News Column

Groups joining forces for a star-spangled Fourth

June 21, 2014

By Kathy Mellott, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

June 21--EBENSBURG -- Fourth of July promises to be a bang-up day in Johnstown as two organizations join forces to throw an Independence Day party.

The traditional Independence Day concert by the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra and the fireworks display will continue at 8 p.m at the Point Stadium in downtown Johnstown.

Prior to the concert, the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies will hold its Founder's Day Community Picnic from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Peoples Natural Gas Park, which is adjacent to Point Stadium.

The Community Foundation typically hosts an annual Founder's Day event to thank its donors and report to the public on its activities from the previous year.

For 2014, that event will be a pre-concert picnic at Peoples Natural Gas Park and Oilhouse.

The affair will be as American as apple pie -- which will be served for dessert -- along with a complimentary picnic of hamburgers and hot dogs, salads, iced tea and lemonade.

There will be a cash bar serving beer and wine.

"This is a rain or shine event because we can use the park's Oilhouse and Polacek Pavilion," said Angie Berzonski, program and communications officer for the foundation. "Founders Day is our way of highlighting a few of our projects and accomplishments, but also spread the word about what the foundation does."

The foundation also will have an announcement regarding plans for the upcoming year.

Mike Kane, president of the foundation, said hosting this as a pre-reception for the symphony's concert and fireworks is a great way to celebrate the holiday, the symphony and the community all at once.

"We encourage symphony-goers who may not know much about the foundation to join us, too," Kane said.

Admission to both the picnic and concert is free, although tickets are required for the picnic.

Tickets will only be available through Friday. Tickets are limited to six per person and may be obtained by calling the Community Foundation at 536-7741; the symphony office at 535-6738; or at the following locations: George's Song Shop, 128 Market St.; Roxbury Bandshell, 1429 Franklin St., from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday; Bottle Works, 411 and 413 Third Ave.; all in Johnstown; Arcadia Theater, 1418 Graham Ave., Windber; Laurel Arts, 214 S. Harrison Ave., Somerset; and Bedford County Visitors Bureau, 131 S. Juliana St., Bedford.

Tickets will not be available at the gate.

After the picnic, guests are invited to go directly to the concert and fireworks at Point Stadium.

A concert of flag-waving music will be under the direction of Maestro Istvan Jaray. The symphony has presented a free Independence Day concert annually since the 1989 centennial commemoration of the 1889 Flood.

The event has become a tradition that thousands of area residents relish as they top off their holiday celebrations.

Jaray views the Fourth of July concert as one of the symphony's most important performances of the year.

"This concert is our effort to reach a wide cross-section of the community, many of whom may have never heard the symphony," Jaray said. "No matter what people's differences may be, this is a concert that brings a sea of people together to honor our veterans and pay tribute to our country."

During the concert, Jaray and the orchestra will acknowledge the members of the armed forces, both present and past, for their selfless service.

As the orchestra plays each military branch's anthem, Jaray will ask that each attendee who has served or is serving in that particular branch stand up and be recognized.

"It is one of the most emotional moments of the concert," Jaray said.

Two local vocal talents, Ryleigh Jones and Max Fedore, will join the symphony for several selections. Each has sung with the orchestra in the past.

Ryleigh, who is a student at Westmont Hilltop Elementary School, will lead the audience in a "Star Spangled Spectacular" and "God Bless America."

Fedore will sing "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables."

"It promises to be a wonderful number that honors those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to preserve freedom and the American way of life," Jaray said.

The Johnstown Symphony Youth Orchestra Brass Ensemble, another performing group in symphony programs, will also showcase local youth musical talent. Participating members are Aaron Marko on horn; Josh Remillard, Anastazia Hall and Breanna McGhee, on trumpets; and Shannon Marko on tuba.

Several polkas are on the program, including the "July 4th Polka" and "Pennsylvania Polka." A new addition will be the "Thunder and Lightning Polka" by Johann Strauss.

The audience will be asked to sing along to some patriotic sounds.

They also will be singing such selections as "You Are My Sunshine," "America the Beautiful," "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "God Bless America."

The symphony will present the concert's finale of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture."

The overture serves as the cue for the fireworks display.

A hallmark of the concert is the stirring sounds of patriotic songs as fireworks fill the night sky.

As the fireworks continue, the orchestra calls upon the genius of John Philip Sousa as marches such as "Stars 'n' Stripes," "Washington Post," "Hands Across the Sea," "El Capitan" and "Manhattan Beach" present a spirited backdrop to the festivities.

Area Boy Scouts will canvass the stands to collect donations to help defray expenses.

Dennis McNair, Johnstown Symphony Orchestra president, said the annual concert and fireworks have become a family tradition.

"We're delighted to expand it this year to include the foundation's picnic and really celebrate our entire arts community, its spirit of collaboration, and the value that it brings to local residents and visitors," McNair said.

In the event of inclement weather, the concert will be held at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena, 326 Napoleon St., Johnstown.

Information: 535-6738.


Tom Lavis covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.


Independence Day celebrations

What: Community Foundation for the Alleghenies Founder's Day concert.

Where: Peoples Natural Gas Park, 90 Johns St., downtown Johnstown.

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.July 4.

Admission: Free.

What: Independence Day Extravaganza featuring Johnstown Symphony Orchestra.

Where: Point Stadium, downtown Johnstown.

When: 8 p.m.July 4.

Admission: Free.

Area fireworks displays

The following are fireworks displays in the region in celebration of Independence Day:

--The Galleria, Galleria Drive, Richland Township, July 3.

--Point Stadium, downtown Johnstown, July 4, following an 8 p.m. concert by the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra.

--Peoples Natural Gas Field, 1000 Park Ave., Altoona, July 4, following the 7 p.m. Curve game.

--Idlewild Park, Ligonier, 10 p.m.July 4.

--Kennywood Park, West Mifflin, nightly July 1-6.

--DelGrosso Amusement Park, 4352 E. Pleasant Valley Blvd., Tipton, July 4.

--Lakemont Park and the Island Waterpark, off Interstate 99, Altoona, 10 p.m.July 4.

--Indiana County Fairgrounds, Mack Park, Indiana, July 4.

--Central Pennsylvania 4th Fest, Bryce Jordan Center, State College, 9:15 p.m.July 4.


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