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Downtown event launches Reading’s 275th anniversary celebration

A glittering gold drape was pulled aside Wednesday morning, uncovering a banner bearing the city’s official 275th anniversary slogan: “Our Home. Our Heart.”

The reveal at the Santander Performing Arts Center closed a media event launching next year’s commemoration of Reading’s founding in 1748.

“Happy birthday, Reading,” Mayor Eddie Moran said. “We look good at 274.”

The mayor praised the city as a center of innovation, higher education, recreation, talent development, business opportunity and more.

“The good always supersedes the evil,” he said. “And believe it: We are a unique, extraordinary amazing city.”

The city’s present challenges may be different from those of the past, he said, but the experience of 274 years has shown, no matter the obstacle, Reading is up to the challenge.

The mayor shared his hopes for the city, quoting from his inauguration speech in 2020: “My vision is that Reading will be a city where the dreams of every child, every worker, every veteran, every senior, every one of our neighbors will come true. And that we will become a role model for other cities as we take great pride in becoming a thriving metropolis where anyone can live, learn, work and play.”

Speaking of the city as a home for many residents of diverse backgrounds, Moran reflected on the celebration’s themes.

“We belong here. We will not leave,” he said. “Our story is far from over, and we are proud to say that Reading, Pennsylvania, is our home, our heart.”

Mayor Eddie Moran speaks Wednesday during the launch of the city’s 275th anniversary celebration at the Santander Performing Arts Center. (READING EAGLE — MICHELLE LYNCH)

Laura Reppert, anniversary coordinator, said she is honored and excited to be part of what is officially Reading’s bicenterquasquigenary.

Reppert, a city resident and graduate of Reading High School, said she moved away several times, but is always drawn back to the city.

“I would say that Reading is my ‘heimat,’ as the Germans would say,” she said. “If you know this word, it is the place where your soul, where you really feel at home. And that is Reading for me.”

There are nearly 95,000 who call Reading home, she said.

“And we are a diverse bunch from different backgrounds,” she said, “but we are all brought together by this physical place, this city.”

Reppert said the anniversary committee has begun planning a series of events that will kick off New Year’s Eve, but is seeking greater input from diverse sectors of the community.

As part of the festivities, she said, the city plans to gather stories from longtime residents and newcomers of various ethnicities. Publications and media projects telling the story of the city also are planned.

It is important to collect stories and pass them on to future generations, said Wynton Butler Sr., a former history teacher and director of social services for Reading School District.

Butler is the father of Councilman Wesley Butler, 20, the youngest councilor in the city’s history.

The elder Butler related a tale about the legendary 19th-century lawman William “Bully” Lyon, a city detective and constable.

Though sworn to uphold the law, Lyon defied the fugitive slave law by helping enslaved Blacks escaping their masters find sanctuary along their journey to Canada.

On one occasion, agents pursued a pair who had escaped to Reading, but the slave catchers lost the trail when they were turned away by Lyon.

The fugitives were safely locked in the old jail cells at Sixth and Chestnut streets, Butler said. They remained hidden there in an unlocked cell until it was safe to resume their journey on the underground railroad.

Butler heard the tale from the late historian Frank Gilyard, founder of the Mid-Atlantic African-American Museum.

The museum’s collection, formerly exhibited at Old Bethel AME Church, 119 N.10th St., will become part of a planned cultural resource center at Albright College.

“Those are the stories that our children need to hear,” Butler said. “Reading has a million stories like that from all different ethnicities and contributors to what happened in this city.”

Berks County poet laureate, Anthony Orozco, a Latino poet, journalist, story-teller and former Reading Eagle reporter, performed a poem he called a love letter to Reading.

The poem, “The Boys Who Pop Wheelies on Bikes Without Brakes” was inspired by the youth who do bicycle stunts while riding through the city’s streets.

Reading 275th Anniversary launch
Berks County historian George M. Meiser IX speaks Wednesday during the launch of the city’s 275th anniversary celebration at the Santander Performing Arts Center. (READING EAGLE — MICHELLE LYNCH)

George M. Meiser IX, Berks County historian, also was among those who spoke at the event.

Meiser of Exeter Township, grew up in Reading’s northwest section.

He remembered how, as a boy, he participated in the city’s 200th anniversary festivities in 1948, marching in the school parade as a student at Charles S. Foos Elementary School — now apartments — at Douglass and Weiser streets.

He also marched in the playgrounds parade, representing Baer Park.

Meiser, who also reflected on the more recent 250th anniversary celebration in 1998, said he appreciates the opportunity of taking part in next year’s events.

Other speakers included Council President Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr. and Councilwoman Donna Reed.


Source: Berkshire mont

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