Children's activities at FUNFEST Photo courtesy of Hazelton Area Camera Club
Every year since 1979, on a weekend early in
September, nearly 60,000 people crowd into downtown Hazelton,
Pennsylvania, for FUNFEST. The roots of FUNFEST stretch back to the
Hazelton Mummers' Parade, which entertained the people of Hazelton
up until 1977. By the mid 1970s, they were having financial
difficulty maintaining the event, so the Mummers Association
approached the Greater Hazelton Chamber of Commerce for help. A
committee, "Actions for the 80s," agreed to maintain the parade, but
wanted to expand the event to include food and entertainment. In
1979, the first FUNFEST was held with a budget of $2,500; an
estimated 10,000 attended.
In 1986, under a new executive director, FUNFEST was
reborn as a two-day "Super Weekend." To the classic street fair and
parade, it added a host of new activities: the first FUNFEST Bed
Rally, the first Miss FUNFEST Competition, and the first Fireman's
Competition. The Alliance to Revitalize Center City Hazelton
encouraged center city businesses to offer special promotions and
sales for the thousands who would come downtown for FUNFEST. In
1989, a craft show was added; corporate support was recruited,
upping the budget to $25,000.
By 1990, the Hazelton Chamber of Commerce had hired a
full-time employee to its staff whose full-time responsibility was
the organization of FUNFEST. Full corporate sponsorship was
obtained to pay for the ever-increasing logistical needs, such as
security, clean-up, sanitation, and insurance. An annual Muscle Car
and Street Machine Show became an instant success when it first
appeared in 1990; also in that year a Chili Cook-Off, later
converted to a Wings Cook-Off, was added to the schedule.
1991 marked the celebration of Hazelton's Centennial
year. In that year,"A Taste of Hazelton," which helped raise funds
and give local restaurants and food vendors a boost, was added to
FUNFEST events. Lining the streets at the site of the old Lehigh
Valley Station in the FUNFEST weekend, 1993, were hundreds gathered
to watch the arrival of the steam locomotive; 30-minute steam
locomotive train rides through Hazelton, so popular that year, were
unfortunately discontinued the next year because of failure of
negotiations between the parties involved.
In the years since have been added the Battle of the
Garage Bands, Hazelton's Hunk Contest, and the Pizza-Eating Contest
(including cold pizza, a local specialty). There are also fireworks
and a 100-unit parade, one of the largest in the region, with
marching bands, string bands, drum and bugle corps, and floats.
While many aspects of it have changed over the past 20 years,
FUNFEST has remained true to its original purpose: to entertain its
crowds and provide an opportunity for local non-profits to raise
funds. Each year an estimated $40,000 goes to 40 local charitable
organizations who have set up booths for the event; another 35 sell
Project documentation includes a six-page written
report, 10 color slides with accompanying descriptions, promotional
brochures and program, local press coverage, and a FUNFEST lapel
Originally submitted by: Paul E. Kanjorski, Representative (11th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.