Kutztown Historical Society and the Bicentennial Committee celebrated Kutztown one year after the bicentennial celebration by showcasing the completed Bicentennial Park Phase I.
Historical society president Sheila Fulton, State Senator Judy Schwank, Kutztown Mayor Sandy Green, and Bicentennial Committee Chair Craig Koller cut the ribbon for the Bicentennial Park on Sunday, July 31.
“When Kutztown’s bicentennial celebration was completed in 2015, the bicentennial committee members wanted to commemorate the occasion by creating an outdoor space at the Kutztown Area Historical Society to hold different society and community events,” said Craig Koller, Bicentennial Committee Chair.
Located at the Kutztown Historical Society, the Bicentennial Park was designed by Kutztonian Chris Berg of Western Lehigh Landscape. The park will be implemented in several stages.
Koller said Phase I, funded by money remaining in the Kutztown Bicentennial Committee treasury, is completed. Trees were trimmed by a licensed arborist. The disintegrating macadam walkway that circled around the north side of the 1892 Public School Building was removed and replaced it with grass. Numerous bushes, trees, and flowers were planted.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Fulton said the building was constructed with the finest building materials of the time in 1892.
“It has graced this corner for 124 years and is an important part of our heritage,” said Fulton. “The Bicentennial Park certainly enhances the building.”
Fulton said the park helps to remind everyone of the bicentennial celebration.
“It demonstrates an ongoing commitment to our community and it’s heritage,” she said.
Mayor Green said a year ago Kutztown was in the midst of a week of bicentennial events.
“What an honor to be the mayor during the bicentennial celebration and see the joy and community spirit not just during the 2015 year but to see the enthusiasm carry through into 2016 and beyond,” said Green, thanking the Bicentennial Committee and volunteers for their hard work and many volunteer hours to make Kutztown’s 200th a memorable celebration. “The result of the dedication is this beautiful Bicentennial Park, a shining example of what good things can be accomplished when an all-volunteer group works well together.”
Sen. Schwank said it was very appropriate to be gathered under the shade of very old oak trees before a beautiful old building and a lovely new garden when a horse-drawn carriage just drives by.
“How unique this community is and how fortunate we are to live here,” said Schwank. “We live here with a number of people like yourselves who are so willing to invest your time and your treasure in making this a great place to live.”
This event, Schwank said, is the culmination,a cap stone to the entire year of the bicentennial.
“It just illustrates what’s all good about this community. It’s you, it’s your political leadership, it’s the volunteers, it’s the interest and understanding that a community is what we make it. It’s not somebody else’s job, it’s all of our jobs,” sid Schwank.
“Every time I come into this community I’m so aware of what is so unique about Kutztown... it’s the people,” she said.
The Kutztown Historical Society presented Schwank with a life-time membership to the society. Being Schwank’s birthday that day, Charlie Schaffer and Carl Zeplin played “Happy Birthday” while the crowd sang to her.
Northeast Berks Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lori B. Donofrio-Galley also participated in the ribbon cutting.
“We applaud the Bicentennial Committee, the Kutztown Area Historical Society, and all of the committed community volunteers for their good stewardship of local history,” said Donofrio-Galley.
Holding the ribbon were Miss Kutztown Bicentennial Erica Yurvati and Little Miss Kutztown Bicentennial Mary Elizabeth Hess, 7, who participated in many of the bicentennial events.
“I’m really excited,” said Yurvati. “It’s really nice to see everyone from the Bicentennial Committee again. It’s great that everybody from the town comes to all of these events. I had a really great time last year. It was so much fun. It was really neat to see how everyone came together for the events. I’m really glad that they’re doing some of the same events this year, like the Kruizz and Dinner on Main. I’m just really lucky that they let me be a part of it.”
Hess said, “It’s really exciting” to be representing Kutztown. “Most of it’s exciting. The events, the parade. I liked a lot of it.”
Fulton asked everyone to give a rousing applause to Koller for his leadership and his planning for the park and for the bicentennial celebration.
“What a fantastic Bicentennial Committee we had,” said Koller. “You could rely on each person... They stepped up.”
At every event there were volunteers offering to help, even people who were not members of the Committee.
“It was the most gratifying experience of my life because of the people that I got work with,” said Koller. “It was the highlight of my life. They didn’t want to quit.”
The Bicentennial Committee has now become the Kutztown Historical Society’s Ways and Means Committee.
Koller said that the ribbon cutting ceremony also kicks off fundraising for Phase II, which is a brick and paver walkway from the front of the building to the back door. The society will raise funds by selling inscribed bricks for the walkway.
“We hope the people of Kutztown, and ex-patriots, will honor their families and friends by purchasing bricks with their names inscribed,” he said.
Order forms for the bricks were available at the ribbon cutting. They will also be mailed to every member of the historical society, plus made available on the society web page and at the society’s annual holiday festival on Nov. 12. Forms will be available at several businesses in town and borough hall. The brick purchasing campaign will run through Jan. 1, cash or check only. The society plans to start the placement of the walkway in the spring of 2017.
The Bicentennial Park celebration on July 31 included food, lawn games for children and the society museum was open to the public, including the model railroad in the basement. Charlie Schaffer and Carl Zeplin provided music.
The K’Town Pub sold pulled pork sliders and mac & cheese. The society provided water and cookies for free. Birch beer was donated by the Kutztown Bottling Works.