Robert Young was pleased that visitors this summer will be sure to enjoy renovations made to the band shell in Macungie Memorial Park, but he was thinking of another group as well when he recently spoke of the project.
Asked to summarize what the improvements would mean to the borough in general and the park specifically, the refurbishment committee chairman grew serious and his voice strong: "There's such a history to this thing that you can't let these guys down."
"These guys" are the men who were responsible for bringing the band shell to Macungie. The structure was brought -- in pieces -- from Fogelsville in 1948 and reassembled in the park for all to enjoy these past 64 years. Young said that getting the landmark here was the tough part. Keeping up the tradition will be the least that future generations can do.
Other than West Park in Allentown, Young was hard-pressed to think of another area band shell that compares in grandeur to this one.
A free, public rededication ceremony is planned from noon to approximately 5 p.m. June 24.
How the band shell came to Macungie is interesting in and of itself. But first, a little about the recent renovations.
Young called the effort a "major refurbishment," costing about $30,000. The price tag would have been many thousand dollars more had it not been for in-kind services, donated materials and volunteer labor.
The project included 17 cubic yards of concrete, beams and bracing to shore up a sagging rear portion of the structure. The band shell also was in need of face boards and paint.
The story began last year with Young telling former Macungie Band Director Douglas Bolasky of plans to brighten the bandshell with some cosmetics including fresh paint. But Bolasky pointed out the sagging. Floodwaters from the nearby creek over the years saturated and eventually rotted some of the support beams, Young said, touching off a much more extensive project.
Hearing the news, the park board unanimously voted to fix the problem.
"There was no discussion to demolish it," he said.
"It's something worth hanging on to," Bolasky agreed, when asked recently about its community value.
He noted the classic architecture and the fact that several other area band shells have been demolished over the years because of neglect and lack of funds.
To rebuild the structure to make it plumb would have cost many thousand dollars more, Young said. Instead, they have stabilized the integrity using the beams, bracing and concrete. The lighting has been redone as well.
Next came the addition of resin siding, the repainting inside of the blue shell and the eventual repainting of "Macungie Memorial Park" arched across the top of the front.
The park board has spearheaded the refurbishment, either finding volunteers or showing up on recent weekends to swing hammers themselves. Contractors were called in to perform specialty work.
To date, about $20,000 has been raised. Grants came from the Harry C. Trexler Trust, the Rotary Club of Emmaus and the Century Fund foundation. Nearly $5,000 was kicked in when many local service clubs sold a lottery calendar. Additional money was raised through private donations, Young said.
Additional fundraisers are planned, but the park coffers will make up the balance if necessary, he added.
As for that history? Borough resident Charles Conrad inquired about the band shell that wasn't being used in Fogelsville, according to an article written by Dale Eck of the Macungie Historical Society.
It was common for large companies to build towns for their workers, and Lehigh Portland Cement Co. was no exception. But when a sanitary sewer system was required to serve the occupants, the company razed the homes rather than pay the expense of the upgrade, leaving a vacant recreational area with a band shell and playground equipment. Conrad's inquiry brought the band shell and playground equipment -- including a tall wood sliding board -- to Macungie. The band shell was dedicated in Memorial Day ceremonies on May 30, 1949, according the the Historical Society.