Delaware Canal Festival in Historic Bristol Borough
by Cate Murway
In the early 1800’s, America was growing rapidly. Its population was increasing, westward migration had begun, and business was booming. Legislators and entrepreneurs looked to canals. A major event occurred in historic Bristol’s economic development when ground was broken for the Delaware division of the Pennsylvania Canal, built to connect with the Lehigh Navigation at Easton to carry coal from this waterway to Bristol. It connected Bristol to the rich anthracite coal fields of northeastern PA when poor roads and un-navigable rivers could no longer meet the young nation’s needs and had made coal transportation both time consuming and inefficient.
Bristol’s prime, attractive location and this man-made channel for water that opened in 1830, was the impetus for it to be a busy port and industrial town in the 1800’s.
The 37th Annual Historic Bristol Day in October 2013 sponsored by the Bristol Cultural & Historical Foundation featured the legacy of the Delaware Canal, an integral and instrumental part of the history of the town, an important pioneering transportation method.
The significance of the Delaware Canal was recognized in 1978, when it was designated a National Historic Landmark. It is preserved today as the last towpath canal in America capable of being fully-watered and restored.
And…. They are putting boats back in the water!
Historic Bristol on the Delaware is vibrant and alive with something for everyone, a work of art itself. Inspiration is everywhere!
The Delaware Canal Festival in Historic Bristol Borough had something for everyone; even a small, but filling, Food Truck Festival. It was a free event, and lots of fun. The Festival was co-sponsored by the Friends of the Delaware Canal, an independent, non-profit organization working to restore, preserve, and improve the Delaware Canal and its surroundings, Raising the Bar, and Historic Bristol Borough. This almost-summer festival included a decorated duck contest, en plein air art, kayaking, cardboard boat regatta, food, music and more!
Everyone was invited to participate in the Delaware Canal Festival Decorated Duck Contests!
Generous cash prizes provided by local sponsors were awarded for the most humorous, beautiful and imaginative, as well as Judge’s Choice and Best of Parade and it was Bill Roarty’s boat “Jester of the Sea” that won “Most Humorous”.
The festive boat parade, canoes, kayaks and other vessels were transformed into floating wonders in the lagoon last Friday evening at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Prospect Street. Much like a DUCT TAPES to water, some Bristol High School students created their rides for the Cardboard Boat Float Contest, making use of cardboard boxes, duct tape, glue, liquid nails and their best of INVENTIONS…..even setting bets on how long their craft would last. They were prepared to take a swim. Driftwood Water Adventure once again loaned its kayaks, canoes and paddle boards as well as PFDs and paddles to Bristol Borough residents for free. Thank you Patrick Mulhern!
This year’s theme was “Fantasies and Fairy Tales.”
Tables laden with interesting topics, community items and events surrounded the lagoon area.
BCHF members/ Borough residents since 2004, CFA volunteer Sue Watkins and her husband Bill, a Historic Bristol Day tour guide met at Millersville State College. Sue was an aspiring librarian and Bill graduated with a Special education degree, teaching in Bristol Twp. for 40 years. Their BCHF table boasted Mary Megill Photography postcards and t-shirts with a design by Nancy Maren of Bertucci Maren Associates, originally used for First Night pins, imprinted by Great ID’s. Both local businesses are located on Radcliffe Street.
Margaret R. Grundy Programming & Marketing Librarian Barbara Gerhard shared pattern designed coloring pages and Grundy Library pencils [great colors by the way!] as well as information for the NO charge ‘Cook the Book’ program that will be held Saturday, June 24th from 2:00PM-3:30PM.
Terri Monserrat, who earned her US History M.A. at Millersville University, is the Communications & Outreach Coordinator at Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. “I enjoy the energy at the Canal Fest” and she enthusiastically answered questions and offered “Get Your Tail on the Trail” information.
At the next station, Chairperson Linda Anne Rowan, a YWCA Bucks County “Salute to Women Who Make A Difference” honoree was promoting the Founders’ Campership Fund [501(c)(3)] Annual Appeal to financially assist Girl Scouts to go to Camp. As the Certified teacher/ Free Library of Northampton Township reference librarian, she was also promoting the Northampton Free Library Art Auction and Gala on Friday, October 13th where Bristol resident, diverse artist Gloria Galante, professor, director and creator of the harp program at WCU College of the Visual and Performing Arts will be performing her harp music. Good choice, Linda! Gloria will mesmerize the attendees with her infinite musical magic.
Next table… what great opportunities for the youth!!
Cheryl Lee Hamm and her husband, Richard Alan Smith “Smitty” lead Sea Scouts Ship 2012, sponsored by the PA Yacht Club in Bensalem, a values based co-ed non-profit program for youth age 14, [or age 13 and completed 8th grade] up to age 21. Bristol Borough residents /BCTHS students William Schabert who is enrolled in Civil Engineering Technology and Kaelam “Lake” Ethridge [rumor has it he plays a mean bass], an Applied Engineering technology student working with electronics and robots, are just two of the very talented members enrolled in the Sea Scouts.
Cheryl and Smitty’s son, Christian Smith, Doane Academy/ BCCC computer networking student is now an adult volunteer. Sam Hellings is a LaSalle College HS student in BSA Troop #168 currently working on his Eagle Scout flower planting box project at the Statesman Health and Rehabilitation Center.
Their Sea Promise: “To guard against water accidents and to know the location and proper use of the life saving devices on every boat I board. To be prepared to render aid to those in need and to seek to preserve the motto of the sea; Women and Children First.”
Scouts Ship 2012 is hoping to bring their Keelis II or the Northstar boat into Bristol's new docks for the First Friday in August event.
A Historic Bristol on the Delaware function is also just a great place to meet up and chat.
Craig Whitaker of Borough based ‘Whitaker Brothers Sound’ and his wife brought some of their grandchildren, including sibling BHS students Sydney who edited some of the Raising the Bar videos and was very busy taking pictures, and soccer athlete Brody Brooks to enjoy the Canal fest.
Nearby, historians/ authors Harold and Carol Mitchener enjoyed “ the variety of boats and the crafts designed”. Harold especially “loves to watch the dogs on the boats”.
BBBA Administrative Coordinator Shea Cialella purchased “Bread and Butter Specialty Sandwiches” from the food trucks for herself and her children who were comfortably located on the grass near the lagoon.
Her daughter Sarah definitely enjoyed her grilled cheese. Jacob decorated a unicorn duck and his sister made a “Phoenix” rendition for the contest and their year-old golden retriever “Hunter” just came for a relaxing “paws” in the day.
Lifetime Bristolian Rita F. [Profy] Lentz, and a first timer at a Canal Fest, a former Temple University Beasley School of Law Bibliographic Assistant, Mary Ida Weakley Reitz just so happened to share a bench and became new friends!
Rising seventh grade St. Mark School students, Molly Farrell and Natalie Connor who [wo]manned “the boat with the lights hanging, called Fairies, Flowers and Fantasies” skipped over to the walk bridge to say “thank you for your service” to Veteran/ Pharmacist /teacher Alan J. Vogenberg and his wife Audrey.
Erica Phillips’ sons Colin with his “king” duck and Aaron with his “pirate” duck came to enter the contest. Rachel Ennis’ daughter Nya Ivery proudly announced that her "Dude" duck #123 had won "Most Humorous"!
Individuals, families, neighborhoods, businesses and organizations were encouraged to enter. Proceeds benefit the maintenance, improvement and promotion of the Delaware Canal.
Interesting and well attended Borough events are always a team effort.
Co-chair/ Patron Services & House Museum Docent at Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library, Robin Simmers Butrey shared “this is one of the best attended”. She along with Friends of the Delaware Canal Executive Director Susan Taylor, Borough Zoning Officer, Sally Bellaspica, the talented canal tender Jose Acevedo, Raising the Bar President/author Bill Pezza who handled the food trucks, and some BHS student volunteers coordinated this very successful event. A sincere thank you was extended to Pat Mulhern who generously took care of all the water events and preparations.
Jose is a BHS graduate and he volunteered much time preparing and keeping the Canal so very pristine. His mom Virginia decorated a classy pearl-wearing duck.
The weather was perfect, the local public parking areas were full to capacity and the food was terrific!
A smaller town allows for a sense of “closeness” within the community that a large city may lack and when it comes to our historic Bristol on the Delaware, there is undeniably a growing sense of pride and many opportunities to collaborate and make a positive impact.
Historic Bristol on the Delaware is a small “walkable” town that is proud to preserve its history; artistic and natural offerings, and showcase its individuality. Welcome to 19007… small Town with a BIG heart!
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