Pottstown’s Weekend… at a glance

Here are just some of the activities on tap, beginning TODAY. Check them out, come into town, or come downtown… just do it!

THINGS TO SEE AND DO WHILE YOU’RE IN POTTSTOWN THIS WEEKEND

April 30-May 8YWCA Women’s Festival of the Arts
Location: The Gallery on High, 254 E. High St.
Opening Reception: 6-8pm, Friday, April 30

April 30Emily’s Toy Box
Location: The Brick House, 152 E High Street
Time:10 p.m.

May 1Pottstown’s First Saturday
Location: Smith Family Plaza, 100 High Street
Time: 10 am – 2 pm

Children’s activities, vendors, flea market, live entertainment
10-11– SwingKat swing & salsa demonstration
11-12 – High Street Music Showcase
12-2 – Gene Galligan

Be a part of “Car-Art” and help paint a 1949 Buick!

Compete in “Project Art-cycle” alone or bring a team. Register for this event by April 28th. You bring art supplies. On May 1st, you’ll be given a kit of recycled materials to use in your sculpture, plus an optional bonus item. Work from 10am-1pm, then let the judges do their job! Register at info@galleryonhigh.com

May 2 – Polka Gala featuring the Polka Family Band and Ray Jay & the Carousels
Location: Sunnybrook Ballroom
Time: noon-8 pm
Cover: $15 in advance; $20 at the door

May 2 Sunday in the Park Music Series featuring Neighbor Poem
Location: Riverfront Park amphitheater, College Drive, Pottstown
Time: 2-4 pm
Cover: Free.

May 2Kinnara Choral Ensemble
Location: Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Time: 7:30 pm
Cover: Free. (A free-will offering will be collected.)

May 5Wine After Five Celebrates Cinco de Mayo
Location: Gallery School, 254 E. High St.
Time: 6:30 pm
Cover: $45, fundraiser. Must purchase tix before April 30.

The Centennial Illumination

I was cruisin’ around Pottstown’s 4th of July Homecoming Celebration blog, and came across the fascinating published account of the 1876 Centennial Celebration, held in honor of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. (You can click on the link at the bottom right of their page or go here.)

I was especially intrigued by the description on pages 12-13 of the event known as “The Centennial Illumination.” Basically, Pottstown residents and businesses were encouraged to decorate their buildings and, between 9-10 pm on the evening of July 3rd, they were to light up their properties.

“As the hour of 9 o’clock in the evening was tolled out upon the air by the town clock, gas burners, transparencies, lamps, candles, Chinese lanterns, balls of fire and all other means of illumination, were fired up, and a brilliant flood of light thrown upon the streets, presenting a scene of beauty, the like of which is unrecorded in the annals of the town.”

I get chills every time I read that.

So this got me to thinking… is an “illumination”, even for just a few hours the night before the parade, maybe even only in the downtown, possibly a way to further distinguish Pottstown as THE BEST place to observe the 4th? As more restaurants and stores open up downtown – think people dining outside at Juan Carlos & Funky Lil’ Kitchen & Martha’s Famous & other restaurants & cafes, people browsing in galleries and shops, music in Smith Plaza, music in the lot between the former Amy’s Attic & Ranieri’s – I’m imagining the magic that could happen when all the church bells start to ring and those lights pop on for just a couple hours on that one night. (You miss it, you gotta wait til next July.) And it’s something that the town has already done, it’s already part of its story.

Sigh.

I guess I have to get back to work. Writing deadline looming. Just procrastinating and daydreaming out loud on a Wednesday morning…

Riverside Ride

A couple Saturdays ago, I had a block of time to check out the free bike program at Tri-County Bicycles. They run the Bike Pottstown program out of their shop; this totally awesome program lets you check out a bike for the day in exchange for handing over some i.d. and signing a waiver. These single-speed, canary yellow two-wheelers with basket in front hearken back to simpler times – when you pedaled forward to keep moving ahead and backward to stop with no big decisions to make in between. (Apparently these Fuji Sanibel Cruisers – 30 of ’em- were custom painted by Blast From the Past Street Rods.)

I wanted to ride along the Schuylkill River Trail and got some info from the guys at the store and also looked at some of the brochures they have up front. Heading outside, I went right on High Street, took the first right onto Charlotte Street, the next right onto Queen Street and let the downward incline pull me along. It was a bit chilly and rain was in the forecast, but I was willing to take my chances. There’s nothing like cruising along on two wheels to feel like you’ve finally been set free.

At the end of Queen Street, I took a left onto Hanover Street, but not before a quick peek into the former Goodwill firehouse from 1871 on the corner. (Does anyone know what’s happening with that building??) Following the signs to Riverfront Park, I ended up at the trailhead, where the new parking lot looks like it’s just about done.

And then I enjoyed a few miles out and back along the trail, passing walkers, joggers and a couple other cyclists. Although I could usually hear the hum from Rt. 422 or 100, the overwhelmingly green vistas were a gorgeous and welcome break from the built environment. Can’t wait to go back when the sun is shining!

I had forgotten to bring my helmet, but I have to make a plug for remembering to bring yours or asking for one from Tri-County Bicycles. Please note that cyclists using a bike from Bike Pottstown must be at least 16 years old.

And, finally, I have to give a shout-out to the many groups and businesses that support this program and made it come to life: Pottstown Health and Wellness Foundation, Exelon, Pottstown Police Officers’ Association, Borough of Pottstown, Tri-County Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association, Preservation Pottstown, Tri-County Bicycles & Blast From the Past — all testament to what can be achieved when everyone’s pulling together.

Tri-County Bicycles
256 E. High St.
Pottstown, PA 19464
484.941.6000
Hours: Monday thru Friday 10am – 6pm; Saturday 10am – 5pm

Citizens for Pottstown’s Revitalization – Take 2

So I went to the CPR meeting last Friday night at the PAL building because the speaker was Dave Garner, former Borough Councilman, and the topic was the Urban Land Institute’s advisory report that was released in January (Pottstown, Pennsylvania: Transformation Strategies.) I’m a nerd when it comes to just about any kind of planning report, more so if it’s from ULI.

Garner made clear that the views presented were his own. He mainly encouraged broad participation in the redevelopment efforts, by citizens and groups well beyond the official partnership that has formed among the Borough, the School District, the Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority and Pottstown Area Industrial Development Corporation, Inc. (PAID). He spoke of the need to establish a process by which decisions are made and to rigorously follow that process. Everyone should be challenged to do their homework, to know what’s going on, every step of the way. Then, when it comes time to actually make a decision, everyone should already be on board. Still, there must be a full & public discussion of the rationale behind anyone’s vote, for the record. But if the broader community has been doing their homework up until that point, they should already see/know/understand the direction that’s being taken.

There were some questions regarding where things stand now. A Memorandum of Understanding among the four principal partners was now with the School District. Some seemed impatient to not lose momentum while this agreement is ironed out and PAID hires a new executive director. Several comments were made to the effect that citizens can/should continue paying attention to, and participating in, various aspects of the revitalization efforts, yet it’s unclear what specific role could be played. Still a lot of “ironing out” to be done. I realize this post doesn’t get at the heart of the ULI report’s contents, but I’ll get to that in another post before too long — it’s all interesting, good stuff! And, bottom line, it’s not rocket science, i.e., its all quite do-able.

CPR reiterated its offer of Neighborhood Watch signs for anyone, anywhere in town, who wants to step up to be a Block Captain – a contact point for people in the neighborhood when issues arise. For that and to get on CPR’s email list, send an email to vivapottstown@hotmail.com.

There was a very good turnout for this meeting – maybe 30 people? – and they were from all areas of town. All Pottstown residents are invited and encouraged to attend CPR’s next meeting on Friday, May 21 at 7 pm at 146 King Street. The speaker will be Tom Carroll, president of Preservation Pottstown, an organization with a 6-pronged approach to its community development efforts.

Calendar

Wow. I had the sense that there was plenty going on, but until I tried to put together a calendar, I didn’t realize just how much.

Maintaining a calendar & putting in all the links is – um – kind of a lot of work. I don’t know if I have the stamina for it… but WAIT!

The Pottstown Arts & Cultural Alliance is going to be unveiling its new website in the very near future, and they’re going to have a calendar, so maybe the calendar here can just serve as a temporary clearinghouse until the PACA page comes along? For now, here you go…

April 22-25A Night of David Ives One-Acts
Location: Tri-County Performing Arts Center, 245 E. High Street
Times & Tickets:
Friday, Apr. 23 – 8:00 pm
Saturday, Apr. 24 – 8:00 pm
Sunday, Apr. 25 – 3:00 pm
ADULT: Thurs $15; Fri, Sat & Sun $17
STUDENT/SENIOR(65+): Thurs $13; Fri, Sat, Sun $15
CHILD (12 & under): Thurs $11; Fri, Sat & Sun $13
$2 off per ticket for groups of 10 or more!

April 23 – DJ Bruce Miller, dance to sounds of 50s, 60s, 70s
Location: Sunnybrook Ballroom, Colonial Room
Time: 8-11pm, doors open 7:45 pm
Cover: $5
Age: Over 21

April 24Rian Wallace 4th Annual Goals Over Obstacles Football Clinic
Location: PHS Grigg Memorial Field, 750 N. Washington St.
Time: 10 am – 4 pm
Cost: Free
Register: GoalsOverObstacles@gmail.com

April 24Wondabubba and the Big Splash
Location: Tri-County Performing Arts Center, 245 E. High Street
Time: 11 am and 3 pm
Tickets: ADULT: $8, Children: $5, Senior/Student: $8
Age: Recommended for grades K-3

April 24Singer Songwriter Showcase
Location: Churchill Artisan Baker & Chocolatier, 137 High Street
Time: Every Saturday, see schedule & performers here

April 25Schuylkill Valley Regional Dance Co. Fundraiser
Location: Limerick Bowl
Time: 2-4 pm
Cover: $15 (includes shoes, ball, raffle ticket)

April 30-May 8YWCA Women’s Festival of the Arts
Location: The Gallery on High, 254 E. High St.
Opening Reception: 6-8pm, Friday, April 30

April 30Emily’s Toy Box
Location: The Brick House, 152 E High Street
Time:10 p.m.

May 1Pottstown’s First Saturday
Location: Smith Family Plaza, 100 High Street
Time: 10 am – 2 pm

Children’s activities, vendors, flea market, live entertainment
10-11– SwingKat swing & salsa demonstration
11-12 – High Street Music Showcase
12-2 – Gene Galligan

Be a part of “Car-Art” and help paint a 1949 Buick!

Compete in “Project Art-cycle” alone or bring a team. Register for this event by April 28th. You bring art supplies. On May 1st, you’ll be given a kit of recycled materials to use in your sculpture, plus an optional bonus item. Work from 10am-1pm, then let the judges do their job! Register at info@galleryonhigh.com

May 2 – Polka Gala featuring the Polka Family Band and Ray Jay & the Carousels
Location: Sunnybrook Ballroom
Time: noon-8 pm
Cover: $15 in advance; $20 at the door

May 2 Sunday in the Park Music Series featuring Neighbor Poem
Location: Riverfront Park amphitheater, College Drive, Pottstown
Time: 2-4 pm
Cover: Free.

May 2Kinnara Choral Ensemble
Location: Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Time: 7:30 pm
Cover: Free. (A free-will offering will be collected.)

May 5Wine After Five Celebrates Cinco de Mayo
Location: Gallery School, 254 E. High St.
Time: 6:30 pm
Cover: $45, fundraiser. Must purchase tix before April 30.

May 8Otherwise-Poetry at Churchill’s featuring Jules Gibbs & Bruce Smith
Location: Churchill Artisan Baker & Chocolatier
137 High Street
Time: 7 pm
Host: Glenn McLaughlin (featured readings followed by open mic)

Citizens for Pottstown’s Revitalization – Take 1

I was in town last weekend for several activities, and first on tap, after my grilled cheese & pie at The Very Best, was attending the monthly meeting of Citizens for Pottstown’s Revitalization, a relatively new grassroots coalition of borough residents. (You gotta love a URL like http://www.vivapottstown.com!) The group’s mission is to instill pride and empower residents to get involved and take positive actions in their neighborhoods and throughout town. The two leaders, Katy Jackson and Anna Johnson, have lined up a series of speakers for their meetings, which take place at the PAL building at 146 King Street on the 3rd Friday of the month, beginning at 7 p.m. and lasting about an hour.

I had met Katy a few weeks before (and Anna briefly), when Katy took me on a walking tour of her block in the vicinity of King, Washington, Chestnut, and Franklin Streets. It was one of those gorgeous, sunny, warm afternoons when everyone seemed happy just to be outside. So, there’s this sweet park at the corner of Washington and Chestnut that was just abuzz with activity. Plans are in the works for neighbors to (hopefully) plant some flowers in one area, and for art students from the high school to use a block wall at the back of the park as a kind of rotating exhibit space to showcase their work throughout the year.

I’m not sure how far along the residents are in working out this next concept, so I’ll just say this: there’s a chance there will be a space available in the neighborhood for a community garden. Community gardens are growing in popularity, especially in places where wholesome foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, are not available or are too expensive. Basically, a lot is divided up among interested residents and/or groups/clubs. Someone who knows something about gardening coordinates & teaches, so that participants end up with a steady flow of food and even flowers. Of course, donations of tools, plants, seeds, soil are sought to make it all happen.

Community gardens get people outside, get neighbors working together, provide better food at a lower price, raise awareness about nutrition and food production, and put an empty or nuisance lot to good use. That’s a lot of win-wins in there. So, if this happens, maybe it could be a kind of pilot project for other gardens around town.

But this wasn’t what this post was even supposed to be about! I’ll try again in the next one…

Mercury article on founder of Positive Psychology

Given the name and attitude of this very blog, and given I was a psych major in college, I was intrigued to see this article by Dennis J. Wright in today’s Mercury about Martin Seligman, the founder of the relatively new field of positive psychology. Seligman, who teaches and does research at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke at Ursinus on Tuesday.

It seems Seligman used to study “learned helplessness and depression,” fairly common stuff in a field that focuses on what’s wrong with people and how to fix them. His current emphasis on positivity, though, comes at happiness from the other end of the spectrum: find out what your strengths are and put them to work to ward off depression.

In this 2008 profile, Seligman said, “There are three levels to happiness: pleasure, the delight you get from chocolate, fast cars, and sex; engagement, the feeling of “flow” you get when you’re doing something you’re good at; and meaning, the fulfillment you get from being engaged in an effort greater than yourself.”

At Ursinus, Seligman talked about how to apply these principles in education, maintaining that happiness – or how to achieve a fulfilling life – can actually be taught.

Extending this concept to the community-level, I’d put out there that Pottstown itself is in the midst of figuring out what its strengths are, capitalizing on them and starting to feel the “flow.” Look no further than Citizens for Pottstown’s Revitalization and “Hip Places to Be Scene in Pottstown,” the latter of which should be releasing a new video any day now. I guarantee you’ll have no trouble smiling at that 🙂

Welcome from the Town Square!

Hello, Mercury readers and thanks for stopping by! I want to thank The Mercury for setting up the Town Square on their home page and giving me a chance to share all the things – old and new – that I love about Pottstown.

Tapping into my background in urban planning and creative writing, I’ll be blogging about arts, cultural and community events and revitalization… in addition to food, sports, wellness and business, with the occasional trip down memory lane tossed in for good measure. This blog is a new venture, having gone “live” just a few weeks ago, and I hope it’ll be a forum for others to share ideas and notes on cool happenings around town. Please feel free to jump in!

Positively yours,
Sue Repko

Kinnara Choral Ensemble – May 2, 7:30 p.m.

Thanks to Mike Holliday for tipping me off about this upcoming performance when I ran into him last weekend at Churchill’s. On Sunday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m., the Kinnara Choral Ensemble will be performing at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 150 N. Hanover Street in a FREE concert. Check out the Church’s phenomenal music series, which is truly one of Pottstown’s performing arts gems.

Kinnara, a 20-voice chamber choir conducted by J.D. Burnett, hails from my neck of the woods here in central NJ. They’re in their second season and making quite a name for themselves.

The concert is called “all the letting go,” and Kinnara’s Facebook page describes the musical selection as, “An hour-long choral concert exploring music of death, loss, hope, and healing. William Schuman’s compelling Carols of Death and movements from the fresh and agitated a cappella Requiem by Zdenek Lukas anchor a journey through the gamut of human emotion.”

While all the concerts in the series at Emmanuel Lutheran are free, a free-will offering will be collected.

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