Park, band shell to celebrate 100th anniversary events

Two beloved community attractions will celebrate centennials next week in back-to-back ceremonies.

Way’s Garden, which lies in the heart of the city’s Historic District along Maynard and West Fourth streets, and the Dr. Kenneth L. Cooper Bandshell, a fixture and stage for musical presentations and tribute events in Brandon Park, were founded 100 years ago.

The Way’s Garden Commission will discuss planned restoration of the garden at a ceremony from 3 to 5 p.m. May 31, said Bob Esposito, commission chairman. The band shell’s anniversary will be marked with a community event that starts at 6 p.m. June 1 at the band shell site just off Packer Street, said Sally Wiegand, chairwoman of the Brandon Park and Shade Tree Commission.

Wiegand is most excited about the appearance and performance scheduled by the Repasz Band, which was the band that entertained audiences at the inauguaral day of the founding of the band shell. Federal, state and local lawmakers, City Council and Mayor Gabriel J. Campana are expected to make presentations.

A garden and band shell deserving of the founders’ visions

While the garden is known for its colorful array of flower beds, showcasing artwork done by members of the Bald Eagle Art League and providing a shady respite for lesiurely strolls, the band shell has thrilled audiences gathered to witness legendary musical performances, and has served as a gathering place during Arbor Day and the once popular rousing Community Sings.

A founder’s vision

to be restored

The garden has beckoned countless individuals to soak in the peaceful oasis ever since 1913, when J. Roman Way made the donation of land to the city as a park for the expressed purpose of rest and recreation.

Way, who lived across the street from the park on the site of the Thomas T. Taber and Lycoming County Historical Museum, approached Ogalsby Paul, a noted Philadelphia landscape architect who oversaw Fairmount Park, to help create the garden’s design. Paul was a student of Frederick Law Olmstead, the father of American landscape architecture and the designer of Central Park in Manhattan.

Over the past year, Derek Kalp, a landscape architect for Pennsylvania State University in State College, has been working with the committee to develop a master plan involving low maintenance, non-invasive and drought-tolerant plants, shurbs and trees to provide seasonal beauty. The new layout and additions are meant to restore Way’s original vision for a Victorian garden.

To implement these plans, the event will introduce people to a fundraising campaign lasting two years and divided into three phases. The Fourth Street-side will be the first section to be worked on. The center of the garden will be the focus of a second phase with a new municipal fountain, lighting and benches.

The last phase will create an event lawn with a pavilion on the south side of the garden.

Diseased and dying trees and shrubs will be replaced by the city in the fall.

More details of the plans will be presented by George Durrwachter, former Way’s Garden Commission chairman and honorary fundraising chairman along with Esposito.

For Wiegand, more than a year of researching and collecting a scrapbook of photographs and literature of the band shell through history is culminating in the ceremony. Tables will be put out for those who want to peruse through the books and look at the photographs, she said.

The band shell, was named as a lasting tribute to Dr. Kenneth Cooper, April 25, 2008. Cooper was a local physician who had served on the Brandon Park Commission since 1972. Known as the “Gentle Giant,” Cooper was actively involved in aspects of the care, maintenance and improvements of the park.

“I have big shoes to fill,” Wiegand said.

Among the band shell anniversary highlights will be a display of table of memories of its history, ice cream sold at prices one might expect during that era and horse drawn carriage rides.