The nation’s 238th birthday was celebrated in Johnstown on Friday with a party to beat the band.
While the band, the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, later showed its red, white and blue colors, the bash kicked off with everything American, hamburgers and apple pie at Peoples Natural Gas Park.
After feasting on the barbecue fare provided at the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies Founder’s Day Community Picnic, many made their way the few steps to Point Stadium.
With appetites sated, hundreds of people settled in for an evening of sing-along patriotic songs and tunes with a historic edge including “You Are My Sunshine,” “America the Beautiful” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
The symphony finale of “1812 Overture” signaled the start of the fireworks display. Unlike last year, when the bursts had to be viewed through raindrops, the display fared well in the chilly but clear evening.
The more well-known works of John Philip Sousa, including “Stars ’n’ Stripes, “Hands Across the Sea,” and “El Capitan,” were played by the symphony throughout the sight and sound display of the fireworks.
Under the direction of Maestro Istvan Jaray, the symphony orchestra paid special attention to the military in the audience, and as the anthem for each branch was played, members were asked to stand.
The Community Foundation for the Alleghenies celebrated the day by feeding about 700 people at PNC Park, then telling them of the successful year the nonprofit just completed.
For Tom Slater of Johnstown, a founding member of the foundation, the news was music to his ears and would have pleased his mother, Hazel Jones Slater.
“A community foundation is the best way to direct funds for the good of the community,” he said.
Slater got involved in the nonprofit more than two decades ago when he established a nursing scholarship fund in the name of his mother, a nurse.
Mike Kane, foundation president and executive director, reported that $3.4 million was given away in grants in Cambria, Somerset and Bedford counties over the past 12 months.
Despite the grants, the foundation reported a 12 percent growth with overall assets, which grew by $6.6 million for a new high of $61.6 million.
Helping bump up the assets was a nearly $2 million bequest by the Walter Allen estate to provide support for UPMC Bedford Hospital, and nearly $1 million from the Jean and Earl Berkey estate to support the arts in Bedford and Somerset counties, Kane said.
But in common terms, the foundation, other organizations and dozens of volunteers are re-creating the Sandyvale Memorial Gardens.
Similar efforts are bringing a new resource to the Prospect neighborhood, where community churches with support from the Community Foundation are developing a community center and food outlets and laundromat, Kane said.
Kathy Mellott is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @kathymellotttd.