Rick Hiduk Summer 2015
The apex of summer in the northern mountains of Pennsylvania is the month of July, statistically the warmest and most vibrant time of the year. In Galeton, summer’s peak gets a grand send-off with the community’s annual Fourth of July Fireworks and Red Suspenders Weekend, slated this year for Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4.
Vendors of food, crafts and other items and the sounds of live music fill Collins Park, situated along the shore of Berger Lake at the center of town. Businesses around town are also festooned for Independence Day and offer holiday-themed specials to the many visitors drawn by the event.
The two-day celebration culminates with a great fireworks display famously mirrored by the placid waters, which are part of the Pine Creek watershed. The percussions and their echoes in the neighboring canyons rise in contrast to day-to-day life in the borough. In fact, the quaint community swells to city-sized proportions for two days.
“It’s the busiest weekend of the year in town,” said fireworks committee chairman Andy Macensky, who estimates that between 15,000 to 20,000 people will descend on the relatively small borough again this year.
Galeton prides itself on being a quiet place to live and visit. Its 1,149 residents are surrounded by beautiful, forested mountains and deep valleys. The woods and streams team with wildlife, making the town at the heart of “God’s Country” a mecca for hunters and anglers, many of whom have seasonal homes and cabins in the area.
Laid out in a bowl-like valley, most of Galeton is visible from scenic Route 6, one of two key highways into the relatively remote region. The town is situated about halfway between Wellsboro in Tioga County and the Potter County Seat of Coudersport.
Vehicular traffic along Galeton’s main streets is detoured on July 4 to make way for a 5K run and 2K walk that take place before the annual parade. According to race coordinators Kristi Carlson and Kyla Werger, 90 runners and 30 walkers participated in the event last year. Registration will be handled electronically this year, with the link posted at the 5K for Fireworks 2015 Facebook page.
The parade, which is sponsored by the Galeton Chamber of Commerce, begins at Galeton High School on Bridge Street at 11 a.m. Marching bands, bagpipers and Galeton’s community chorus participate in the parade, as do many other civic groups, veterans, businesses and local dignitaries.
The fireworks display starts at 10 p.m. that evening, with a rain date of Sunday, July 5. “It’s the biggest display for miles around,” Macensky remarked, noting that the tradition began more than 50 years ago.
At one time, the Goodyear Hose Company coordinated all of the events associated with Independence Day in Galeton. As the celebration grew larger, related fire chief Joe Cimimo, the fire company found help in the Chamber of Commerce and other residents who formed committees to share the responsibilities.
Red Suspenders Weekend got its name just over 30 years ago when the fire company sponsored a contest among local school students. The winning entry was a reference to the red suspenders worn by firefighters at the time.
Event organizers suggest making the best of a long holiday weekend by arriving in the area on Thursday, July 2, or earlier, and staying through Sunday, July 5.
The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum in nearby Ulysses holds its annual Bark Peeler’s Convention the same weekend, and Potter County’s Cherry Springs Park is a mecca for summer star gazers. It is one of the darkest spots in the eastern United States because there is so little light pollution.
Lodging options range from a number of campgrounds and rental cabins to rustic lodges, bed and breakfasts and restored hotels and inns that offer modern amenities while retaining their charm and heritage. These are situated both in Galeton and in the nearby villages of Gaines, Ulysses and Germania. Larger hotels can be found in Wellsboro and to the west in Coudersport. More information can be found at www.visitgaleton.com