Anniversary helps spread positive vibe

Altoona would have erred in forgoing a celebration to mark the 150th anniversary of its 1868 incorporation as a city.

But this year’s sesquicentennial celebration, besides focusing on the city’s history, also holds possibilities for touting Altoona’s many current assets, with an open eye toward attracting additional ones.

The Mirror’s Feb. 18 edition provided a glimpse of how that can be accomplished. Complementing reporter William Kibler’s front-page report on the upcoming sesquicentennial events — 19 years after a sesquicentennial celebration tied to the city’s founding in 1849 — was reporter Walt Frank’s Business Page article about the Blair County Chamber of Commerce’s “buy local” efforts.

The sesquicentennial activities, despite the city’s history being the centerpiece, nevertheless will provide the opportunity to showcase businesses that exist here as well as show how this community has room for additional enterprises.

It’s difficult for people of a community as large as this one to be familiar with all of the businesses and other assets already in place. While providing a “refresher course” for locals, the sesquicentennial also could open a wide window for telling Altoona’s exciting business story to non-Blair residents from near and far.

The important task for the Chamber of Commerce in the weeks ahead will be to identify ways for coordinating its efforts with the sesquicentennial celebration that’s in the planning stages, whether through printed materials or by other means.

The Blair County Historical Society is leading the sesquicentennial planning and, according to Kibler’s Feb. 18 article, the society’s planning efforts aren’t ignoring the business community.

In addition to planning a keepsake booklet and other souvenirs and maps showing how the city grew over the years, the society also is including on its sesquicentennial agenda an exhibit featuring business artifacts.

It’s important that the sesquicentennial observance for this city, which has had such a great impact on the nation’s railroad industry, be publicized far and wide — and that the publicity emphasize that the observance will be much more than a single-weekend event.

The celebration will begin around Memorial Day, but there will be events tied to the sesquicentennial during the rest of the year.

The Historical Society, which has formed a special sesquicentennial committee, says its aim is to be a facilitator and advocate for the remainder of the celebration by recruiting area nonprofits to organize and host events.

As with when the sesquicentennial celebration begins, the chamber should seek ways to weave its “buy local” initiative into the other events that will be forthcoming.

According to Joe DeFrancesco, society executive director, although the celebration will commemorate 150 years, its main focus will be on the last 50 years — five decades when the city experienced great change.

Some of those changes were good, some deemed not so good.

But the city exhibited great will and stamina in rebounding from most setbacks that came its way.

The excellent point made by DeFrancesco was that “there’s an overall positive feeling” engulfing this city and the goal must be to celebrate that optimism.

The celebration must be as big as possible, in a way that ensures that the city will continue to reap benefits from it well beyond this year.

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