Heritage Park took a wallop Friday night when the storm rolled through town, but the relentless efforts of volunteers enabled Heritage Fair to reopen a few hours late on Saturday and finish with a flair on Sunday.
Dundalk's annual three-day Independence Day celebration attracted big crowds with big-name acts like Dennis DeYoung and Joan Jett and an entertainment and activity schedule that included something for all ages.
Friday's schedule got off without a hitch, as the thunderstorm rolled in after DeYoung called it a night and the crowds left the park.
Overnight, strong winds and rain played havoc on vendor booths and goods, and the park lost power for a time, according to fair volunteer Marilyn Doyle.
"There was a power problem, but it has been resolved," Doyle said at about 5 p.m. Saturday. "A lot of the arts and crafts vendors have left—their tents really took a hit—but some said they would be back (Sunday)."
The power outage and problems with sound equipment caused the cancellation of two acts on Stage 1 and two acts on Stage 2 on Saturday afternoon, Doyle said.
Some volunteers, including fair chairman Joe Falbo, stayed in the park all night, clearing branches and other debris to get the fair open as soon as possible on Saturday, Doyle said.
The fair was scheduled to open at noon, but gates opened at 3 p.m.
"As soon as we opened the gates, people started streaming in," Doyle said.
By 5 p.m., fair-goers excited about seeing Joan Jett and the Blackhearts perform had already filled much of the park closest to Stage 1 with lawn chairs and blankets.
By the time Jett took the stage at 8 p.m., the rows of chairs were pointless as folks stood in every square inch available in front of the stage.
"Joan Jett rocked Dundalk, that's for sure," Lewis Melcher wrote on Dundalk Patch. "I have never seen (the) Heritage Fair grounds packed like that in my life."
Jo Mills, whose husband, the late Bruce Mills, chaired the fair for many years, set her chair up quite a distance from the stage to avoid the bunched crowds, she said.
"It was crowded as it could be," she said Monday. "And it was ungodly hot and the park was still packed."
Mills is more aware than most fair-goers how much work it takes to put on the annual event.
"All of the people out there doing all of this are volunteers," she said. "I recall a time when many of the fair volunteers worked at Bethlehem Steel and they all took a week of vacation to set up the fair and work at it."
Dundalk Heritage Association vice president Bob Fogle, who also serves as the fair's entertainment chairman, said a crew of about 500 volunteers is needed to stage the festival each year.
Helpers do everything from directing traffic to emptying trash cans. They erect and take down fencing, sell and take tickets, distribute programs, staff the lost-and-found booth, provide security, sell beer in the beer garden, provide first aid services and anything else needed to make the fair a success.
"These volunteers do this for their community—it really is something, all of the logistics and work required to put on the fair," Mills said.
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