Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce

Arts in Greater Hazleton PDF Print E-mail

FUNFEST draws a large number of people to downtown Hazleton each summer for a variety of arts, crafts, food and entertainment.When work is done and thoughts turn toward leisure activities, Greater Hazleton shines once again.

The area is home to several theater groups, dance troupes, historical sites, galleries, and a host of other artistic attractions and enjoyable events.

The people of Greater Hazleton recognize the value of preserving, studying, encouraging, and cultivating the cultural and artistic resources in our area.

With several popular theater groups, Greater Hazleton offers plenty of opportunities for aspiring actors of all ages. You don’t have to burn a tank of gas to enjoy everything from timeless Broadway classics to interactive murder mystery dinner theater.

Performance venues range from the traditional to the creative, which includes a former church in Hazleton and a converted factory in Nuremberg.

The region boasts a number of community theater groups, such as the MPB Community Players. The Players give two performances a year, and there's plenty of opportunities for everyone to get involved, from divas to set designers to carpenters. Other community theater groups, including the Nuremberg Community Players, Backstage Studios and the Pennsylvania Theatre of Performing Arts, provide cultural activity year-round.

For the past four decades, the Greater Hazleton Philharmonic Society has kept classical music alive while entertaining thousands of locals and their children. The organization traces its beginnings to a humble man of the cloth, “Father Joe” Ferrara, and also trains musicians.

The symphony performs several holiday concerts a year, many at its home, the J.J. Ferrara Performing Arts Center in downtown Hazleton. Relax and kick back for a classical night out with Beethoven and Bach, courtesy of the Philharmonic. The organization entertains Greater Hazleton with special performances throughout the year.

Although Ferrara is gone, his 50-member symphony remains a local fixture. The symphony performing at most major events, including the area’s largest street celebration, Funfest, which each September transforms downtown Hazleton into an exciting festival.

Students perform at the Ferrwood Music Camp.For children who prefer playing their own music, the Ferrwood Music Camp, a feeder program for the Greater Hazleton Philharmonic Society, is another option. Each summer since 1965, hundreds of kids with a passion for music have flocked to the two-week camp for fun and learning in a rustic outdoor setting. Father Joe is the man who started this annual tradition.

Father Joe was as passionate about kids and their community involvement as he was about music. The camp creator liked to say, “If we make musicians out of them, it’s purely accidental. We’re interested in making good citizens.”

That motto has proved music to the ears of area educators, youth counselors, parents and campgoers of all ages.

Situated on 28 acres of wooded farmland, the camp remains a popular summer destination for young musicians. Thanks to a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the camp’s aging structures enjoyed a full renovation a few years ago.

Hazleton’s Community Concert Association also sponsors talented entertainers throughout the year. The concert season often includes exciting dance ensembles, world-renowned instrumentalists and professional vocalists.

For those with musical talents to share, check out groups such as the Valley Vocals, Choralairs and a chapter of the Barbershoppers.

This region of Pennsylvania is also home to the Northeastern Philharmonic, the third-largest symphonic orchestra in the state. The professional 80-piece orchestra performs a series of subscription concerts in the Greater Wilkes-Barre and Scranton areas from September through April.

The Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, founded in 1922, is the oldest community theater in the United States, performing and presenting four shows during its season from September to June and holding a summer workshop for high school students.

Scranton's Broadway Theatre League, about an hour north of Greater Hazleton, brings professional traveling Broadway productions to the Scranton Cultural Center.

Besides these venues and more, all local college campuses offer cultural programs that are open to the public.

If your idea of art is more traditional – say paints, clay or pastels – you’ll want to make your way to the Hazleton Art League. For more than six decades, HAL has been honing artistic talents via professionally taught classes, programs, workshops and exhibits.

Budding artists also have the option of taking classes with Kathy Dobash of Beauty Flower Poem, which offers art workshops by appointment. Specializing in art such as drawing and painting, Beauty Flower Poem’s “Art on the Go” provides art experiences anywhere for all ages. The studio is located in the historic Markle Building in downtown Hazleton, or personalized workshops are available anywhere the artist chooses.

The Sordoni Art Gallery in Wilkes-Barre hosts nine exhibitions in its eleven-month season, all of which are available to the public free of charge. The Marquis George MacDonald Art Gallery features a wide variety of exhibits throughout the year that are also free of charge, as do The Kilburn Room at King's College, the Linder Art Gallery at Keystone College, the Suraci Gallery and Contemporary Galleries at Marywood College, and the Art Gallery at the University of Scranton. The Everhart Museum at Nay Aug Park in Scranton schedules a variety of art exhibits in addition to its permanent collection of art, science and natural history.

The region is also home to a dozen or so professional dance troupes and schools where those interested can learn practically any form of dance. Studios hold annual recitals and often perform in various community events. In Wilkes-Barre, Ballet Theatre Pennsylvania is the third-largest professional ballet company in the state and the resident dance company of the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Public Square, where you'll find 1930s-era art decor in an 1,800-seat auditorium and a mezzanine gallery. During spring, summer and fall, Greater Hazleton opens its doors to many festivals and carnivals.

The area's ethnic and religious heritage is apparent all year long, but is never more obvious than during the summer months, when every weekend a different church or fire company, with a different historic and ethnic background, conducts its own festival. These festivals feature the best in homemade cooking, entertainment and traditions. People from all over the region attend these events for entertainment that includes local bands, games of chance, and an opportunity to try different ethnic foods and typical local favorites like potato pancakes, funnel cakes, pierogies and pizza.

Coordinated by the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, the annual Funfest celebration downtown features craft and auto shows, entertainment, fireworks and a massive street fair. The giant parade always steals the show.

The City of Hazleton’s annual Fourth of July Celebration, “Hold Your Flag High Day,” draws thousands to beautiful Harman-Geist Stadium for patriotic tunes, marching bands, popular local crooners and a fireworks display. Every August, people from around the area gather along picturesque main-street Conyngham to celebrate Valley Day. The weekend event showcases fun, activities and delectable foods, including fire-roasted chicken and corn on the cob. Greater Hazleton marks the year-end holidays with special fanfare.

Community events like CAN DO Community Christmas, featuring the art and music of local children, the Chamber’s annual “Welcome Santa” event and the City of Hazleton’s “Deck the Hall” tree-lighting ceremony bring the community together to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year.

On New Year’s Eve, the city hosts its family-friendly First Night Hazleton. Dancers, acrobats, illusionists, musicians and other skilled entertainers perform at various downtown venues throughout the afternoon and evening. The New Year kicks off with a real bang with a midnight fireworks display.

The Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, a short drive north of Greater Hazleton, offers family events and concerts by famous artists. Performances at the arena have included the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Baily circus, Disney on Ice, the American Idol and Dancing With the Stars tours, The Eagles and Cher, just to name a few. Also north of Greater Hazleton is Sno Mountain. In the summer, this ski resort comes alive with musical performances by big-name artists and groups. Performers who've played the outdoor amphitheater at Montage include KISS, Harry Connick Jr., Britney Spears, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Kenny Rogers, James Taylor and the Allman Brothers.

On a grander scale, many Greater Hazleton residents join hundreds of thousands of others to attend the Bloomsburg Fair every fall. This fair is the largest in Pennsylvania, with displays honoring the region's agricultural heritage. The fair also features cooking contests, arts and crafts contests, big-name musical entertainment, amusement rides, and more.


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