A Matter of Seats
Having a chair as a town symbol sounds kind of strange, but in Canonsburg, Pa., a small town (8,600) 18 miles south of Pittsburgh, they’re proud of it. Not that the town actually chose a chair as its symbol or that it’s been adopted as the town logo. It didn’t and hasn’t. It just happened. And, anyway, it’s only a one-day symbol. July 4th.
That’s when the chairs start appearing on the sidewalks lining the main street (actually, Pike Street). I don’t mean on July 4th. I mean two weeks before July 4th. There are plastic chairs, wooden chairs, folding chairs, canvas folding chairs, and chairs with stuffed mannequins. They are tied together with rope, with tape, with chains and faux police ribbon. They are tied to anything nearby, a parking meter, a utility pole, a street sign.
It’s a town getting ready for its annual 4th of July parade which has been held every year for 49 years. Wikipedia says it’s second only to Philadelphia’s parade. PolitiFact hasn’t checked that out, but it is a big parade and lasts about two hours. Celebrities, fire departments, school marching bands, military units, veterans groups, athletes, politicians, community organizations march or have floats. It’s a big deal.
No one cares what its ranking is. It’s in Canonsburg and it is the largest parade in Washington County which has 208,000 people and several communities larger than Canonsburg. It is the largest parade in the Pittsburgh area, but the parade isn’t the only thing, either. There are sky divers, free fireworks, a free pool party, music (polka included), and celebrities as I mentioned. Some say 50,000 show up for the parade. Questionable, but again, no one counts heads. It’s the Canonsburg parade.
Canonsburg is the home of Perry Como (they have a singing statute of him), Bobby Vinton, and the Four Coins (“Shangri-La“). Bobby Vinton was last year’s parade marshal and he did a little show the night before. Como’s dead, but the Four Coins who were popular in the 50s and 60s, regrouped a few years ago and are still performing. The original four, by the way. They were parade marshals this year along with two other contemporary groups.
Canonsburg’s an old town laid out in 1789 by Col.( probably self-designated) John Canon who was a miller. U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr stopped by in the early 1800s, trying to enlist a real colonel, George Morgan, to join him in raising an army against his own government. Morgan refused, and Burr labeled him a drunken fool. Burr later beat the traitor rap as well as accusations he murdered Alexander Hamilton.
Later, Canonsburg attracted European immigrants to man the coal mines and steel mills and manufacturing plants that sprang up in the region. A large influx of Italians and Greeks resulted in political rivalries that exist today though a little less virulent than in the past. Small manufacturing still exists as does a thriving candy manufacturing business founded by Frank Sarris who recently passed, but whose family still runs it. Bus loads come in for the candy, by the way.
The new Marcellus Shale (natural gas) boom in the area, and it’s location along I-79 make it a still hanging-together community. That and its residents’ and leaders’ determinations to keep the community activities and pride going.
That brings us back to the chairs. Don’t try stealing the chairs. I don’t recall a theft incident yet, but chair theft would be punishable by pummeling or death at the hands of residents. Chairs are like temporary castles as in “ my home is my castle”. There are complaints, of course. The chairs block the curb and the town says the chairs are not authorized and are therefore public property. Don’t think about it. Two miles of chairs on both sides of Pike street stay there.