A a catalyst that brings us together
The 32nd year of Musikfest officially began with the opening ceremony Aug. 7 held at Aetna Americaplatz at Levitt Pavilion Steel Stacks.
ArtsQuest President and CEO Kassie Hilgert welcomed the audience and thanked all of those who make Musikfest possible, including 50 full-time staff members, 1,700 volunteers, 200 seasonal staff members and 150 corporate partners.
She handed the microphone to Lydia Johnson, a recent Freedom HS graduate, for the singing of the National Anthem before Bishop Hopeton Clennon of Central Moravian Church delivered an invocation.
"On this day we welcome visitors to our beautiful Bethlehem, we pledge to performers and providers of goods and services our enthusiastic applause and insatiable appetite," Clennon said. "And during the 10 days to come, we think wistfully of favorable weather conditions."
The hope for good weather was a theme carried over into the speeches of each of the other speakers.
"Each year Musikfest is a catalyst that brings us together to share our great city with people from all over the country and the world," Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez said.
He then shared the record-breaking statistics of the festival with the audience: 550 music and art performances, 10 styles of music, nearly 350 performers, 16 stages and approximately 60 food vendors.
"That's what makes Musikfest special," he said, prior to wishing the audience members enjoyment and great weather for the duration of the festival.
Joe Pietrantonio, vice president of environment, health, safety and quality and corporate chief engineer of Air Products, presented three awards to sponsors of Musikfest for their support. Lehigh Pizza, Waste Management and 6ABC each received one of the glass-blown music note shaped awards.
Before the conclusion of the ceremony, a moment of silence was taken in memory of Jolly Joe Timmer and Bud Berge for their years of contribution. Timmer was a well-known polka musician and owners of Sunny Radio 1100. Berge portrayed Santa at Christkindlmart since it began in 1993. Both died recently.
"These two gentlemen have helped impact generations and we look forward to having their influence and their involvement with us from a different level for years to come," Hilgert said.
Timmer's orchestra was scheduled to perform at Festplatz on the north side of the festival at 6 p.m. that night.