and pubs will offer themed menu items, including a specialty beer brewed for the occasion. There will be music and dancers at various locations throughout the town.
The activities in Nicholson will be preceded by a celebration a week earlier in nearby Kingsley (Susquehanna County), where a smaller but nearly identical concrete bridge was completed prior to the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct as part of the massive railroad project known as the Hallstead Cut-Off. The Martins Creek Viaduct only briefly claimed the title of largest concrete bridge in the world, but its citizens are no less proud.
On Saturday, Sept. 5, the Brooklyn and Harford historical societies will join to host a Cloud Dance, so named in 1914 because residents partying on the bridge felt as though they were dancing in the clouds some 150 feet above Kingsley. Follow the Brooklyn Historical Society on Facebook for current details.