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RiverFest 2009 at Wilkes-Barre’s River Common

RiverFest, an annual event celebrating the Susquehanna River and “Rivers Month”, turns 10 this year and will do so in style at the newly revitalized River Common in Wilkes-Barre. Nearly $30 million was spent on the project which will officially open on June 19 after Luzerne County officials hold a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the event. The River Common now features a 750-seat amphitheater, two fishing piers and a paved walkway which stretches from the Courthouse to the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center a few blocks away. The ribbon cutting will kick off RiverFest, which hosts a whole weekend of festivities around the River Common and in nearby Nesbitt Park.

RiverFest will commence at 4 p.m. on Friday June 19th and will run though Sunday evening. The event will feature food and performances by the Wyoming Valley Concert Band at 6 p.m., Bobby Bath at 7 p.m. and finally Don Shapelle at 8 p.m on Friday. Other activities around the RiverCommon include a free fishing clinic by the Fish and Boat Commission, kayak demonstrations, mural painting by DCNR and the Keystone Active Zone Passport Station presented by the Wyoming Valley Wellness Trails.

The music and fun will continue to liven up the river with shows on stages at Nesbitt Park and the River Common on Saturday. Performances on the River Common stage will start with the NonRefundables at 12:30 p.m., Nowhere Slow at 2:15 p.m., the SW!MS at 4 p.m., Woody Browns Project at 5:45 p.m. and finally George Wesley at 7:30 p.m. Appearing on the Nesbitt Park stage will be Charles Havira at 1 p.m., K8 at 2:30 p.m., George Wesley at 4:15 p.m. and Don Shapelle at 6 p.m.

Music is just a start of all the activities there are to be had at RiverFest on Saturday! Nesbitt Park will be full of things to do throughout the day, including Story Telling by the Osterhout Free Library, rock climbing, tie-dye t-shirt making and lots more. See www.rivercommon.org for more details and a full list of all the activities available.

In addition to all the great exhibits and activities you can also sign up to paddle down the Susquehanna River. Enjoy the beauty of the Susquehanna River from a whole new perspective! You can expect to see lots of wildlife including river otters, bald eagles and other large and small birds. The paddling trips are 4 hours long on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday the trip will run from Harding to Wilkes-Barre and on Sunday the trip will depart Wilkes-Barre to arrive in Hunlock Creek.

Kayaking rentals are available from Endless Mountain Outfitters, Susquehanna River Adventures (570-328-4001), and Susquehanna Kayak and Canoe Rentals (570-388-6107). Costs range from $40 to $60 depending on size plus $17 to participate. A mandatory safety training will be provided to all participants by the PA Fish and Boat Commission, shuttle service is also included.

PAontheGo.com is a free resource for all things travel and tourism across Eastern Pennsylvania. Visit us at http://www.PAontheGo.com today for more information.

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Stegmaier Brewing Co.

Charles Stegmaier was born on October 7, 1821 in Wurtenberg, Germany where he would later learn the art of brewing beer. He worked in several local breweries in Wurtenberg until the age of 27 when he set sail for America. He quickly found a job working in the small Corporation Brewery in Philadelphia. Soon after he worked with the Louis Berdoll brewery where he met John Reichard of the Reichard & Weaver brewery in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1851. Charles and John formed a partnership and produced the first lager beer in that section of the state. This partnership did not last however. That same year, Charles married Catharine Baer who was the daughter of George C. Baer. A few years later Charles would accept a position at the George Laurer brewery in Pottsville.

In 1857, Charles Stegmaier moved back to Wilkes-Barre. Once there he formed a partnership with his father-in-law George Baer and built a small brewery on South Canal Street where he brewed beer in a wooden kettle and stored it in an abandoned coal mine under the building. In order to expand their operation they built a new brewery, complete with underground vaults, on East Market Street. The new brewery opened in 1863 but would close just 10 years later.

Charles needed to find work to support his family so he operated a hotel for two years until he was able to purchase the Joel Bowkley brewery on North River Street. He formed a new partnership with his son Christian and they were finally able to raise the funds necessary to buy back the Baer and Stegmaier brewery in 1880. The business continued to grow and they expanded further by building a new brew house and storage facility in 1894. This increased their yearly output to 300,000 barrels.

The business was doing very well by this point and in 1897 Charles and Christian would incorporate as the Stegmaier Brewing Co. Charles stepped down from being the company’s manager in 1902 letting Christian take the helm along with his other sons Fred and George. Within the community the Stegmaier family was well known for their charity, as they contributed a lot to the development of Wilkes-Barre.

In 1910 and 1913, Stegmaier Brewing Co. won eight gold medals in Paris, Brussels and Rome. After the end of prohibition it was one of the largest independent breweries in all of North America. At it’s peak, Stegmaier was producing half a million barrels a year and used the rail lines of Wilkes-Barre along with a fleet of 60 trucks to distribute its beer. Stegmaier beer could be purchased all along the East Coast of the U.S.

The Stegmaier Brewing Co. saw many years of success before they closed their doors in October of 1974 when a sudden announcement of the sale of the company to another local brewery, Lion, Inc., was made by Edward R. Maier. Edward was the great grandson of Charles Stegmaier. The announcement was a surprise to the workers at Stegmaier Brewing Co. The company had always been a family owned business and was well respected by it’s employees. Many of the employee’s parents and grandparents had worked in the brewery. After the sale to Lion, Inc., which was Stegmaier’s closest competitor, about 50 employees were hired, including Edward Maier who stayed on as Executive Vice President. The remaining 150 lost their jobs.

Since 1974 the old Stegmaier Brewing Co. building sat vacant. During the 1990s, Wilkes-Barre city council voted to have the building torn down but it was later saved by a federal project to take over the building. On February 17, 1998 the Stegmaier Federal Building opened as an office building for the U.S. Post Office and other federal programs. The building was restored and preserved as one of Wilkes-Barre’s most significant historic landmarks.

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Market Street Bridge – Wilkes-Barre, PA

Through an Act of the Pennsylvania Legislature, the Wilkes-Barre Bridge company was tasked to solicit shares for the construction of the first Market Street Bridge crossing the Susquehanna River. Shareholders of the company met on May 15, 1816 at the courthouse and then later on Public Square.They elected Matthias Hollenback president and Jacob Cist treasurer. The Wilkes-Barre Bridge Company’s first board of managers consisted of James Barnes, Henry Buckingham, George Chahoon, Elias Hoyt, Joseph Sinton and Stephen Tuttle. Serving as Secretary was Benjamin Perry.

The original plans for the bridge were made in 1816 and the project was completed in 1820. The Market Street Bridge was replaced three times to accommodate the changes in transportation and growing population. The second bridge was completed around 1855 and was later replaced by a steel bridge in 1892. It wasn’t until 1928 that the latest bridge would be constructed and open to the public. The 1928 bridge has gone through several major floods and levee projects but is still in good condition and in use today.

The monumental fourth bridge was designed by the prestigious architectural firm, Carrere and Hastings. The design is attributed to Wilkes-Barre native, Colonel Thomas Henry Atherton who worked for the firm. Atherton also designed the New York Public Library in 1911 and is responsible for the Frick Collection, both located on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Colonel Atherton would go on to design the 109th Armory and the Kirby Health Center in Wilkes-Barre.

The most prominent feature of the Market Street Bridge has to be it’s towers, topped by finely detailed eagles. Inscribed on each tower are short dedications to the values of the region. They Read:

PROGRESS
to the CULTURE, begot by splendid schools and teachers, we owe rise in higher realm of mind and spirit.

PROSPERITY
in the INDUSTRY builded by human hand and brain, on our mineral resources, we owe growth, influence and welfare.

PATRIOTISM
to the SERVICE of our heroes sacrificial on land and sea in every war, glorious and forever, unforgot we pay homage.

PERSEVERANCE
to the FORTITUDE of early settlers facing hardship, fearless and unflinching, we owe the origins of what we are.