Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Where there’s a big, flaming fire in the South Side of Scranton, there’s its historic Iron Furnaces. For five years now, an annual event has been held there for one Saturday night in the middle of October. It is called Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces.
On a chilly night of Saturday, October 17, people visited this landmark not only to warm up near the fire, but to also enjoy the activities of this fall event. The dark sky was lit up by hanging lanterns installed by local artist Brian Murray.
Before the main event (the bonfire), people were entertained by performers, who used fire in their acts. The Double “R” Twirlettes twirled their fiery batons. Fire spinner Reid Cooley performed with his spinning poi (a ball at the end of a string), which was lit on fire.
“This is my first year here,” he said. ” I was contacted by Maureen McGuigan (deputy director of the Arts & Culture for Lackawanna County).”
Cooley has been fire spinning for three years. Fire hooper Kayleigh Cornell performed with a hula hoop with fire and lights around it. There was also some non-fire entertainment as well. Stilt walker Brett Keyser, wearing a top hat, greeted and danced with some of the festival goers, while looking like he was ten feet tall. Balloon artist Dr. Cornelius made funny balloon hats, which both kids and adults wore during the whole time. Happy Faces Face Painting painted skulls on kids’ faces.
The Fire Bowl Stage provided a small campfire with rectangular hay bales for people to sit around it. The North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL) , a non-profit theater company, put on a play called Little Farm Show on the Dirt, which was about farming and good eating habits. Also in the Fire Bowl Area, there was Symmetry Studio, which provides yoga and fitness, and Grupo Zona, a Latin music band.
In the middle of the festival grounds, there was a jack-o’-lantern contest. Three jack-o’-lanterns were displayed for judges and the public to vote for them. Sarah Checho won judge’s choice for her pumpkin carving of a tree. Kayla Bickauskas won people’s choice with her pumpkin carved as a carousel. The other entrant was Jack McGuigan, who carved a face on his pumpkin. There were also tarot card readings on the festival grounds.
The Bank North Beer Tent provided food and refreshments from local restaurants. Nickie’s Fabulous Hoagies and Coney Island Texas Lunch both sold food under this tent. Stadt House Bakery sold desserts, such as cupcakes. Adezzo Coffee Shop & Lounge sold coffee to warm up the festival goers.
But nothing warmed up the people up like the big bonfire. A fire parade drew everyone’s attention to the back of the festival grounds, where a stack of crates tom form of a deer with antlers. This wooden sculpture was designed by local artist Ben Adcroft. It served as a pedestal for the flames, which gradually became bigger and bigger until it was able to be seen from a great distance. The audience members, who were close to the fire, took a few steps back to keep away from the intense heat. Local band Sonny on the Causeway performed modern rock sings as the fire was burning.
At the Cultural Village Tent, the Everhart Museum had Egyptian-themed displays, including a mummy on the table and photos of sarcophaguses and a mummified cat. Kids were able to make their own little sarcophaguses and used wrapping to make mummies. They also drew Egyptian hieroglyphs on their sarcophaguses.
Eric Kacaba, a young Dunmore resident, who was there with his grandmother Judy Kacaba and her boyfriend Joe Needham, designed two sarcophaguses.
“I think it’s a fantastic thing for the community to put up a nice film event,” said Needham.
Everhart Museum curator Nezka Pfeifer handed out flyers, which promoted the museum’s current display, “To Your Health! The Science, Culture, & Art of the Cocktail”. Also under the same tent, there was a big ofrenda, which is a ritual altar to commemorate the Day of the Dead. Popular in Mexico, ofrendas provide ‘offerings’ to welcome deceased loved ones to the altar. This particular ofenda was put together by Pamela McNichols, one of the coordinators of the Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces. She decorated with a marigold (representing happiness) wreath on top of it. She also put a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it. She also placed pan de muerto (bread of the dead), which were in the form of skeletons and twisted bones. Some people placed pictures of their old friends or family members on the ofrendas.
The Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces also had a Fire Walk, in which certain restaurants in downtown Scranton featured fire-themed drinks, specials, and giveaways. The restaurants were: Adezzo, The Bog, Posh, Terra Preta, The Keys, Carl Von Luger’s Steakhouse, Ale Mary’s, Whiskey Dick’s, and the Hilton Hotel and Conference Center. These venues had fire balloons outside of them.
The Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces Committee blends history and entertainment to bring the community a fun way to learn about Scranton’s past. The committee members are grateful to the several sponsors, who helped to make the event successful for five years and will hopefully continue in years to come.