I've always counted myself blessed to have my birthday fall on the Fourth of July. There's always something going on and my night always ends in fireworks. What gal could complain about that?

This year is special, though.

This year, I'm celebrating my birthday with, not only America, but with the beloved city where I live as Shamokin celebrates its 150th.

Much like any domestic on the scanner four to 17 times a week, Shamokin and I have a tumultuous relationship.

I fight so hard to stick up for this city, but then some stranger grabs my arm in a grocery store and starts spouting off about my tattoos and I become disheartened.

But that's just one person; that's not typical Shamokin. To judge a whole city, race, society or creed of people on one person would make me an ignorant fool. Some mishaps I find myself involved in and some sights I'd rather not see pale in comparison to the good I see in this city.

When it comes down to it, Shamokin and I are genuinely in love and, in my heart, all of the bad will never outweigh even a portion of the good.

I'm generally a person who looks on the bright side, so I see bright spots all over town. Sure, there are dilapidated buildings and that hurts me to see that, but as you'll see featured in The News-Item in the coming days and with your own eyes if you wish to see it, Shamokin can also be breathtaking - and not just in the way it is some days when you walk past Coney downtown and don't anticipate the waft of onions that's about to hit you. (But let's face it, even that smell has become beloved.)

The beauty I see is not just in my surroundings, though, it's in the members of this community who have pulled together to make this celebration one to remember. All week long, the city was alive with sounds and sights that pay tribute to the last 150 years.

Listen, I know some of you think there is never anything to do around here. I know many of you think this place is a hole and it has nothing to offer, but excuse me while I politely tap you on the shoulder and tell you to get off your "dupa" and revel in the happenings paying tribute to Shamokin this weekend. Whether you have roots here or have just nestled in, it doesn't matter. This is a weekend we can all come together and take part in festivities that make this lump of coal shine like a diamond. I'm inviting you to participate because 150 years only happens every 150 years. This is a big deal, people, and what more fun than to put all of our differences aside and ring in this sesquicentennial like what we are: People who know how to have a good time.

Now, of course I speak of responsible partying. Please, let's not have any incidents involving drugs or crime to rain on the parade, but for those who are legal and are out for fun, let's roll. Because if there's one thing I know people know how to do around here, it's party.

I understand this is a busy weekend being it is a national holiday as well, but let's bask in the spotlight on our city and have a good old Shamokin blast.


We're more than half way through celebrating, but tonight is the grand ball, or just the anniversary ball as I believe the mayor has called it. Call it what you will, I just like to act like I'm fancy sometimes and tell people I'm going to a grand ball.

It will be held at the Loyal Order of the Moose, Lodge 1149, Rock Street. Cocktails start at 6 p.m. and the ball begins at 7 p.m. Cost is $10 at the door and includes a buffet and entertainment by DJ Chad Evans. Dress is semi-formal: no jeans or sneakers.

And I'm sorry, but have you ever been in the Moose? This is what I'm talking about when I say breathtaking.

"This girl's nuts, if she thinks a bowling alley is breathtaking," you say?

No, you're nuts if you miss out on such a great event and such a gorgeous venue. The Moose, much like any of our historic buildings - the little we have left - is a sight to see. Now, if sky-high ceilings and Art Deco-style architecture aren't really your thing, don't worry, because there will be enough in entertainment to keep you so occupied, you may not even have a chance to look up.

Mayor Milbrand sees the ball as an opportunity to share memories and stories of Shamokin's past and that alone - believe me, I've been bartending for about 15 years and have heard some of the most fascinating tales about things that have happened over the years in this city - should be enough to get you there.

But there's more. Evans will certainly not disappoint as DJ, but a huge bonus will be the YouTube hit "Shamokin State of Mind," a parody of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind," which is set for a live performance by Evans and video co-star Erica Perrige as the end of the night nears. You're not going to see anything like that anywhere else; I can guarantee you that.

Oh, you're still yawning at the idea of interesting architecture, great stories and stellar entertainment?

No worries. I haven't yet laid my ace in the hole: cheap booze.

That's right. Don't act like you don't like it, Shamokin. I know you.

It's already cheap to drink at the Moose, but if you get yourself a Shamokin 150th collectible glass, drink refills in them receive a discount rate at the ball. Purchase the beer mug for $10 and get $.75 refills, or pay $8 for the mixed drink glass and get $2 refills. You can grab one at The News-Item, City Hall, Independence Fire Company and parade HQ next to Susquehanna Bank on Independence Street, and they'll also be for sale at the ball.

The only thing I ask is that you drink responsibly and have some decorum. By all means, have a good time, but let's keep the positive light shining throughout the weekend and as far beyond as possible.


The ball is going to be amazing and there is a chance you may have a slight headache the next day, but that's also covered. Since you are likely off for the holiday, may I suggest you go to any of the fine breakfast spots around town and get yourself a nice greasy meal Friday morning. It will help, I promise.

Then, you can rest on the couch and watch some "The Price is Right" or something until later when you show up on Independence Street, which will be closed between Eighth and Ninth streets from 6 to 10 p.m. for both Looker and Bunky Hendricks to perform on the main reviewing stand. Miss Pennsylvania Amanda Smith will also be welcomed and, fellas, speaking of breathtaking, I hear she's a sight for sore eyes, so you probably don't want to miss her arrival.

May I suggest at 10 p.m., you go home and get some rest (I, however, am required by law to celebrate my birthday until at least midnight), because Saturday is going to be a hoot and a half to say the least.


Where do I begin? At 10 a.m., Miss Pennsylvania will pull the winner for the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro convertible. Oh, you haven't heard? Yes. They are giving away a car. And it's a sweet car. You would look amazing in it. If you haven't gotten a $10 ticket, may I suggest you put it in fifth gear and purchase one for your chance to win. There are a good number of tickets out there, but a number reasonable enough that the odds are in your favor.

At 12:30 p.m., the fine citizens who make up Coal City Revitalization - the ones who let you revisit your youth at the Adult Prom and tap into your inner walker at The Zombie Run, among other things - and Irish Isle/Pot of Gold will unveil a new public mural created by Shawn McGugan, a coal region native. Let's face it, these murals are classing up this city, so I, for one, can't wait to see what he's come up with.

The grand parade will start in the Fifth Ward, which we all know I'm proud to say is my neck of the woods, at 2 p.m. and believe me, it will not disappoint. There are a slew of "celebrities" in addition to Miss Pennsylvania, including an Olympian, the bishop and the real celebrities, troops and veterans who have sacrificed and served for the very freedom we'll celebrate this Independence Day weekend.

Music will fill the air into the evening - heck, even Queen Elsa from Disney's "Frozen" is going to be there. If your kids find out she was there and you didn't take them to see her, boy are they not going to be happy, nor will they "Let it Go" anytime soon.

To top it all off, we'll do what we do best: light up the sky. Shamokin is known for its fireworks display, so what better note to end on.

By Sunday, we'll all be exhausted, but I'll still be on vacation, so I welcome any invitation from anyone who has a pool I can float around in for the day.

This is going to be a celebration to remember, and I call upon all of you to join in the fun. If you can't make it to everything, make it to something. You have options, but much like me turning (cough) 25, a city only turns 150 once. This is history in the making and you should be part of it.

You may not support everything that goes on around here. You may be disappointed because you remember the city's heydays. You may curse the very ground you have the luxury of living on, but there's a good chance that, whatever your ties to Shamokin, coal runs through your veins and eventually that reaches your heart. So come out and show your love for the city many of us are proud to call home.

Happy 150th birthday, Shamokin. We've been through an awful lot, but I still love you to pieces.

Now, let's party!

(Jenna Wasakoski is an assistant editor at The News-Item)