Bundle up to tee up at Wally Ice Fest.
Looking to return after two years of warm weather prevented the festivities, the event features not only a golf tournament but also a pond hockey competition, golf-ball driving contest and curling demonstrations, all on the frozen surface of Lake Wallenpaupack.
Activities run Saturday, Jan. 27, and Sunday, Jan. 28, on the ice outside Silver Birches, 205 Route 507, and the Boat House Restaurant, 141 Route 507, both in Palmyra Twp.
While a lack of enough ice kept the festival from going forward in recent years, this winter’s cold snap froze about a foot of the lake’s surface heading into last week’s warmer weather, said Keith Williams, Lake Wallenpaupack Visitors Center manager and one of the event organizers.
“Granted, ice doesn’t form uniformly across the entire lake, but it’s a really good start to the season. … We keep a close watch on it, so ideally we’re looking for 10 inches of ice for safety, to be able to handle the activity that we have planned on the ice,” he said.
If the lake does not freeze, enough, however, the pond hockey tournament and curling demonstrations will be moved to nearby Promised Land State Park for the weekend (the golf tournament and driving contest would be canceled). Organizers used to set aside an alternative date for the festival later in the season in the event of low ice levels, but with hockey players coming from outside the area to participate, Williams said, “it’s real difficult to shift people’s vacation schedule to accommodate” another date.
Under current plans, the adult pond hockey tournament will take place both days, and teams will play four-on-four games with two 15-minute periods and a five-minute intermission. Registration is $360 per team of four to six players, and teams are matched against one another based on skill level. Organizers will set up two rinks outside Silver Birches and four by the Boat House.
Long organized by Chamber of the Northern Poconos, the Ice Tee Golf Tournament runs Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and participants can register in advance for $20 and each day for $25.
“Sunday’s going to be the bigger day,” Williams said. “We’ll have some kind of prizes with craziest sled, craziest hat, those types of things.”
Golfers will compete on one of two nine-hole courses outside Silver Birches, where they will tee off from an artificial green and aim for a Christmas tree marking each extra-large hole (which do not go all the way through the ice).
Golfers will receive a colored golf ball, scorecard and map and should bring two clubs plus a putter.
“You don’t need any special shoes, although we recommend people dressing warm,” Williams said.
Throughout the weekend, Anthracite Curling Club of Wilkes-Barre will give free demonstrations of the Olympic sport near the Boat House and let visitors try it as well.
“That’s kind of another unique piece to (the weekend),” Williams said.
On Sunday, visitors can see how close they can hit a golf ball to a 6-foot-tall snowman dubbed Wally in a driving contest benefiting the chamber. The three hitters who come closest win prizes.
“You don’t have to play golf (in the tournament) to do that,” Williams said. “You can go down and just try.”
Participants and spectators are encouraged to park at lots off Route 507 across from Tanglwood Resort; East Shore Lodging, 2487 Route 6; the visitors center, 2512 Route 6; and Wallenpaupack Area High School, 2552 Route 6, all in Palmyra Twp., and take the shuttle bus to both event locations, since the restaurants have spaces reserved for patrons. Organizers estimate the trip will take about five minutes between each stop.
Visitors can watch the on-ice activities for free, and Williams said the festival also gives guests a chance to dine at local restaurants, visit cultural sites such as the Sculpted Ice Works Factory Tour & Ice Harvest Museum in Lakeville, which will provide ice sculptures at each tee and an ice bar at Silver Birches, plus other winter activities in an area known as a summer destination.
“We’ve got really great restaurants and pubs, and this is a really great way to bring business … to those folks,” he said.
If you go
What: Wally Ice Fest, featuring pond hockey and Ice Tee Golf tournaments and curling demonstrations
When: Saturday, Jan. 27, and Sunday, Jan. 28
Where: The Dock on Wallenpaupack and Silver Birches, 205 Route 507, Palmyra Twp., and The Boat House Restaurant, 141 Route 507, Palmyra Twp.
Details: Participation costs $360 per hockey team, and $20 in advance and $25 the day of the event for the golf tournament. Register for the adult pond hockey and Ice Tee Golf tournaments online at WallyIceFest.com. Curling demonstrations are free.
Recent sub-zero temperatures could have kayakers shivering even more than usual at an annual wintertime race down the Lackawanna River.
That is, if they can even get down the river at all.
As long as ice that has built up along the Scranton section of the river breaks, the annual ShiverFest Extreme Kayak/Canoe Race will go on as planned on Saturday, Jan. 13, said Bernard McGurl, executive director of Lackawanna River Conservation Association, which runs the event. This month’s cold snap froze parts of the river, putting kayakers in danger of getting tossed into the water if they hit ice and then getting washed under the solid surface, but he said warmer temperatures expected this week could melt it.
“We’re going to hold judgment until the morning of the event,” McGurl said. “People will show up, and we’ll scout the whole course.”
Should the weather cooperate, the race will begin at noon at the Parker Street landing, travel 3 miles down the river and end around 12:35 or 12:40 p.m. at Sweeney’s Beach, about 1,000 feet downstream of Poplar Street, where the association will have a bonfire.
The race is “mostly for fun,” McGurl said, but the association does time it and give out prizes to the top three finishers. Each participant this year will receive a clear plastic, waterproof bag they can use to keep their cell phones dry while on the water.
Racers must be at least 18, wear a personal flotation device and bring their own kayak or canoe. Helmets are not mandatory, but the association strongly suggests racers wear wetsuits.
“If you’re just coming out in casual fall attire like blue jeans or something like that or a Polartec sweater, it’s not going to cut it,” McGurl said. “You’re going to be dead in 10 minutes.”
The $30 race fee also includes a ticket to the Thaw Party, which runs from 1 to 4 p.m. at Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., Scranton, and features music from DJ Jack Martin, food, beer and other activities. Watching the race is free, and non-racers can pay $20 to attend the party.
Racers can register in advance on the association website, lrca.org, or at the launch site that day. Should the association cancel the event, those who registered in advance will receive refunds unless they want to attend the Thaw Party, which will go on no matter what the weather.
Proceeds from ShiverFest benefit the association and the work it does to support the Lackawanna River.
“If you are a kayaker and you’ve done some wintertime kayaking, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy some camaraderie with a larger group of people who are so inclined,” McGurl said. “We have several family groups that come, and the cultural aspect of costuming themselves with all kinds of accoutrements and masks. … It’s pretty colorful site for some of the participants.”
If you go
What: ShiverFest Extreme Kayak/Canoe Race
When: Saturday, Jan. 13, noon
Where: Parker Street landing to Sweeney’s Beach on the Lackawanna River, Scranton
Details: Racers must be 18 or older, wear a personal flotation device and provide their own kayak or canoe. Wetsuits are strongly recommended. Proceeds benefit Lackawanna River Conservation Association.
What: ShiverFest Thaw Party
When: Saturday, Jan. 13, 1 to 4 p.m.
Where: Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., Scranton
Race entry is $30 and includes a ticket to the post-race Thaw Party. Watching the race is free. Tickets for the party only are $20 and include food, drinks and entertainment. Proceeds benefit Lackawanna River Conservation Association. Visit lrca_shiverfest2018tickets.eventbrite.com for tickets. For more information, call 570-347-6311 or visit lrca.org.
Hamid Azizi turned to family recipes passed down among generations when he opened the Gyroz Club earlier this year.
Originally from Afghanistan, Azizi came in 2003 to Scranton, where other family members had settled. He works full-time as a supervisor at Americold in Gouldsboro but decided to open a restaurant after noticing a lack of options for people seeking kosher and halal foods locally.
Azizi and his family members have experience working in restaurant kitchens and have several cousins who own their own eateries around the country. He added his own to the fold in February when the Gyroz Club opened at 111 Wyoming Ave., the former spot of Curry Donuts.
“I saw this place was empty, vacant, for a while, and it was downtown, so it was a good opportunity,” Azizi said.
His wife, Nazifah Shah; his brother-in-law, Habib Mirzaye; his brothers and other family members all have full-time jobs, some in the medical field, but pitch in at the restaurant whenever and wherever they can, from the kitchen to the front counter. The dishes come from family recipes passed down from one generation to the next, making for a true Middle-Eastern taste that customers would find Azizi enjoying at home.
“It’s family-run, authentic,” he said. “Everything is homemade.”
The menu includes beef and chicken kabobs that all come with basmati rice he buys specially — customers can have the meat skewered or served over the rice — along with a garden salad, bread and white sauce, which Azizi calls “magic sauce.” He makes it with cucumbers, yogurt and other “secret ingredients” for what he described as a tasty, healthy combination. A Family Platter of kabobs serves four people.
On the gyro side, customers can pick from beef, chicken, vegetable, and a chicken and beef combo, all served in grilled pitas Azizi gets from a specialty store in New Jersey. They come with tzatziki, white and hot sauces, lettuce, fries and a drink.
Sandwiches, meanwhile, come with fries and a drink and include a Kabob Sandwich (marinated beef or chicken served on a pita with fried onions, grilled tomatoes, lettuce and tzatziki sauce) as well as more traditional American fare, such as the Philly Cheesesteak, Hot Wing Sub, Cheeseburger, Chicken Tenders and Hot Dog.
Customers can add on sides of rice in two sizes or fries, and then finish their meal with baklava.
Azizi shops at local grocery stores each morning to gather ingredients for the day’s dishes. The restaurant marinates its meats overnight and then slow-roasts it on a spit, shaving it off as it cooks.
“Everything is fresh,” Azizi said. “It’s not frozen or cold.”
He said he keeps his prices reasonable and serves the food fast. People from around the region have dined there, and the restaurant already has several regulars, including a family that told him they used to travel to New Jersey to get food like his. Now, they walk from their home in South Scranton.
“It gave me pride to give back something for the community,” Azizi said.
He made a few upgrades to the property when he took over, adding televisions and artwork his uncle made. Beyond the food, he and his family emphasize their heritage through music playing in the restaurant and art depicting their village back home.
The restaurant has booth seating for customers dining-in, and Azizi said it pulls in the downtown work crowd for weekday lunches and lots of families at dinner. It also offers takeout and delivers to Scranton and Dunmore with a $20 minimum order. The restaurant offers catering, too.
Azizi plans to make a few more upgrades inside the restaurant and hopes to expand to more locations one day. He has received positive feedback so far.
“The quality talks itself,” he said. “We try to keep it that way. (The food) is a bit different.”
His brother, Abdul Azizi, a nurse and former chef, described his brother as someone who embraces the community, from offering food to a homeless person who came by to a few moments of warmth inside the restaurant for people attending events downtown. Starting the business took a lot of courage and dedication, Abdul Azizi said, and his brother’s customers are there to support him.
“The guy’s got a heart of gold,” he said. “A lot of people won’t do that.”
Scranton is his home now, Hamid Azizi said, and a great place to raise his two young daughters, who’ll one day learn those family recipes.
“It’s our duty, our responsibility, to pass it on to the next generation,” he said.
A nascent theatrical troupe brings Ebenezer Scrooge, his ghostly companions and a timeless Christmas message back to the Scranton stage this weekend.
Clocktower Theater Company presents Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story, “A Christmas Carol,” from Friday, Dec. 8, through Sunday, Dec. 10, at the Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton. Tickets range from $15 to $25.
Founded in 2016, the professional theatrical troupe first presented the play, its inaugural production, in Scranton last December. Executive director Brad Morgan spent many years presenting “A Christmas Carol” with the professional Cider Mill Playhouse in Endicott, New York, each holiday season. When that group decided not to produce the show last year, Morgan brought it to Scranton, where he grew up and lives.
For him, “it just wouldn’t have seemed like Christmas without doing that show,” he said, and last year’s show was “very well receive by everyone who saw it.”
“It’s a holiday tradition up there (in Endicott), where that’s what I’m trying to establish down (in Scranton),” Morgan said. “But that’s going to take some time for people to become aware of our facility … (and) to build up a subscription base and some dedicated theatergoers.”
“A Christmas Carol” stars a mix of actors from the Scranton and Endicott areas, with Actors’ Equity Association actor Bernard Burak Sheredy reprising his role of Scrooge from last year. A Binghamton, New York, native, Sheredy is the son of Joe Sheredy and Mary Burak, who owned a neighborhood butcher shop and grocery in Throop. He graduated from Yale School of Drama and has appeared in the movies “Meet the Parents” and “Quiz Show” as well as TV shows “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”
Nearly 800 local students will attend a matinee performance of “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 8, Morgan said, noting how “every school reading list” includes Dickens’ story. He called the account of Scrooge’s transformation from miser to generous man “a classic tale.”
“Just the story, the Dickens story itself, even if you’re going to read it, it’s just so inspiring and just encapsulates (to) me the joy of the holiday season,” Morgan said.
In addition to performing the show at the Theater at North, Clocktower will present “A Christmas Carol” at Cider Mill Stage, Endicott, the former home of the Cider Mill Playhouse on the following two weekends, Dec. 15 to 17 and 21 to 23.
Morgan and his group look to expand on last year’s success by offering a full season of shows in 2018. While Scranton has several community theater companies, he said, it lacks much professional theater beyond Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania. He aims to change that with Clocktower, which pays its actors and staff.
“You’re going to notice a difference in quality,” Morgan said. “People would not see any difference in going to see our show and going to see an off-Broadway production in New York.”
The season will include “Taking Steps” in February, “Girls Night: The Musical” in March, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in June, “Rose’s Dilemma” in September, “Lucky Stiff” in November and “A Christmas Carol” again next December.
IF YOU GO
What: “A Christmas Carol,” presented by Clocktower Theater Company
When: Friday, Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 9, 2 and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 10, 3 p.m.
Where: The Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton
Details: Tickets are $15 to $25 and are available at the box office, 570-703-0846 and clocktowertheater.thundertix.com.
ScrantonMade heads back to its outdoor roots with its fifth annual Holiday Market.
While most of the action — including pictures with Santa, shopping with about 200 vendors, live music and dining — remains inside the city’s former Globe Store, 123 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, the group will set up a skating rink for the first time outside the building. The 100 block of Wyoming Avenue will shut down to accommodate the 100-foot-by-40-foot synthetic ice surface during the market, which runs Friday, Dec. 1, from 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 2, 11 to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 3, 11 to 4 p.m.
“Last year, people were so excited about (having the market in) the Globe, and it was such a big thing,” said Chrissy Manuel, ScrantonMade partner, editor and creative director. “And we were like, ‘How do we top that?’”
Organizers are still determining a ticket price for skating. Participants can borrow skates there, and a parent or guardian will need to sign a waiver for children and teens to participate.
“It gives a big-city feel as if you’re in New York City,” said Cristin Powers, ScrantonMade founder and events and marketing director. “It’s festive as well.”
ScrantonMade started its holiday market in 2013 in a tent on Courthouse Square. After second year there, it moved to the Marketplace at Steamtown for a year and then to the old Globe Store space in 2016 thanks to support from the Lackawanna County government, which owns the property and will move some of its offices there after renovations.
Returning to the site of the beloved department store, which closed in 1994, brought back a lot of memories for visitors and led to a lot of story sharing, organizers said.
“People loved it,” Powers said.
Guests can enter the free market from both the Wyoming and Penn avenue entrances to check out vendors selling items ranging from fiber products and fine art to jewelry and artisanal food. This year, some vendors — such as Tig & Cooneys, which will sell whiskey glasses with maps of Scranton and Clarks Summit etched on the sides (visit mapabouttown.com to order) — will allow customers to order items in advance and then pick them up at the market. Decorated lightbulbs from the Electric City sign already sold out during the pre-order period, organizers said.
Items like those that have a local focus, which also include ornaments and pen-and-ink drawings, have become more popular of late. People might move out of the area, but they still have a familial or emotional connection to it, Powers pointed out.
“Scranton pride is at an all-time high, where artists are making Scranton-themed art,” she said.
Organizers also have seen more crafts geared toward men in recent years than there was when the market started, Manuel said, and people are using the market to do their holiday shopping.
“I feel like we reach a wider audience. … We’re getting the people who would be at Macy’s on the weekend shopping,” she said.
But the event has grown to encompass much more than local artisans and crafters. Visitors can bring their own cameras to take photos with Santa, check out an art exhibit from Employment Opportunity Training Center and a miniature train layout, and hear live music. They can grab food from five eateries that will set up in the former Charl-Mont restaurant space — Terra Preta, Backyard Ale House, Zuppa Del Giorno, Mendicino’s Italian Specialties and the Garden Mediterranean Cafe — while Electric City Roasting Co. will host a pop-up cafe in the Wyoming Avenue foyer.
On Saturday morning, the first 200 people in line will receive a tote bag filled with treats from vendors and other local spots. Items include sweets from local chocolatiers, airboarding tickets, free yoga passes and other samples, as participating vendors must contribute a product rather than filler, Manuel noted.
Last year, the line for the bags wrapped around the block as people came several hours before doors opened for a chance to take one home. Waiting for the bags has turned into a tradition akin to shopping on Black Friday, organizers said. Seeing hundreds of people lined up to get into the market makes all the work involved in putting it together — which includes partnerships with the county, city and more in the community — worth it, Powers said.
“It’s a surprise,” she said. “You’re getting a bag of goodies for yourself.”
IF YOU GO
What: Fifth annual ScrantonMade Holiday Market
When: Friday, Dec. 1, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 2, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 3, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Former Globe Store, 123 Wyoming Ave., Scranton
Details: Admission is free. The first 200 people on Saturday receive a free goodie bag. For more information, visit scrantonmade.com or the event’s Facebook page.
Colorful bulbs reaching to the sky will alight on Thanksgiving eve in a decades-long tradition that’s transformed into a block party full of holiday cheer.
The lights running up the radio tower atop The Scranton Times Building, 149 Penn Ave., will turn on tonight at 6 during the free annual festivities that include food, music, movies and fireworks.
“It’s a good little family thing to do while the family’s getting together,” said Ian L. Lopera, marketing and events coordinator for Times-Shamrock Communications. “Especially (with) a fireworks show, it’s always nice to get out and have a spectacle like that. … Anything associated with the Times and family kind of makes sense.”
The action starts at 4 p.m., when the building will open to guests to watch holiday movies in the fifth-floor auditorium. Short films will be shown at 4 and 5, and seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Meanwhile, outdoors, visitors can check out an exhibit of holidays photos from The Times-Tribune archives in the Newseum adjacent to the building on Penn Avenue and get a peek at Santa’s printing press through the windows of the historic pressroom along Spruce Street. Music and entertainment will take place on a stage in front of the building.
“We’ve got the Jingle Girls coming back from Ballet Theatre of Scranton,” Lopera said. “They’ll be there all dressed up, and they might bring some toy soldiers with them. And we’ve got DJ Jamie Callen, (who) is going to come and bring all the holiday classics for us.”
While they enjoy the entertainment, guests can pick up dinner and drinks, too. Zummo’s Cafe from Scranton’s Green Ridge section will bring hot beverages, while Scranton food truck Truck’n Kitchen will sell its unique eats.
“They’ve got a big variety of things,” Lopera said. “They do a Buffalo pierogie, they do cheesesteaks and kind of out-of-the box burgers. And they have a really wide variety of options.”
Former West Scranton High School and Penn State University standout football player Matt McGloin, who was recently cut from the NFL’s Houston Texans, will pull the switch to light the tower at 6 p.m.
“He’s a pretty prominent figure from Scranton, and we figured if he was available that would be great to have him along,” Lopera said.
Rock 107 will broadcast the countdown live. Weather permitting, the fireworks will immediately follow, launching from the Electric City parking garage across from the Times building. Activities will wrap up by 7.
To accommodate the event, the 100 block of Penn Avenue will close at 7 a.m., and the 200 block of Penn Avenue and the 200 and 300 blocks of Spruce Street will close around 4:30.
Lopera said he looks forward to seeing everyone coming together and filling up the streets to watch the fireworks.
“(It’s) just a good feeling to have everyone out there and be together,” he said.
If you go
What: Annual Scranton Times Building radio tower lighting and festivities
When: Wednesday, Nov. 23, 4-7 p.m.
Where: The Scranton Times Building, 149 Penn Ave.
Details: Admission is free. Call 570-348-9100 for more information
Thank your holiday hosts with unique gifts that reflect their lives.
Host and hostess gifts have replaced the custom of bringing a bottle of wine to holiday gatherings, said Lora Hobbs, owner of Live With It gift shop in Peckville. People gravitate toward gifts because they know their hosts already have wine for the occasion or they feel like a bottle is not thoughtful enough, she explained.
Such gifts can range in cost from $10 to $100, Hobbs said, putting the average buy at about $30. Kathi Whitney Davis, owner of Over the Moon in Scranton, estimated her customers spend between $40 and $75 on presents for their hosts.
“Holiday candles are always a good idea,” Davis said, and they’re one of her shop’s most popular sells for hostess gifts. Select a seasonal scent such as Fraser fir or balsam and pair it with a set of printed cocktail napkins for a gift your hosts can use during the holidays.
Both shopkeepers recommended gifting glass ball ornaments, whether it be Hobbs’ detailed orbs in seasonal colors or Davis’ clear ones with “2017” emblazoned across them. They make an easy gift that can help your hosts replace decorations they might have broken, Hobbs said. And people remember where they acquired their ornaments, noted her husband, Dave, so your hosts will have something to remember you by.
Other seasonal decorations, such as small nativity scenes, can do, too. Davis carries glass Christmas trees made by Simon Pearce that come in several sizes and “are always very popular,” she said.
“A little piece of holiday gift wear is always a good recommendation,” she said.
Help hosts with future meals by gifting practical tools, such as oversize stainless steel serving utensils or bowls.
“They can always use an extra plate or an extra bowl for service,” Dave Hobbs said.
Some are part of larger collections that release a new piece annually, he added, and people come by each year to get the addition.
Or, combine two gifts in one: Make a special treat and present it on a serving platter to keep, or place goodies in a glass candy dish, such as a Christmas tree-shaped one like Davis carries.
For the kids
Not every gift goes to the adults in the home. If the hosts have a new baby, guests can bring items such as a child’s dish and utensil set or a porcelain keepsake, Dave Hobbs said.
If your hosts prefer beer over wine, grab a well-made glass for them to pour their favorite brew into, such as ones made in the beer-making hub of Germany.
“A nice set of higher-quality, specialty beer glasses are often given,” Lora Hobbs said.
Pull on your pink bunny suit, turn off your leg lamp and be sure to drink your Ovaltine as you head out for a night with the Parker family in “A Christmas Story: The Musical.”
The Broadway adaptation of the classic 1983 movie comes to Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., for five performances from Friday, Nov. 17, through Sunday, Nov. 19. Presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the show follows 11-year-old Ralphie Parker as he longs for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and deals with his quirky family and the dilemmas of childhood in the 1940s.
“They will see all of their favorite moments (from the film): the flag pole, the pink bunny pajamas, the Bumpus hounds and my personal favorite moment of me putting the bar of soap in (Ralphie’s) mouth,” said Sara Zoe Budnik, who plays Ralphie’s mother. “All the best moments are included and done so well in the musical.”
The original film starring Peter Billingsley and Darren McGavin became a holiday viewing staple over the years, especially as channels TNT and TBS ran it for 24 hours straight on Christmas in recent years. Despite its prevalence, “A Christmas Story” never made it to Budnik’s TV screen before the California native auditioned for the musical. She thought doing her own version of the character without watching the original might be more interesting for her tryout, she said, and while she’s watched the film since then, Budnik still set out to make the character hers.
“It’s interesting because the original actress who played the mother, Melinda Dillon, she’s so incredibly interesting and very specific and unique,” Budnik said recently by phone. “And when you translate anything from a movie to a musical, a lot changes. So it has kind of become a process of making (the role) my own, and of course you don’t want to mimic anything, but the movie is so highlighted. It’s highlighted very well in the musical version, and I think it brings a whole new zhoosh to the show, making it a musical.”
One of the most iconic scenes in the film, when the Old Man receives a lamp shaped like a sexy leg, comes to life in a big dance number in which the cast hoofs it with several lamps.
“It’s like a big, Broadway, classic showstopping number,” Budnik said. “And it’s led by the Old Man. It’s so funny, and you just have to see it.”
While Budnik’s song, “What a Mother Does,” about her character going about her daily tasks, has become one of her favorite songs she’s ever performed, Ralphie sings her top tune in the show, “Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun.”
“The song is just really incredible,” Budnik said. “The orchestrations just are so ear-catching. It’s impossible not to smile while you’re watching this kid live out his Christmas fantasy, and it just brings nostalgia back to your youth and all the things that you wanted for Christmas.”
Budnik has to try not to laugh in the scene in which her character washes out Ralphie’s mouth with soap, and she has to make sure she gets the bar in just right. She works with about a dozen kids in the production and was surprised by their talent and how well they captured their characters.
“I’ve never worked with kids before, and it’s incredible, their voices and their dance abilities and the acting choices that they make,” Budnik said. “They’re fearless, and they’re just so excited to start the tour.”
The show reminds audiences of the Christmases of their youth, Budnik said, describing it as “incredibly relatable.”
“I think I’m just so excited for everybody to see how much heart is betrayed by each character,” she said. “Each character just shows so much love toward one another, and it’s so honest, and it’s just a show that’s for every family member.”
Before Taylor and Shania or Faith and Miranda, one name defined the best in country music: Mary Chapin Carpenter.
The five-time Grammy Award winner and member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame achieved stardom thanks to such ’90s hits as “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” and “Passionate Kisses.” Now she brings a mix of her early and newer work to Peoples Security Bank Theater at Lackawanna College, Scranton, where she’ll perform Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m. Australian singer-songwriter Emily Barker will open the show, which benefits Pocono Environmental Education Center.
“A lot of people don’t tour unless they have a brand new record, but we’re lucky enough that we can go out and play music whether we have something new to offer or not,” Carpenter said earlier this month by phone from her home in Virginia. “I’ve been playing a lot of songs from the new record, and that’s just been really joyful for me.”
The songstress released her 14th studio album, “The Things That We Are Made Of,” last year, the latest in a long line of work that began in the late ’80s. Carpenter really grabbed the public’s attention with “Come On Come On,” the 1992 album that produced several hits.
“There’s a lot of components that go into the success of a record, and certainly it was a moment in time that I had a certain amount of momentum with songs on the radio, and that was a whole different existence and situation as well,” Carpenter said, noting the album also had push from a major record label. “Momentum is a real thing. … Maybe people felt like it spoke to them.”
Her work has earned her numerous accolades, including Grammys for best female country vocal performance for four consecutive years — 1992 to 1995 — and best country album in 1995. The Country Music Association named her female vocalist of the year in 1992 and 1993, while the Academy of Country Music chose her as 1990’s top new female vocalist and 1992’s top female vocalist.
While Carpenter said she doesn’t consider herself “a prolifically topical songwriter,” she doesn’t shy away from social and political commentary in her music, either. But inspiration comes from everywhere, she added, and sometimes just a phrase can kick off an idea or “evoke a feeling that five minutes before I wasn’t anywhere near.” She goes long stretches without writing — usually while on tour — and prefers to work at home on her farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“It’s really beautiful, and it’s really serene,” Carpenter said. “That’s where I feel like I can get in touch with whatever that serious muse is. Right now, I’m kind of in a phase where I’m just kind of scribbling. I don’t have large themes that I’m chasing or anything like that, just small vignettes of things that haven’t yet fully blossomed.”
Her songs reflect where she was in the moment of penning them, she said, and while she might think she writes about her own experiences, she also sees how the music reaches others. Carpenter has noticed people on social media sharing how her latest album “reflects a lot of what they are going through.”
“The more personal something is, the more universal something is as well,” she said.
With a couple decades of songs to choose from, Carpenter crafts a set list that draws from “The Things That We Are Made Of” plus some of her older work, although it might change from show to show or if she accommodates a request. No matter where she plays though, from amphitheaters that seat thousands to more intimate venues, Carpenter looks to connect with the crowd.
“It’s really gratifying to look into the audience and see the faces of people who’ve come to see us year after year, and it’s also really great to see younger folks, too,” she said.
Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania found an apropos tale to open its season on Friday the 13th.
“A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder,” the 2014 Tony Award winner for best musical, comes to Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., for four shows from Friday, Oct. 13, through Sunday, Oct. 15.
And while this story of a man seeking to kill off the relatives who stand in his way of inheriting a fortune might sound dark, star Colleen McLaughlin assured that the musical has a lighter side with lots of laughs. Robert Freedman and Steven Lutvak wrote a complex, brilliant show stocked with jokes, she explained recently by phone from the tour’s stop in Madison, Wisconsin.
“The writing is just so incredible, but you can’t help but laugh about everything,” said McLaughlin, an Oklahoma native. “The whole entire cast is just laughing. I come out to the wings just to see some of my favorite scenes.”
Set in London in 1909, the show centers around working-class man Monty Navarro (Blake Price), who, after learning he is ninth in line to become an earl, decides to eliminate the relatives between him and the aristocratic title. All the while he hopes to marry McLaughlin’s character, Sibella Hallward.
“I’m kind of this narcissistic girl and kind of a gold digger, so I don’t want to marry him, and he thinks the only way he can win my hand in marriage is to become the Earl of Highhurst,” she said of the role.
Actor James Taylor Odom, meanwhile, portrays all eight members of the D’Ysquith family who become Navarro’s targets.
“Every scene that James Taylor Odom is in is pretty incredible. … He’s amazing,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin praised the sets for the show, which she described as beautiful, intricate and specific to the characters, but she also noted that Peggy Hickey’s choreography “is pretty incredible.” One song she expects to blow away audiences is “I’ve Decided To Marry You,” whose choreography involves actors entering and exiting through double doors as one character tries to keep two others apart.
“The choreography is so specific. … The rehearsal process was actually really quick, but I think … each of us had to go home and practice with the doors in our apartment just to get it down perfectly,” McLaughlin said. “It was a process but enjoyable.”
The actors worked with a dialect coach to perfect their British accents, but McLaughlin noted learning the songs also posed a challenge.
“The music is beautiful,” McLaughlin said. “(It is a) beautiful score but really intricate, and your diction kind of has to be on point.”
“A Gentleman’s Guide” opened on Broadway in November 2013 and racked up more than 900 performances before closing in January 2016. In addition to best musical, it picked up Tony Awards for best director of a musical (Darko Tresnjak), best book (Freedman) and best costume design (Linda Cho).
McLaughlin described the show as “very thrilling” with “lots of shenanigans.”
“It’s just a night full of laughter,” she said.
Lawrence Loh’s tenure as music director of Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic comes to an end this weekend as the orchestra regroups.
After 12 years with the orchestra, Loh says goodbye with “The Music of John Williams,” a pops program set for Saturday, Oct. 7, at 8 p.m. at Peoples Security Bank Theater at Lackawanna College in Scranton. The concert is the orchestra’s only show of the season as it suspends operations for 2017-18 to develop a plan to keep the group financially viable.
“The plan is the philharmonic will be able to fundraise and be in a strong position to have success in the future,” Loh said. “I’m hoping it’s a temporary setback for the philharmonic, because I know the people there, particularly the audience, really value the orchestra, and it has such an important history in the region. And it’s something that needs to be supported and saved.”
The philharmonic gave Loh his first job as a music director, and he believes together they “accomplished a great deal over all these years,” from letting him take an adventurous approach to classical concerts to impacting the community through activities such as educational programs and piano competitions. Nancy Sanderson, philharmonic executive director, called Loh “a community-oriented fellow” and noted that he will donate his services for Saturday’s concert.
“While he has been here, he’s cared very much about Northeast Pennsylvania,” she said. “Sometimes (for) conductors, it’s just a job. They come in, conduct and go. But it was more than that to Larry.”
Sanderson pointed out that Loh’s career is on the rise, and he had been honest with her about other job prospects. He continues to guest conduct around the country and has been named music director of West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
“He cares so much about the orchestra,” Sanderson said. “The thing that people have said to me … is that Larry decided because of the (orchestra’s financial) situation to leave, and that’s not it at all.”
The orchestra had an entire season planned for 2017-18, but decided to go with John Williams’ popular movie soundtracks when paring it down to a lone show. Loh called Williams an “iconic composer” and said he is excited to conduct music from “E.T.,” “Jurassic Park,” “Schindler’s List” and the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” series.
Conductor Lawrence Loh leads the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic during opening night of the thirty-ninth season at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre.
“I think that they probably rightfully assumed that that would have a good audience, a good draw,” Loh said. “It’s something I’m very passionate about.”
Loh does not expect his relationship with the philharmonic to end with Saturday’s final note, however. Many concerts with other orchestras will keep him busy this year, but he will continue to be available for anything the philharmonic needs and hopes people “would agree how important the orchestra is and how amazing these musicians are.”
“It’s important also because there are varying levels of arts programs in schools,” he said. “ Some are very good, and some are nonexistent, and so the philharmonic really fills that void. And I think most people agree that if people, especially young people, are allowed to express themselves artistically, it can help with every aspect of their lives. And so the philharmonic as the leading cultural institution in the region has a responsibility to be to fill that need.”
The orchestra will present seven chamber concerts this season that will serve as fundraisers for the orchestra and allow it to keep up a presence in the region, Sanderson said. The first will feature pianist Fei-Fei Dong on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Wyoming Seminary’s Kirby Center for the Creative Arts, Kingston, with a reception at nearby Kevin’s Bar & Restaurant, 247 Wyoming Ave.
While the group hopes to have a full season next year, Sanderson said, “there’s a lot to work out in the meantime.”
“We are exploring all sorts of options for doing something more sustainable,” she said. “I really am reluctant to talk about those options now before we really get them in place, but we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
In the meantime, the group will say goodbye to the man who “just won a place in all of our hearts,” Sanderson said. And when he conducts on Saturday, Loh expects to feel emotional.
“I’m sure that I’ll feel a flood of memories of being with this orchestra and with these people, and I’ll just try and hold it together while I’m up there,” he said. “And I really hope it’s a sellout. I really hope that people absolutely fill the hall.”
Sit back and sip the best wines the state has to offer.
The fourth annual Pennsylvania Wine Land Festival returns to the Lodge at Montage Mountain Resorts, Scranton, on Saturday, Sept. 30, with vintages from 15 wineries ready for tasting. General admission is $29 in advance, and the price increases to $40 on Friday, Sept. 29, and at the door.
“We’ve had it there last year, and it was a great success,” said Ian Lopera, marketing and events coordinator for Times-Shamrock Communications, which presents the festival with Gertrude Hawk Chocolates.
All of the wines come from Pennsylvania, and many from the northeast corner, Lopera said. Guests can sample drinks from Antler Ridge Winery, Bee Kind Winery, Benigna’s Creek Winery, Buddy Boy Winery & Vineyard, Deer Creek Winery, Hidden Creek Vineyard & Winery, Maiolatesi Wine Cellars, Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery, Olivero’s Vineyard, Sand Castle Winery, Seven Mountains Wine Cellars, Shade Mountain Vineyards, Sorrenti’s Cherry Valley Vineyards, Stone & Key Cellars and University Wine Co.
Organizers offered food-pairing passes for the first time last year, and guests can choose that option again this time to try items from various local vendors. A limited amount of these passes, which include the regular admission for wine tastings, are available for $34.99 in advance and $55 at the door.
“That way you get to sample different wines from the different wine vendors, but then you also get to sample different fare that pairs along with the wine,” Lopera said. “People enjoyed it.”
Several local food trucks also will be on hand, including Peculiar Culinary Co., Sweet Lush Cupcakery, iGourmet, Keystone Farms Cheese, Windsor Inn and Carmella’s Pastries. And visitors also can peruse the numerous vendors who’ll have their wares for sale — such as Scentsy, Collana de Vino, On a Whim jewelry, Cornucopia, Celestial Soap Co., Plow & Hearth, Damsel in Defense, J. Borthwick LEDs, Rodan & Fields and LuLaRoe — as they enjoy the various vintages.
“You can’t go wrong with events based on alcohol in Pennsylvania, especially NEPA,” Lopera said. “I think they’re done well, and I think that’s what people really respect about it. The people who plan the events, they really care about it, and they really want to see them get bigger and better. I think people see that, and they see the attention to detail. … It’s a local thing that people can (get) out and enjoy.”
Antler Ridge Winery
Bee Kind Winery
Benigna’s Creek Winery
Buddy Boy Winery & Vineyard
Deer Creek Winery
Hidden Creek Vineyard & Winery
Maiolatesi Wine Cellars
Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery
Sand Castle Winery
Seven Mountains Wine Cellars
Stone & Key Cellars
University Wine Co.
If you go
What: Fourth annual Pennsylvania Wine Land Festival
When: Saturday, Sept. 30, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Lodge at Montage Mountain Resorts, 1000 Montage Mountain Road, Scranton
Details: General admission is $29 until Sept. 28 and $40 after then. Tickets that include food pairings are $34.99 in advance and $55 at the door; tickets are limited. Visit montagemountainresorts.com/wineland for more information.
PAOktoberfest found a new home for the classic German food, wiener dog races and seasonal beers fans have come to expect from the annual festival. This year, the event moves to PNC Field, Moosic, after six years at Mohegan Sun Pocono in Plains Twp. The action will take place around the baseball stadium’s concourse as well as on the field.
“We really just wanted (a venue) who was kind of in it for the long haul … and we wanted to make the event bigger and better,” said Ian Lopera, marketing and events coordinator for Times-Shamrock Communications, which runs Oktoberfest. “And PNC Field was really a place where we could see that happening.”
The festival runs Friday, Sept. 22, from 4:30 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 23, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 24, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for a one-day pass and $10 for a weekend pass. Food and beer will available for purchase, and visitors no longer will need to buy “Oktobucks” vouchers to do so like they had to in past years, Lopera said.
Local beer suppliers Ace Beverage Co., Banko North L.T. Verrastro Inc. and Northeast Eagle Distributors are supplying more than 50 types of beer with “a lot of fall” flavors plus authentic beer from Germany, the originator of Oktoberfest celebrations, Lopera said.
“There’s pumpkins there, and some beers that the breweries and vendors wanted to get out for the first time,” Lopera said.
Legends, which handles the food at the ballpark, will serve many classic German dishes — such as bratwurst and schnitzel sandwiches — from Alpine Inc. Wurst & Meat House in Honesdale. But guests also can dig into food regularly found at PNC Field, including barbecue and nachos.
“We’re trying to cast a wider net, trying to appeal to all crowds,” said Rich Kloss, Legends’ general manager. “There’s going to be people coming for the German food and beer, but at the same time there might be people tagging along with them that might not want that.”
Live entertainment will fill the weekend, too, including returning favorite Romy, a German singer; Joe Stanky & His Cadets; Schützengiggles; John Stevens’ Doubleshot and John Stanky & the Coalminers. Patrons can test their strength in the periodic beer stein-holding contests or check out the various vendors, a new addition that includes LuLaRoe, Tarot for Living, German Gift Chalet, Spring Hill Services, Jerky Hut, Green Mountain Energy, Cigars on State, VIP Imprints and Wallenpaupack Brewing Co.
While registration for the wiener dog races has ended, visitors still can watch the dogs try to best each other several times during the weekend: Friday at 3 and 6 p.m.; Saturday at noon, 3, 6 and 9 p.m.; and Sunday at noon and 3 p.m. It’s a “bit of a spectacle” that’s fun to watch, Lopera said.
“Last year, we had thousands of people up in the stands and around the track looking,” he said. “People just get really happy. The dogs are always so happy to get out and run, and this year they’ll get to run in green grass in the field.”
On Saturday, the Lederhosen 5K begins at noon, and the $20 registration fee includes admission to Oktoberfest plus post-race beer from Wallenpaupack Brewing Co. Runners can register in advance at scrantonrunning.com or at PNC Field the day of the race from 11 to 11:45 a.m. The race is open to ages 21 and older, and the first 150 registrants also receive a short-sleeved tech shirt.
Kloss said he expects PNC Field to “bring a good vibe” to the event.
“I’m just excited to see how people take to it at the new venue,” he said. “I think it’s going to be awesome. … It’s not just in a parking lot, you know? We’re utilizing the whole venue.”
People not only enjoy that Oktoberfest is a three-day, 21-and-older event but also the authenticity of it, Lopera said.
“We always try to make it something authentic for people,” he said. “It’s not just a beer party.”
Oktoberfest 2016 at Mohegan Sun Pocono
Learn about the fiber-making process from sheep to finish this weekend when the Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival returns for a 14th year.
Set for Saturday, Sept. 9, and Sunday, Sept. 10, at the Harford Fairgrounds, 485 Fair Hill Road, New Milford, the festival brings together not only yarn spinners, weavers and dyers but also many of the animals that provide the natural material for their products.
The festival runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and education makes up a large part. Demonstrations focusing on sheep shearing, natural fiber dying, border collies and more plus classes in such subjects as spinning, weaving and fleece processing fill out the schedule.
“You don’t have to really know anything to participate in the classes,” festival president Ellen Anderson said. “You can really almost go knowing nothing.”
Anderson raises angora rabbits, long-wool sheep, Romeldale sheep and angora goats in Lebanon County and joined the festival as a vendor its second year. She is one of the more than 50 vendors set to participate this time — selling what she called “everything from the raw fiber to the finished product” — but her favorite part of the festival is the chance to talk to and teach visitors.
“People are just getting so far removed from agriculture nowadays,” Anderson said. “It’s important to (teach) especially the younger children. … You tell them, ‘Well, this is how somebody did it 100 years ago, and the technology changed.’”
That includes giving them a chance to get up close to fiber-producing animals. In addition to alpacas, llamas, rabbits and goats, the festival features more than a dozen breeds of sheep showing the different types of wool that can end up in sweaters, hats and much more after weavers and knitters get their hands on it.
“We’re trying to get people involved to learn how to do things so they can make their own products,” said Catherine Hines of Alpacas of Sunshine Farm in New Milford, part of the group of alpaca farmers who founded the festival.
Those efforts seem to be working.
“We just finished up the Harford Fair, and it’s a big difference. We’ve been doing that for nine or eight years,” Hines said. “In the beginning, we had to tell them, ‘No, they’re not llamas. They’re alpacas.’ And now you can hear the kids telling ‘No, they’re not llamas. They’re alpacas.’ They’re learning.”
Interest in the fiber arts has grown in recent years, something Anderson attributes to a desire to unplug from technology and get “back to the basics.”
“You start from the raw fiber, the raw wool, the alpaca, (and) you spin something, you make it into yarn. … You can wear it,” she said. “(It) makes you feel like you’re being a little more down to earth.”
Festival admission costs $3 per day or $5 for a weekend pass for ages 12 and older; parking is free. The festival draws visitors and vendors not only from Pennsylvania but also Maryland, New York, Virginia and beyond.
“It’s big enough that there’s a huge selection of items but yet small enough that the visitors to the festival can really stop and talk to the vendors,” Anderson said.
The weekend also features contests, a fleece sale and raffle, and guests can grab a bite to eat from several food vendors or bring their own for a picnic.
“Last year, I believe, our numbers (were) probably over 500 through the gate each day, but that doesn’t include a lot of volunteers and vendors there shopping with each other,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping our numbers continue to grow. It’s just getting the word out about it. A lot of it is people finding us online (and) friends telling friends.”
If you go
What: 14th annual Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival
When: Saturday, Sept. 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 10, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Harford Fair Grounds, 485 Fair Hill Road, New Milford
Details: Admission for ages 12 and older is $3 daily and $5 for the weekend. Parking is free. Visit endlessmountainsfiberfest.com
Tom Nemeth’s mom used to tell him how he’d peer over the side of his baby carriage to watch a passing train.
He outgrew the carriage but not his interest in railroading.
Next weekend, the editor and publisher of Railpace magazine serves as grand marshal for Railfest, Steamtown National Historic Site’s annual celebration of railroading. He felt flattered when he learned of the honor a few weeks ago, knowing past grand marshals include railroad presidents and late businessman Albert Boscov.
“I was rather surprised and kind of honored, because it was like, ‘Me? What did I ever do for Steamtown that merited that?’” said Nemeth, a retired packaging engineer who lives in Greentown.
In 1982, he and two friends started Railpace just for fun, focusing on prototype railroading in the Northeast. Nemeth estimated the monthly publication has about 6,000 readers, although it had a bigger audience during the heyday of hobby shops.
As part of Railfest, which takes place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 2 and 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the historic site, Lackawanna Avenue and Cliff Street, Scranton, Nemeth will share some of his photographs of Steamtown. They range from past Railfests to visiting trains to the attraction’s move from Vermont to Scranton in 1984. Nemeth also will participate in Saturday’s 10 a.m. ceremony to open Railfest, which this year has the theme “Transition from Steam to Diesel.”
But railroad fans can start the celebration early with other train-related activities in the area. On Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m., Lackawanna Historical Society will present two railroading movies — “Unstoppable” and “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory” — at Circle Drive-In, 1911 Scranton-Carbondale Highway, Dickson City. Admission is $7.
The next night, in conjunction with Scranton’s First Friday Art Walk, the Johnny Cash Experience featuring David Stone will give a free concert from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Steamtown’s theater. Stone will return for Railfest, performing both days as the site demonstrates the “ring of fire,” a method of replacing locomotive tires using flame.
Other special programs and activities at Steamtown include a World War I presentation, exhibits by Dennis Livesly and Mark Perry, and rides on specialty cars in the rail yard. Steamtown also will run a diesel-driven excursion to Moscow from 12:30 p.m. to 3; tickets prices vary and include park admission.
Additionally, guests can meet “Miss Phoebe Snow,” hear folk music by singer Jay Smar, see demonstrations and check out a 1925 Whitcomb gasoline-powered locomotive.
Children’s attractions, meanwhile, include rides on a 1/8-inch-scale steam train, a photo booth, magicians and train layouts.
“Folks who live in New Jersey may ride trains into and from work each day and see them out there, but they can’t get close to them,” Steamtown spokesman Bill Nalevanko said. “Here, you can get up close and personal to see not only the equipment but (also) meet with people who actually run the equipment. It’s a great opportunity for families, too, to experience downtown Scranton.”
On Saturday, the Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society will hold a night photography session for up to 75 people to take pictures of three railroad scenes lit and staged by Steve Barry of Railfan & Railroad Magazine. Orientation starts at 7:15 p.m. with photos from 8 to 10. Tickets are $25, available at project3713.com.
Railfest makes up just part of a busy weekend in the city. Across the Steamtown parking lot, Electric City Trolley Museum will run additional trolley trips along the Laurel Line. A free County of Lackawanna Transit System shuttle will move visitors among Steamtown; the Scranton Iron Furnaces, 159 Cedar Ave.; and La Festa Italiana on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square during Steamtown’s hours.
Nemeth looks forward to meeting a lot of people at Railfest.
“You see some people you do know,” he said. “It’s a nice venue to get together with friends and people you haven’t seen in a long time, because a lot of rail enthusiasts go there.”
Nalevanko said people enjoy doing something over the last summer holiday weekend, which has turned Railfest into one of the park’s biggest events.
“Come, bring the family and have a great time,” he said.