Pittston Twp. Fire Department celebrates a century with return of old time picnic
This is your grandfather’s firemen’s picnic. It’s not the Northeast Fair or the Olde Tyme Fair. It’s the Pittston Twp. Volunteer Fire Department Picnic and it’s back to where it once belonged in the Cork Lane section off Bryden Street, adjacent to the former site of the company, incorporating the township ballfields.
The picnic runs Friday, June 17; Saturday, June 18; and Sunday, June 19.
“We’re going old school,” company president Jordan Consagra said, “for the department’s 100th anniversary.”
Consagra said township residents he talks to, especially those in the Cork Lane neighborhoods, say they miss the old local picnic they were used to back in the day.
The department is bringing back some of the features from the picnic from the 1960s-80s, like a pig roast, flea market, beer stand on the basketball court, cotton candy, local bands, one-way traffic on Bryden Street, shuttle buses to and from the old K-Mart site and a parade on Sunday.
Food trucks are lined up and local restaurants, including Sabatelli’s and Arcaro’s, will set up tents. Raffle and small game booths, including the Big 6, and an axe throwing vendor will be there. The firemen ought to be good at that.
In keeping with the 100th anniversary theme, the firemen will offer a historical display which will include a 1950s Ford engine.
The Pittston bandstand will be trucked over to allow for the Sperazza Band, Handsome Devils, Flaxy Morgan and Lightweight to rock out. The entertainment schedule is: Friday, June 17, Sperazza Band from 6 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, June 18, Handsome Devils from 5 to 8 p.m. and Lightweight from 8 to 10; Sunday, June 19, Flaxy Morgan from 5 to 9 p.m.
The first Pittston Twp. Volunteer Firemen’s bazaar ended with a fireworks display on Aug. 2, 1953. Year-by-year the firemen added events like pony rides in 1956, a fourth and fifth night in 1958, a money tree raffle in 1966 and a new car raffle in 1974.
By the late 1990s, the bazaar was getting unwieldy. In 1997, for the 75th anniversary, it was renamed the Olde Tyme Fair and 30,000 saw Percy Sledge with Daddy O, The Buoys, the Broadway cast of “Beatlemania,” Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Drifters. Kids loved petting yaks, wallabies, monkeys and llamas and dug the strolling clowns, 9-foot tall Uncle Sam, classic cars and 18 rides. A 30-minute fireworks show, billed as a salute to America, sent the folks home. Over the next couple years, the hits kept on coming with The Grass Roots, Little River Band, Marshall Tucker, Chuck Negron and Three Dog Night and the Lovin’ Spoonful.
In 2001, the department opened a second location at an industrial park in Suscon and moved the fair there. It morphed into a state-sanctioned full blown agricultural fair with a huge midway featuring 25 Reithoffer rides, judged horticultural displays, pig races and demolition derbies.
By 2017, the fair had run its course. It was still a draw, but the overhead ate into the profits.
Now in 2022, as Consagra said, “It’s time to go old school.”
Pittston Twp. Fire Department through the years
In March 1922, a call to arms went out in the township after a single fire burned down five homes on Norman Street, not far from Bryden Street. On Oct. 16 of that year, the call was answered when Luzerne County Court approved the incorporation of the Pittston Twp. Hose Company No. 1.
The first president was Peter Garrity. One of the directors was Joseph Pupa, whose grandson by the same name is an active member today. The department was housed at 37 Bryden St. with one hand-drawn cart. They had their work cut out for them since there were only two hydrants in the township. The department bought a new Buffalo Larabee truck with a Hale pumper in 1925. After World War II, the department moved to 79 Bryden St. and bought a 1947 Ford, which is still there and may be displayed for the picnic.
The 79 Bryden St. building is not in use. Today the company operates out of a 9,000-square-foot building on the bypass, the former site of Borino Tire, from where the department averages 1,000 calls per year, 10 times more than an average year in the 1950s and 60s.