We’re almost all the way through 2021.
Is it cliché to say we’re so glad it’s over or we can’t believe we made it? If so, tough.
We can’t believe we made it through 2021, the 2020 of 2021s.
Also hard to believe, but Coal Region Canary has been publishing and reporting original news for about 3 full years now. The time really has flown (another cliché).
And part of the reason it’s flown is because so much is happening around Schuylkill County and the greater anthracite coal region. Thankfully, we were able to cover more happenings around the area this year than in previous years combined.
If you can’t tell, we’re having a blast!
Here’s hoping 2022 is even blast-ier.
Schuylkill County Year in Photos 2021
But before we blast into 2022, let’s take a look back at the past 365 days with a review of our favorite photos from the previous year.
And we can think of no better photo that sums up 2021 than this one …
(Image: Tilden Twp. PD)
Remember her? She’s the Schuylkill Haven area woman who, back in March, had a bit of a road rage incident. And the driver whose face she got in was able to capture the rage and preserve it forever.
Here’s the rest of the year in photos, in no particular order:
Now, few forget that 2021 actually started with a big ol’ blast of winter. Back in late-January and early-February, Schuylkill County received nearly 2 feet (yes, FEET) of snow!
The totals got higher in the southern parts of Schuylkill County. We were in Orwigsburg watching them dig out of the Great Nor’Easter of 2021. In nearby Auburn, 22 inches of snow was officially measured.
Of course, we’ll never forget this moment. It happened toward the end of the year and just days after Pottsville lit its 2021 Christmas tree for the first time.
An Allentown man was apparently looking at Google Maps on his phone at the time, and we’re guessing the map didn’t show him the giant, lit Christmas tree right in the middle of the road. And he clobbered it, essentially cutting it in half.
The Big Stories
Coal Region Canary was at some of the biggest stories of the year in 2021, too, bringing readers insights they couldn’t find anywhere else.
A lot of times, the other news was just trying to keep up.
Check out some of these moments captured by our cameras throughout the year:
Tamaqua school board president Larry Wittig prepares to make a statement to the public regarding an investigation into an alleged hazing incident involving the Blue Raiders football team. Three students were eventually expelled for their alleged roles in the hazing.
The year 2021 locally was marked by more public activism than we can ever remember. Demonstrations ranged on a variety of topics, from abortion rights, to George Halcovage, and of course, masks.
Orwigsburg police attempt to remove a woman from a Blue Mountain School District board meeting for refusing to be silenced during a heated debate on the illegal mask mandate imposed by then-Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam.
The mask debate in Pennsylvania schools, for a short time, centered on Schuylkill County, particularly Tamaqua Area, which was the only school in the state to defy – at least for a while – the mandate. Larry Wittig (center) stood behind the decision and even attended a school board meeting in Hamburg to see if they’d follow his lead. They didn’t and eventually Tamaqua backed down when it feared losing aid money.
Schools weren’t the only ones dealing with mask issues. It seems like forever ago already but as Schuylkill County emerged from pandemic hysteria of 2020, the public still had to deal with restrictions on everyday life, like mask rules at local businesses. You couldn’t get into a Boyer’s store – or many supermarkets – without mask on through the first half of 2021.
The year in activism really got started with a series of protests aimed at getting Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage to resign amid sexual harassment allegations. Activists took to the Courthouse steps in Pottsville to voice their displeasure of his refusal to leave office.
Many of the same Democrat activists took their message on abortion rights to the door of Sen. Dave Argall’s office in downtown Pottsville. That was a mostly quiet protest and the only troublemakers who showed up tried stealing some of the signs protestors made for the rally.
A much feistier demonstration took place later in the year when those same demonstrators gathered to protest legislation that would have OK’d a forensic audit of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania. The local demonstrators were met on the scene by a counter-protest, made up mostly from a Hamburg-based group. Voices were raised but no one got violent.
Pottsville’s 2nd Pride festival featured several big names in the political arena, namely current Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman, who attended the event to promote his support for the cause, bash Republicans, and campaign for the US Senate in 2022’s midterm elections.
Anecdotally, we’ve seen a rise in violent crime in Schuylkill County in recent years. We were on the scene of a shooting in Port Carbon and captured this moment as police look at the vehicle the victim drove to Borough Hall to get police assistance after she’d been shot by her significant other just minutes prior.
Speaking of violent crime, we still can’t believe the woman accused of killing Pottsville businessman Pat Murphy back in 2019 in a New Orleans hotel room, Magen Hall, appeared in a Netflix series this year. Hall still awaits trial and just happened to be the focus of the mini-series Jailbirds: New Orleans. (Image: Netflix)
It was a big year for downtown Pottsville, too, the economic hub of Schuylkill County.
Alvernia University President John Loyack announced plans over the summer for a new school in the city, Pottsville CollegeTowne. The campus will be housed in the former GIANT supermarket building on Progress Ave.
But as one goes up, another comes down. The year also marked the end of the former Maroons sports bar on N. Centre St. in Pottsville. It met the proverbial wrecking ball in the Fall and gone with it, this fantastic ghost sign painted on the side of the massive building.
The year 2021, of course, marked 20 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. Ceremonies were held around Schuylkill County to mark the event.
In Palo Alto, a morning candlelight vigil and ceremony were held to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Palo Alto native James Ferugio was killed in the attack on WTC.
Retired US Army Gen. George Joulwan, a Pottsville native and one of the most decorated Schuylkill County veterans, gave the keynote speech at the city’s 2021 Memorial Day parade.
Schuylkill County Courthouse is glowing purple to mark Suicide Prevention and Overdose Prevention months here.
Local historian Mark Major entertains a crowd at Baber Cemetery in Pottsville, fascinating those in attendance with stories about the people buried in the city’s toniest graveyard.
The Year We Got Back Together
In 2020, many of the great community events in Schuylkill County were canceled due to pandemic restrictions. Luckily, in 2021, they came back and people seemed anxious to get back out among their friends and neighbors to celebrate.
We attended one of our favorite local events in 2021, the Shenandoah Heritage Day and Kielbasi Festival. The borough’s rich ethnic diversity is on full display at Heritage Day.
Schuylkill County Fair returned in 2021 and saw record crowds come through the gates just about every night the fair ran.
We took in our fair share of fireworks displays around the Fourth of July but were most impressed by the show put on in Seltzer.
And we’ll leave the year 2021 in the rear-view with this image. Its of the so-called Pink Supermoon that shined brightly over Schuylkill County earlier in the year.
Here’s hoping for a much better and brighter 2022!
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