a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Donora makes inaugural visit to Donora

Casey Hanner and her brother, Jake, of the Pittsburgh band oddly named Donora, shown above, stopped by the Borough of Donora Saturday to play a few songs to mark the 100th birthday of the Donora-Webster Bridge. So did Bob Menzler of the new Donora duo, Rhyme and Reason, to sing a few cover tunes. (He's in the video clip, below)

Unfortunately, bitter cold weather forced part of the celebration from the bridge to a fire truck house at Rostraver Volunteer Fire Department No. 1 in Webster. But these are talented, dedication musicians who proved to be troopers for a worthy occasion.

In previous years, folks in Donora and Webster dressed up in frumpy period clothing to celebrate milestones on the bridge.

“Let’s start our own traditions,” said DeAnne Pavelko, an organizer of the birthday party, reacting to the notion to celebrate the bridge anniversary with music that appeals to today’s generation.

Here’s an excerpt from a story about the bridge program in today’s Observer-Reporter:

The rusting Donora-Webster Bridge was built a century ago within seven months at a cost $200,000, connecting a borough with hulking steel mills and a village rich with coal.

"That wouldn't be enough to paint the bridge right now," said Charles Stacey of Donora during a ceremony Saturday to mark the span's 100th birthday.

Yet this bridge remains special to residents of these two towns, so much so that two couples stood in a light snowstorm to renew their wedding vows at the rededication service.

"It was exciting, something everybody else doesn't get a chance to do," said Kathie Chadwick of Donora after exchanging vows with her husband of 41 years, Ron.

The Chadwicks and the other couple, Thomas and Carol Stoffel of Monongahela, arrived at the bridge in a horse-drawn wagon to exchange vows before Donora Mayor John Lignelli.

"We were really happy to be here," Carol Stoffel said. "I'm a Donora girl."

Weddings have become a tradition on the bridge, dating to its opening Dec. 5, 1908, when Webster resident John Witherspoon married Harriet Binley before an overflowing crowd. Two other local couples were married on the span Dec. 5, 1986, when it reopened after extensive restorations.

Saturday was the first time the Hanners made a trip to Donora, and they drove around town after singing with plans to shoot some promotional photos there.

“We’re Donora and so are you,” Casey Hanner said before leaving.

Expect big things from her band.

Donora is set to release its first album, one that is self-titled and produced by Rostrum Records, at a party about 8:30 p.m. Dec. 19 at Rex Theater in Pittsburgh’s South Side District.

Last, but certainly not least, the Observer-Reporter's online editor, Harry Funk, braved the light snow storm to introduce the program on the bridge. I'm sorry that I didn't get the chance to run a clip of the entire song.

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