Okey Dokey the clown had about 40 children mesmerized by a magic show Sunday afternoon when a few of them pointed to something in the sky, that caught the performer off guard.
It was the loud roar of a freight train with at least 100 cars going over the mammoth Nicholson Bridge, the largest reinforced concrete bridge in the world when it was completed in 1915.
The bridge still draws several freight trains a day as well as curiosity seekers to this corner of Wyoming County, and on this Sunday, the Nicholson Women’s Club and other civic groups did their level best to celebrate its 104th birthday with a street fair known as Bridge Day.
NWC President Joan Kupetski said the more than 70 vendors were enjoying a brisk patronage with weather in the 70s and a gentle breeze.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better day,” Kupetski smiled, with barbecue chicken sold out about an hour earlier than normal.
Marion Sweet, president of the Nicholson Heritage Association, was staffing a table with just about anything imaginable with a version of the bridge printed on it including mugs, ornaments, bookmarks, notecards, booklets, but no T-shirts.
Not to worry as Joe Lech had those in stock a couple doors down Main Street at Lech’s Pharmacy.
“The bridge is a big deal,” Sweet said, as if anyone needed a reminder.
She noted that an 1849 renovated freight station, two blocks away could very likely be ready as a visitor center come this time in 2020.
Nicholson Borough Councilwoman Joan Irion Jenkins said the street fair reminds townspeople and visitors alike of the value of working together to honor their shared past, and she hopes it will also provide a sense of pride in the community as well as a magnet to volunteers to make everything run smoother.
She said that since a much beloved mom and pop grocery store closed up seven years ago the borough has struggled with its identity, as something more than a place where freight trains pass four or five times a day, even if it is on an unbelievably long bridge.
Jenkins, who has resided in Nicholson for all her 78 years, proudly noted that a Streetscape grant has been received by the borough and will help residents such as herself see the community through a major sprucing up by next spring and summer.
“With that and the new Visitor’s Center, things are looking up,” she said. “But we can always use more volunteers to keep things moving in the right direction.”