NEPA Scene Staff

New Lackawanna Arts Weekend hopes to attract tourists to downtown Scranton Aug. 3-5

New Lackawanna Arts Weekend hopes to attract tourists to downtown Scranton Aug. 3-5
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From a press release:

With Lackawanna County and ScrantonMade’s Lackawanna Arts Festival (formerly Arts on the Square) joining the First Friday art walk and the annual Scranton Jazz Festival this year to form the new Lackawanna Arts Weekend on Friday, Aug. 3 through Sunday, Aug. 5, organizers are hoping the partnership will encourage tourists to visit the Electric City and stay for the weekend as they often do in the nearby Pocono Mountains.

Lacakwanna Arts Weekend has secured special hotel packages and created a sample itinerary for those planning a mini summer vacation in the city many people recognize as the setting for NBC’s hit television show “The Office.”

Now in its 14th consecutive year, the Scranton Jazz Festival will present a few big headliners, such as the New York Yankees superstar-turned-musician Bernie Williams, as well as returning regional favorites. The event has come to be recognized by many musicians, in particular, said organizing committee member Lawrence Pugliese.

“When we reach out to artists, they already know about us,” he noted. Pugliese will also serve as master of ceremonies this year. He added that while live music fans can see the Bernie Williams Collective or Diaylo Marsalis in other cities, Scranton’s historic, woodsy landscape and collection of cultural attractions make the three-day festival a uniquely attractive destination.

The Poconos has a long-standing reputation for refreshing city dwellers fleeing from the summer heat of New York, Philadelphia, and even Baltimore. While the drive may be a little farther than a favorite shore destination, the money spent on gas will be offset by savings around town.

“Visitors will find their dollar goes further in Scranton,” Pugliese said. “It’s cost-effective.” Plus, they’ll find out what “there ain’t no party like a Scranton party,’ means, he joked, referring to an often-quoted line from “The Office.”

Beyond the collaborative spirit that brought First Friday Scranton and Lackawanna Arts Fest to work together to mesh an entire weekend’s worth of destination-worthy activity, organizers feel that the greater Scranton community is generally friendly and welcoming towards visitors.

In addition to a stellar lineup of talented performers, the Jazz Fest offers food, drinks, and access to the musicians not seen at other festivals.

“The jazz cats hang around, and they like to talk to patrons,” Pugliese said. The sheltered outdoor stage at the historic Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel (700 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton) brings professional sound and lighting to what used to be an elegant train station boarding platform with “great views of neighborhoods on the city’s South Side.” Not only is it beautiful here in the summer, Pugliese said, but visitors may be surprised to find that Scranton has outgrown its “old coal mining town” reputation and evolved into a “hip and dynamic place to be.”

Maureen McGuigan, deputy director of the Lackawanna County Arts and Culture Department, has traveled extensively around the world. While Scranton can’t compete with the region’s bigger cities on some levels, she acknowledged, people will find something unique in Scranton they can’t find elsewhere.

“In an age when people are searching for authenticity, this is as authentic as it gets,” she said.

“There is a great mix of old and new. Against the backdrop of that industrial heritage and beautiful outdoors, the streets are so cool with these quirky shops. There is enough arts and culture overall, yet it’s kind of a small town, too. I’ve heard from people from other countries and others who are just visiting the area that we are very welcoming and friendly. You can make yourself at home here and no one’s going to bother you… We’re not gentrified. We’re a real community where all kinds of different people live together regardless of income or where they’re from.”

McGuigan, who helped plan the sample 72-hour itinerary below, has adopted the hashtag #RelaxInLackawanna in recent months.

“It’s easy living,” she laughed. Describing herself as “an outdoors person,” she recommended the county’s four parks for more adventurous visitors interested in hiking or mountain biking. None of the recommended attractions are more than 15 minutes from downtown Scranton, she noted.

Lackawanna Arts Weekend 72-hour sample itinerary

Friday, Aug. 3

2 p.m.-5 p.m.: Hotel check-in. Unpack and freshen up.

5 p.m.: Enjoy Jazz Happy Hour on the Trax Patio at the Radisson Hotel.

6 p.m.-9 p.m.: Walk around First Friday Scranton. Find more than 30 venues offering art exhibitions, live music, and other cultural pit stops. A map with event descriptions is available at firstfridayscranton.com or pick one up at the AfA Gallery on Lackawanna Avenue.

8:30 p.m.-10 p.m.: Dine at one of the many downtown restaurants on the First Friday map while you get your bearings. Local favorites include Ale Mary’s, AV, Bar Pazzo, Eden: A Vegan Cafe, Exhale Hookah Lounge & Kabob Grill, Peculiar Slurp Shop, and Terra Preta Prime.

10 p.m.: The Scranton Jazz Fest will present various artists performing in venues TBA around downtown Scranton during the first of two Jazz Walks following performances at the Radisson by VooDoo BBQ Brass Band at 8 p.m. and Special EFX All-Stars featuring Chieli Minucci, Regina Carter, Eric Marienthal, and Lao Tizer at 9 p.m. Visit scrantonjazzfestival.org for details and ticket information.

Saturday, Aug. 4

6 a.m.-7 a.m.: Rise and shine. Supplement your continental breakfast with a cup of something stronger at one of the city’s several coffee shops.

8 a.m.: Borrow a bicycle at the Hilton or take a walk to the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail running along the Lackawanna River, where the downtown district meets the North, West, and South sides of Scranton. See bikescranton.com or lhva.org for details.

10 a.m.: Free public tours of the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple are offered most Saturdays at 10 a.m. A unique example of neo-Gothic architecture in Scranton, the historic landmark was designed by renowned architect Raymond M. Hood.

10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Stop by the South Side Farmers Market at Alder Street and Cedar Avenue. Located a few blocks past the historic Scranton Iron Furnaces, stock up on some fresh items at this year-round market for a snack or picnic.

Noon-8 p.m.: Walk around Lackawanna Arts Fest. Find more than 150 artisans at this interactive family-friendly festival on Courthouse Square. There is no admission fee; leave and come back at any time. This year’s music schedule features performances by Chris Kearney and Friends (1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.), Starbird (3 p.m.-4 p.m.), Rogue Chimp (4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m., and the James Brown Dance Party (6 p.m.-8 p.m.) Visit the blog at scrantonmade.com for artist profiles.

7:30 p.m.-10 p.m.: The Scranton Jazz Fest lineup includes LaCuccina and the Bernie Williams Collective, featuring lead by jazz guitarist and former four-time world series MLB Yankees player Bernie Williams. Main stage shows at the Radisson will be followed by Jazz Walk artists at venues TBA around downtown Scranton.

Sunday, Aug. 5

10 a.m.: Enjoy brunch at your hotel or one of downtown’s many restaurants.

11 a.m.-7 p.m.: Montage Mountain Waterpark features a wave pool with nearby cabana rentals and attractions, includes alpine slides, a polar bear pond, the Tornado, ProRacer Slides, and a lazy river. Or take the ski lift to the top of the mountain for the exhilarating ZipRider.

Noon-5 p.m.: Visit the Everhart Museum of Natural History, Science and Art at Nay Aug Park. Current exhibitions include an intricate flamework glass imaginary botanical sculpture by Kathleen Elliot and a juried show titled “New Frontiers” offered in conjunction with the eighth International Conference of Contemporary Cast Iron in consideration of the theme “Post Industrial Iron: Divergence, Dialog, and New Directions.”

12:15 p.m.: Ride the trolley from the Electric City Trolley Museum to PNC Field at Montage Mountain for some Triple-A baseball fun as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders take on the Buffalo Bisons. The game starts at 1:05 p.m.; reservations are required.

7:30 p.m.-midnight: Scranton Jazz Fest highlights include performances at the Radisson by the Hendrik Meurkens Samba Jazz Quartet at 7:30 p.m. and the SJF Big Band featuring Delfeayo Marsalis at 8:30 p.m., followed by a Jazz Jam finale at the Trax Platform Lounge.

Monday, Aug. 6

8 a.m.-2 p.m.: Sleep in or wake early to check out recommendations you learned about from the locals before checking out of your hotel.

Photo by Tammy Heid-Malloy/NEPA Scene