He said the crowd overall was very mixed, racially and ethnically. “This is the new face of Hazleton,” he said.
To demonstrate what a good sport he could be, Curry said he had volunteered to be in the dunk tank earlier in the day. He plunged into the brisk water more times than he could count.
And while he loved giving the kids a good show, he was happy to dry off and turn the honors over to another volunteer.
The dunk tank was one of many activities located in the lot adjacent to the school at East Fourth and Hayes streets, with the dunking and splashing continuing well into the afternoon. A bandstand was set up in the same lot, providing Caribbean and a variety other types of music set on full blast.
Regina Drasher, a volunteer from Eckley Miners’ Village, who dressed in period costume, sat at a table where she showed children how to make Civil War “hanky” (handkerchief) dolls, using scraps of rags and yarn.
“Kids told me that they were just amazed that they could make dolls out of such simple things,” she said.
Drasher also reported that the activity was attracting its fair share of young male dollmakers.
Inside the gym, a bounce house shaped like a castle proved to be the main attraction,with other carnival-like games encircling the perimeter. A karate demonstration and a presentation by Faberge Follies also took place inside.
The gym, which now bears little resemblance to the old Most Precious Blood gymnasium, has undergone a quantum makeover thanks to a grant from the Cal Ripken Jr. Foundation and other funds that Curry drummed up for the project. In all, the project cost about $200,000 and allows the gym to be converted from a basketball court to a baseball training facility in a matter of minutes.
The gym will be introduced officially to the public later in the fall, according to Curry, at which time visitors also will see a show of photography produced by children who attend the center.
Curry applied for a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to develop the photography program at the center. It involved purchasing a number of aim-and-shoot cameras that participants borrow during their course.
Standard-Speaker staff photographer Jamie Pesotine is the instructor for the program.
Each child had one of their photos on display in the gym on Saturday. Curry noted that a more complete show of each child’s work will accompany the grand opening of the gym, making it a genuine art show.
As the afternoon progressed, the crowd cheered a demonstration of the feats of the police dogs that form a part of the department.
Chief Frank DeAndrea introduced the event. All local police dogs are trained by retired officer Hank Macuch, who now will be training Justice for the next four months before the young canine is street-ready.
Macuch was the city’s first canine handler.
“We will have three dogs once Justice is ready,” he said.
Griz, the oldest dog on the force, in now 10½ years old. He explained that the “rigors” of being a police dog are now taking their toll on him.
DeAndrea thanked Luzerne County District Attorney Stephanie Salavantis for providing $15,000 for Justice’s purchase and training. The funds were recovered from drug raids and then earmarked to be put to good use.
The chief also said that having Macuch as a local trainer will save the city a bundle of money, since if the training needed to take place in Allentown, for example, an extra $800 per week would have been added to the bill, as Justice would have needed to be accompanied by an officer, and food and lodging for his human companion for such a long period would have added up fast.
“I just love doing this,” Macuch said, plainly expressing his feelings for the dogs.
Dominic Mead, a third-grader from Mrs. Zola’s class at Maple Manor Elementary/Middle School, is the lucky child who named 11-month-old Justice.
After Justice’s training, DeAndrea will visit Mead’s class and make an official presentation to the boy. At that time, the children will also be able to see the result of the dog’s intensive education.
Third-graders in 34 classes throughout the Hazleton Area School District drew pictures of the new dog, crowning each work of art with an original name. Then each class voted on the best entry and sent it along to the finals.
In all, a veritable kennel of drawings was created before Justice finally received the name he will carry for life.
When asked what he’d like to be when he grows up, the winning artist and name-giver replied, “I want to be a theoretical physicist, umm, or — a cop.