In July 1969, astronauts were exploring new territory as Neil Armstrong became the first human to set his feet on the surface of the moon. In Curwensville, residents were also preparing to launch a first-time experience as the Curwensville Jaycees hosted a three-day festival at Irvin Park.
According to published records, that weekend festival featured a pig roast, dancing, eating contests and lots of socializing between friends and neighbors.
The festival grew into Curwensville Days –a week of celebrating all that is good about the Curwensville community as social clubs, local organizations, musical groups and entertainers put on their best for residents.
In 1970, the Jaycees decided to invite Rescue Hose & Ladder Co. to join in. The fire company opted to sponsor a booth and the annual fireman’s parade — traditions it continues to this day. In succeeding years, a number of community organizations followed suite and sponsored booths at the festival.
Gearing up to celebrate the borough’s 175th anniversary in 1974, it was decided the weekend festival should grow into a week-long event. In September 1973, a meeting was held to gather public input with the hopes of turning out a celebration worthy of observing the anniversary of the borough’s founding.
The meeting was attended by members of the Curwensville Jaycees, the fire company and representatives from a number of the town’s civic organizations. Officers were elected to oversee preparations for the anniversary celebration. They were Thomas Moore Sr., president; Lawrence Stiver, vice president; Sara Swanson, secretary; Al Harshberger, assistant secretary; William Wetzel, treasurer; and Mary Morgan, publicist.
Minutes from a following meeting in October noted the committee was beginning work on a booklet continuing the borough’s history from 1949-1974 — an addition to the history book published for the borough’s 150th anniversary in 1949.
Momentum for the celebration was building b y January 1974 with minutes reporting 50 people representing 14 organizations, were present for the meeting. Dates were set for the celebration as July 14-20, 1974 and the location as Irvin Park.
Some of the highlights from the first festival included two performances by country singer Hank Snow. It was reported “People packed the park and there wasn’t a parking space to be found on South Side.”
There was also a vespers service –a tradition that continues today. Fireworks, dances, band concerts and an antique car show rounded out the event.
The 1975 celebration was the first year the committee referred to itself as the Curwensville Days committee.
In 1999, the committee celebrated the borough’s bicentennial year with a performance by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and in 2010, the committee welcomed crooner Joey Dee and his band, The Starliters, to perform at Curwensville Days.
Some things have changed through the years but the committee hopes to continue providing festival visitors with a family-friendly experience, According to committee President Martha Tozer. “Although Curwensville Days started out as a festival sponsored by non-profits, a number of them have dropped out, so profit vendors are now included but the committee takes care not to duplicate anything sold by non-profit groups that still operate a booth at Curwensville Days.”
She said the 2019 festival will feature several new vendors, games, face-painting, balloon art and bouncing inflatables.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the festival’s free admission and parking.