History of Old Home Week stretches back decades

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Welcome to Old Home Week, as the Punxsutawney Fire Department will present the annual celebration beginning Tuesday at the carnival grounds located behind the west side of the Punxy Plaza.

According to “McKnight's History of Jefferson County” and the Punxsutawney Area Historical and Genealogical Society, the celebration was first held Aug. 23-28, 1909.

"During this eventful week, nearly everyone who had ever lived in Punxsy returned to visit, and an elaborate program was carried out each day for their entertainment," William J. McKnight wrote, adding
that “the town was resplendent with beautiful decorations and the air filled with music during the entire week, and fully a hundred thousand people witnessed the various big events on the program.”

According to McKnight, the whole community contributed toward the success of the yearly event.

"A large share of the credit must be given to A.J. Truitt. Esq., who was chairman and manager of the Old Home Week Association,” McKnight wrote, adding that the original event was not sponsored by the local fire companies.

He said between 1909 and 1940, there were no organized Old Home Week celebrations.

In 1940, Central, Elk Run and Lindsey fire companies joined together to organize a new week-long celebration, according to McKnight.

"The first Firemen's Old Home Week celebration was held with an opening church service, concerts and parades almost every day and free acts every night," according to a written account of Punxsutawney Fire Department history.

The 1984 Fire Department celebration was the 44th year of the Firemen's Old Home Week Celebration and the 75th anniversary of the original Punxsutawney Old Home Week.

Fast forward to 2012:
Tami McFarland, president of the Old Home Week committee, said the carnival has actually been located in several different locations around town, including Maple Avenue at the baseball fields, Mahoning Street in downtown, the National Guard Armory on North Findley Street and now behind the Punxy Plaza.

McFarland said J&J Amusements will return to the midway for the carnival once again this year.

J&J is known for having one of the finest midways in the eastern United States, she said, adding that the carnival hours are from 6 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Once again, there will be the nightly prize drawings held at 10:30 p.m., and participants must be 18 years of age to participate.

Here are the nightly prizes:
• Tuesday — $200 gift card to Sheetz, donated by a friend of the Punxsy Fire Department.

• Wednesday — $250 gift certificate to Mahoning Valley Milling, donated by Mahoning Valley.

• Thursday — $300 gift certificate to CRW, donated by Tim and Cindy Chambers, owners.

• Friday — $250 gift certificate to Fezell's County Market, donated by Tim Fezel, owner.

• Saturday — $449 La-Z-Boy recliner, donated by Johnston Furniture, Jay Philliber, owner.

The drawings will be held near the bingo tent, where one can also register.

McFarland thanked Pete Pape, of the Lindsey Fire Company, for again acquiring prizes from area merchants for the nightly drawing this year.

The Old Home Week celebration will offer a different form of entertainment for the first time, as the band Ridin’ Shotgun will perform from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday at the carnival grounds.

“We’ve been exploring alternatives to draw more people into the carnival, and by having a band, it should bring out some of the people who don’t ride rides,” McFarland said.

The fire department will offer three one-price nights, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, she said.

Firefighters will sell advance tickets for the last time today at various locations, including County Market, Peebles and Wal-Mart.

“If you don’t purchase the advance sale tickets, you will pay significantly more if you wait to purchase them on the carnival grounds,” McFarland said, adding that once the carnival opens Tuesday, the fire department is not allowed to offer the discount tickets anymore.

She said the price remains the same as last year for advance sales: Seven tickets for $10, and $13 to purchase all the rides for one-price tickets in advance.

She said there has also been a good response from potential units for the annual parade.

The parade is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday on West Mahoning Street, forming in the Punxy Plaza.

Anyone who might be interested in entering a unit may call 938-5524 or 952-2626, or e-mail McFarland at firemama2020@hotmail.com.