Northeastern Pennsylvania is rich in cultural traditions, and the third annual Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces invites locals to a multicultural celebration of local art, tradition, and, of course, NEPA’s spectacular harvest season. The Historic Iron Furnaces, located in between Scranton’s downtown and South Side neighborhoods, mark a preserved historic site reminding us of Scranton’s industrial history.
On Saturday, Oct. 19, many representatives of the lively local arts and cultural scene will be present, including instructors from Mission Yoga, vendors like the What the Fork and Muncheeze food trucks, and entertainers, including original choreography by Symmetry Studio, performances by the Dearly Departed Players and Scranton Shakespeare, and live music by Coal Town Rounders and The Great Party.
The Great Party – Michael Nordberg (guitar, vocals) Matt Thomas (drums) Matt Mang (bass), and lead vocalists Rosaleen Eastman (keys) and Michael Eastman (guitar) – formed in Scranton in 2011, shortly after the Eastmans’ honeymoon in Mexico.
“After we came home, my husband introduced me to Michael Nordberg, who had a collection of unfinished songs, and we began songwriting together. He had this amazing track on a CD he gave me to work on that was ‘too good’ to complete. The feelings all lined up and the track came together. I just kept hearing a gang yell of ‘Hecho en Mexico!’ Mr. Eastman concurred and said, ‘This should be about the Day of the Dead!’ I wrote the melody and lyrics, had so much fun with it, and Michael (Eastman) really swoons when he sings it.”
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, had a strong presence at the last Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces, with face painting in the skeletal style of the traditional La Catrina. Each year, a few cultures are highlighted at the event by sharing their autumn seasonal traditions. This year, the Bonfire will showcase Diwali, Samhain, and Dia de los Muertos, bringing tradition and artifacts from Indian, Irish, and Mexican cultures.
“Last year, we were excited to see sugar skull faces wandering around Scranton. It’s an oddly dear and familiar thing for me,” mused Eastman, whose own face was among many painted in the festive La Catrina-style in The Great Party’s recently released music video for “Hecho en Mexico.”
“My husband and I went to Mexico on our honeymoon. It was a bittersweet time in our lives; we were thrilled to be hitched, but my mother was terminally ill and things were stressful.
“We had this week to go away and feel human again, and though it was two months post-Dia de los Muertos, we were surrounded by all this amazing folk art of skeletons, finely dressed, eating lavish meals, and dancing. The Mexican tradition has such beautiful insight on death and dying, perpetuating the greatness of the life lived after passing. I found so much comfort in it.”
In her own way, shared Eastman, so did her ill mother.
“My mother listened to ‘Hecho en Mexico’ routinely before she passed away; she thought it was hilarious therapy.” In the spirit of Day of the Dead, Eastman hopes the community comes out for a night of celebration,” she shared.
“I am excited to paint my face one more time this year! It’s a great escape to get into costume and makeup and play a show. What a wonderful opportunity it is to have an event like this in the area! We should all get a little wild and let loose, allow ourselves to have a few hours of whimsy in a year filled with so much reality.”
The Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces is an al-ages event, though ID will be required upon entrance to consume alcohol. Family-friendly activities, include face painting, cultural activities, wish lantern launches, and a Jack-o’-lantern contest, which guests may enter in advance for prizes.
The event will run from 6-11 p.m. with the Pop-Up Procession – encouraging guests to don a costume and join the parade – at 7:30 p.m., leading to the ceremonial lighting of the bonfire at 8 p.m.