From ships to cycles to music to football, Erie showed up this year.
Erie-area residents love their tall ships, motorcycles and live music.
They cherish the chance to celebrate and give.
They flock to Presque Isle State Park for any number of activities.
And they can be fanatics for area sports teams and athletes.
People from Erie and the surrounding communities gathered in large numbers during 2019 to celebrate and cheer and to watch and mingle.
Here’s a look at some of the top Celebrations that Erieites showed up for during the year:
Tall Ships Erie festival
Boatloads of residents and visitors flocked to Erie’s bayfront in August to view the 12 majestic vessels, including the U.S. Brig Niagara, that participated in the Tall Ships Erie festival.
An expanded festival footprint, great weather, a Parade of Sail, and a return appearance by the inflatable World’s Largest Rubber Duck, with its baby offspring, brought droves of maritime aficionados to the four-day event.
Ticket sales for the final three days of the festival totaled about 30,000 as the region celebrated the largest of the 11 Tall Ships America festivals held this past summer in U.S. and Canadian Great Lakes ports.
Erie’s next Tall Ships America festival is scheduled for 2022.
Roar on the Shore
Motorcyclists got revved up for another edition of the Erie-region’s largest motorcycle rally.
The 13th annual Roar on the Shore event, held in July, was all about change. After staging the event in downtown Erie near Perry Square annually from 2009 through 2018, Roar on the Shore officials relocated activities to Lake Erie Speedway in Greenfield Township.
That decision came after the Manufacturer & Business Association, which organizes the region’s largest motorcycle rally, could not come to terms on a reimbursement agreement covering the city of Erie’s projected Roar-related costs for the 2019 event. Erie-region bikers had mixed reviews on the four-day event.
Roar on the Shore officials on Nov. 21 announced plans to suspend the rally for 2020.
You can count on the Erie community giving its all every summer when the Erie Community Foundation’s annual Erie Gives fundraising campaign brings out the generosity of thousands.
In mid-August, 8,958 donors raised a record $5.53 million for 391 participating nonprofits during the 12-hour online campaign. Seven nonprofits received more than $100,000 and 112 nonprofits received more than $10,000.
Erie Gives’ 2019 numbers shattered the previous record of 7,917 donors and $4.45 million raised at the 2018 event.
The Erie region’s largest community gathering unfolds yearly in August as crowds estimated at 100,000 descend on downtown Erie for a CelebrateErie late-summer party held on State Street from Fourth to Ninth streets. Chalk-walk drawings once again commanded center stage at the three-day event.
There was a whole bunch of other fun activities on the agenda, including a KidsZone area, an interactive business district, acoustic acts, food and drink vendors, museums, lectures, music and a Cardboard Boat Regatta at the Bayfront Maritime Center.
Discover Presque Isle
Every year in late July, the Erie community gets to rediscover the beauty and allure of Presque Isle State Park and understand why Pennsylvania’s most-attended state park annually attracts an estimated 4 million visitors.
Discover Presque Isle is all about family fun. Nothing epitomizes that more than the festival’s trademark sand sculpture competition, which was among nearly 30 scheduled events at the three-day festival. And purchasing a frog button is a given. Proceeds support the Presque Isle Partnership’s programming and improvements at the park.
UPMC Sunset Music Series at Presque Isle State Park
Kicking back on a lawn chair, listening to the Lake Erie surf break ashore, as the sun slowly dips below the horizon. Can you think of a better way to spend a summer night in Erie?
Throw in some food trucks, hula hoop demonstrations, and a couple of rockin’ live bands and you have the weekly recipe for beach bliss at the UPMC Sunset Music Series at Presque Isle State Park’s Beach 1.
The free Wednesday night concerts can attract more than 4,000 when the weather cooperates.
Varsity Cup revisited
The Erie Times-News hosted the ninth annual Best of Varsity Cup awards dinner at the Bayfront Convention Center on June 26, and a record crowd of 900 showed up to celebrate the 2018-19 school year’s top area high school athletes, coaches and teams.
Buffalo Bills great Jim Kelly inspired attendees with his speech and then fired footballs into the crowd. McDowell High School softball player Rachel Marsden and Farrell High School multi-sport star Kyi Wright were honored as District 10’s Athletes of the Year.
SeaWolves’ record crowd
Mix together idyllic weather, tasty food, booming fireworks and exciting baseball, and Erie residents will flock to the park. That was the case at UPMC Park on July 3 when the SeaWolves set a park attendance record with a crowd of 7,045.
Derek Hill hit a home run off of Erie Insurance Arena in the 10th inning to give the Wolves a 4-3 win. The crowd then enjoyed a fireworks show afterward as the team closed a homestand on the eve of Independence Day.
State champions galore
During the winter and fall sports seasons, Erie County celebrated a flurry of high school state championships. In mid-March, Villa Maria Academy and Cathedral Preparatory School won PIAA Class 2A team swimming and diving state team titles. Other swimming state champions were: Villa’s 200-yard medley relay team, Prep’s Ethan Neff in the 100-yard backstroke, Prep’s 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays, and the Fairview High School girls in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
A few days later, Prep had reason to celebrate again when Carter Starocci won his second consecutive PIAA Class 3A wrestling title, and teammate Kawaun DeBoe won his first.
During the fall, North East High School golfer Lydia Swan, just a sophomore, won her first PIAA title. A few days later, the Villa water polo team captured the small school state title. Then, Villa Maria’s tennis doubles team of Sarah DeMarco and Tara Thomas made history with their third straight PIAA Class 2A title. On the same day, General McLane High School junior Dylan Throop won a PIAA cross country title.
Big games at The Gus
McDowell High School’s Gus Anderson Field was the site for two of the biggest high school football games of 2019.
The 81st annual Erie Lions Club Save-An-Eye Game on July 19 was moved to McDowell because of renovations at Veterans Stadium, and the County Team topped the Metro Team 23-13 in a new team format in front about 3,800 fans.
Then, on Oct. 4, McDowell hosted Cathedral Prep in a showdown that featured a playoff atmosphere at a packed Gus Anderson Field. Jaelen Carson’s circus catch for a touchdown in the fourth quarter gave the Ramblers a 29-26 victory as a stand-room-only crowd of almost 5,000 watched.
Mercyhurst’s double run
It was quite a year for the Mercyhurst University men’s basketball and baseball teams. Both teams won their respective Atlantic Regional tournaments to advance to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
Led by coach Gary Manchel and senior forward Patrick Smith, the Lakers’ basketball team threatened to upset No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Northwest Missouri State University in the quarterfinals in Evansville, Indiana, before losing 55-51 to the eventual national champions.
The baseball team traveled to Cary, North Carolina, in early June for the D-II World Series and almost upset national power Tampa before losing 4-2 in the opening game. Coach Joe Spano’s Lakers then won two straight games to reach the national semifinals before losing a second time to Tampa, the eventual national champion.
Machuga’s huge day
As a former Professional Bowlers Association touring pro, Mike Machuga has bowled in a lot of big tournaments. However, one of his most coveted goals was winning an elusive second Erie Times-News Open title.
On Jan. 27 before a packed North East Lanes, he did so in record fashion.
Machuga, whose previous Open title came in 1997, went 14-2 in match play and rolled to a record winning margin of 327 pins. Making his day even more memorable, Machuga also learned he was being inducted into the Northwest Pennsylvania Chapter of the USBC Hall of Fame.
Ron Leonardi can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/ETNLeonardi. Jeff Kirik can be reached at 870-1679 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNkirik.