By Kaylee Lindenmuth
SHENANDOAH - Today marks the end of our second year serving the communities of northern Schuylkill County, and with that, we take a look back at the stories we've covered from the field -- stories that changed lives, communities, and skylines -- history written, and historical structures erased -- plights, and proud moments.
As we at the Shenandoah Sentinel look forward to another year as the only news source dedicated strictly to "north-of-the-mountain" communities, we look back at how far we've come as a community in northern Schuylkill County so far in 2017, and some of the stories we've covered throughout the year.
A New Tradition Begins
SHENANDOAH - A group of Shenandoah Valley High School seniors had a vision for their senior project, one which would begin a new tradition featuring two culinary staples of the coal-mining community they call home.
Emily Tovar, Liz Rosa De Aza, Lynn Rosa De Aza and Marisol Velasquez, members of Shenandoah Valley's student council, spearheaded a project to host a Kielbasi-Pierogie drop, much like New York's Crystal Ball drop, to ring in the New Year.
District Orchestra at Shenandoah Valley
SHENANDOAH - For the first time in Shenandoah Valley history, the high school hosted Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) District 10 Orchestra Festival in January, bringing over 100 of the best high school musicians from east-central Pennsylvania to the coal region.
Threats of a Prison Closure
FRACKVILLE - In January, the commonwealth Department of Corrections (DOC) placed the State Correctional Institution at Frackville on a list of five prisons in the commonwealth slated for potential closure, two of which would be chosen to close.
Following petitions by residents and statements from state lawmakers, the DOC announced that only SCI-Pittsburgh would close, while SCI-Frackville and the remaining three prisons would remain open.
MAHANOY CITY - In February, the Mahanoy Area School District revealed and discussed plans to reconfigure the districts three schools into two, eliminating the middle school and creating an Junior/Senior High School, in a system similar to that which Shenandoah Valley and North Schuylkill already employ.
The district discussed the plan at a public hearing on February 23rd, and the school board approved the plan at their regular meeting two days later.
A Skyline Changed
MAHANOY CITY - In March, the landmark, but dilapidated, Kaier Brewery building began to list during its planned demolition, forcing the closure of Mahanoy City's north side and an emergency demolition.
Crews brought in a 100-foot crane to demolition the building, while residents watched from wherever they could, as the historic landmark came down.
About 12 residents were displaced, according to Sentinel archives, and North Main Street (PA Route 339) was closed throughout the process, which lasted four days.
The Storm of the Season
SHENANDOAH - Winter Storm Stella struck the area in March, dumping roughly a foot and a half of snow or more in the Shenandoah area.
The snow effective shut the borough down on its first day, however, mining equipment, dozers, snowblowers, and shovels received no break in clearing snow before the borough returned to normalcy three days later.
The End of a 142-Year Era
SHENANDOAH - In March, the Pottsville Republican-Herald newspaper shuttered their 19 North Main Street office, marking the end of a 142-year era in which Shenandoah was home to at least one physical office of a local newspaper.
The Fall of a Shopping Hub
FRACKVILLE - Early in 2017, the owners of the Schuylkill Mall near Frackville filed for bankruptcy. Shortly after, in the subsequent auction, Missouri-based NorthPoint Development purchased the mall.
Following months of silence, creating fear among tenants and local residents, and following the loss of several tenants, including anchor The Bon-Ton, NorthPoint announced it would demolish the mall, making way for two warehouses on the property.
Honoring our Heroes
NORTHERN SCHUYLKILL - Three boroughs in our area - Shenandoah, Ashland, and Frackville - lined their main thoroughfares with banners honoring veterans from their respective communities.
Answering the Call to Service
NORTHERN SCHUYLKILL - Northern Schuylkill has a rich history when it comes to the fire service, and specifically it's dedicated volunteer firefighters.
From structure fires to automatic fire alarms, whether in the midst of Winter Storm Stella or in the middle of the night, our communities have something to be proud of in our fire companies.
Little League Stars Shine
NORTHERN SCHUYLKILL - Local youth baseball players from northern Schuylkill County shined on the baseball diamond throughout the 2017 season, from the local league level to All-Stars.
Shenandoah's 9-10 and 11-12 year old teams rallied as far as the district semifinals, which were broadcast live by The Shenandoah Sentinel, where they fell to Schuylkill Haven and Halifax/Millersburg respectively.
Ten Years of Kielbasi Fest
SHENANDOAH - On May 20, the 10th Edition of Shenandoah's Kielbasi Festival was held, attracting thousands to downtown Shenandoah.
Ethnic Foods, live music, games, and a kielbasa and bleenie mascot were some of the items which drew the crowd.
Bank Robbery in Frackville
FRACKVILLE - On May 26, a State Police Bomb Squad was dispatched to Frackville's Miners Bank after a Shenandoah man attempted to rob the location with a note, leaving behind a suspicious package.
The man, later identified as Larry Dettery, was caught on video running towards Englewood following the robbery.
Dettery would be apprehended by police the following day,
2017 SVHS Graduation
SHENANDOAH - The 2017 Shenandoah Valley Graduation took place on June 8 at the district's Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Summer of Block Parties
NORTHERN SCHUYLKILL - A Coal Region Tradition - Fire Companies and Churches across the region held their annual block parties over the summer.
As usual, crowds came for bleenies, pierogies, among other food items, and fire companies in Shenandoah, Girardville, Altamont, and more held fire truck parades as part of their event.
103rd Our Lady of Mount Carmel Procession
SHENANDOAH - Divine Mercy Parish hosted the 103rd Annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel Procession in mid-July.
Church parishioners paraded through the streets of Shenandoah on July 16, carrying several religious items, while residents pinned money to a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Tar-And-Chip causes Gold Star frustration
SHENANDOAH/GILBERTON - In July, PennDOT applied an oil-and-chip treatment to PA Route 924 between Shenandoah and Frackville, more-commonly known as the Gold Star Highway.
The highway, one of Schuylkill County's most heavily travelled roads with 11,000 travelling the road each day, plagued drivers with loose rocks cracking windshields and chipping the paint on vehicles.
National Night Out observed in northern Schuylkill
NORTHERN SCHUYLKILL - Three northern Schuylkill County communities observed National Night Out in early August.
Girardville, Mahanoy City, and Ashland all held events in observation of the day, intended to bridge the gap between emergency responders and the public.
Pioneer Tunnel dedicates headframe
ASHLAND - Ashland's Pioneer Tunnel tourist attraction dedicated a historic mine headframe in August.
The 35-foot structure was dedicated by the Department of Environmental Protection at a ceremony on August 14.
Shenandoah Valley Homecoming
SHENANDOAH - Shenandoah Valley High School hosted their annual Homecoming Parade and Float Contest in September.
Prior to the Shenandoah Valley vs Minersville football game, students and homecoming candidates paraded through the street on September 29.
The Sophomore class "Beauty and the Beast" float won the float contest, while Danielle DiNofa was crowned Homecoming Queen.
Mahanoy Area Homecoming
MAHANOY CITY - Mahanoy Area's homecoming festivities also coincided with their matchup against Minersville Area.
On a rainy October 13, homecoming candidates paraded through Mahanoy City.
At halftime, Megan Bisco was crowned queen.
Rising From The Ashes
MAHANOY CITY - After their firehouse burned in 2013, the Washington Hook & Ladder Fire Company dedicated a new firehouse on October 14.
Ladder 457 led a parade through the streets of Mahanoy City prior to the station dedication, attended by Mahanoy City firefighters and residents, and firefighters from across Eastern Pennsylvania.
Santa parachutes into Shenandoah
SHENANDOAH - On November 24, Santa Claus made an appearance on Shenandoah's west end... parachuting out of an airplane into the high school football stadium.
The event, sponsored by Mrs. T's Pierogies, is an annual tradition, and went without an issue this year. In previous years, weather has forced Santa to arrive by fire engine or MedEvac helicopter.
The jump preceded the town's Christmas parade.