A fire will once again alight in downtown Scranton for the annual Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces.
On Saturday, Oct. 20, the eighth annual festival will continue its mission of celebrating different autumnal cultural festivals and will feature several activities, food and live music. Money raised from the event will benefit Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum in McDade Park, Scranton.
The festival will take place from 6 to 10 p.m., and the bonfire will be lit at 8. In addition to offering entertainment, the festival also serves as an educational and cultural event, honing in on a different culture each year. This year’s theme is the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or the “Day of the Dead.”
“It celebrates our heritage, our families, our ancestors,” said Alysia Scazafabo, one of the event founders who has stayed involved with it since its creation in 2011. “It’s very important to a lot of us.”
Like previous years, the event will be packed with things to do, but she said organizers have set it up differently so it has more space to accommodate the expected crowd. From face painting and music to food and tarot card readings, there will be activities for the entire family to enjoy.
Entertainment will take place on two stages as well as on the grounds. Symmetry Dance Company, Grupo Zona and Indigo Moon Brass Band will take the main stage. The Double “R” Twirlettes will return to the festival, too, accompanied by Scranton Black Diamonds Pipe Band.
The Crufeli Sideshow will perform a show featuring stilt walkers, fire breathers, acrobats and more on the Firebowl Stage, and Mariachi Tequila will provide entertainment on the festival grounds.
Guests can visit the festival’s cultural tent to enjoy hands-on educational activities and arts and crafts. The activities are sponsored by several organizations, including the Everhart Museum, Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, the Greenhouse Project at Nay Aug Park, United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Bonfire Committee. The cultural center will have a selfie station where guests can take pictures with La Catrina to commemorate the event.
Some of the food guests can look forward to include barbecue from B3Q Smokehouse, Mexican cuisine from Tortilleria El Buen Amigo, desserts from the Sweet Lush Cupcakery and other dishes from Backyard Ale House.
A community altar known as an ofrenda for Dia de los Muertos will be created at the festival. Everyone is welcome to bring photos and favorite food and drink items of departed loved ones to put on the altar. The festival has had an ofrenda before but did not include it last year, entertainment coordinator Pamela McNichols said, and people missed it. The Greenhouse Project will provide marigolds, which are symbolic to the holiday, for the ofrenda.
Scazafabo said one of her favorite things about working with the festival has been seeing its growth. Attendance has risen from 400 in its first year to approximately 1,300 attendees in 2017, she estimated.
“It’s fantastic to see it grow the past eight years,” Scazafabo said. “It’s overwhelming.”
This year, students from West Scranton High School will help. Brian Murray, chairman of the planning committee for the 2018 festival, stressed how important community engagement is for the bonfire.
“Last year, we had some high school students that came down to volunteer,” he said, adding that the event “had a pretty profound effect on one of the students,” who left feeling like he had some ownership of the event after helping out.
Admission costs $20 at the gate and includes $5 in “Bonfire Bucks” for guests to spend on activities, food and drinks. Children 12 and younger accompanied by an adult can enter for free.
A of people say the bonfire is their favorite event, McNichols said.
“The bonfire is huge,” she said. “It’s the biggest bonfire you’ve ever seen.”
If you go
What: Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces
Where: Scranton Iron Furnaces, 159 Cedar Ave., Scranton
When: Saturday, Oct. 20, 6 to 10 p.m.
Details: Tickets cost $20 and include $5 in Bonfire Bucks, which guests can spend on food, drinks and activities. Admission is free for children 12 and younger.