We’re not exaggerating when we say Saturday’s Luzerne County Arts and Entertainment Hall of Fame induction ceremony was the valley’s social event of the season.
Seriously: There was dancing. And smiles, and laughter, and tears. (The good kind.) Many people were eagerly looking forward to the celebration, and it did not disappoint.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. This was a fun event, honoring fun and talented people who have contributed much to our community — and, in some cases, to arts and culture nationally and internationally.
We know some people aren’t fans of “participation trophies,” and aren’t much interested in awards ceremonies that turn into echo chambers for political posturing or mutual admiration societies among the rich and famous.
Saturday wasn’t any of those things. It was about hometown folks who’ve made good.
Inductee Jimmy Harnen made a key point when he refuted an old saying that states it’s not about where the journey begins, but where it ends.
Harnen reversed that idea.
He said for him, it’s all about where his journey began — in Plymouth, Luzerne County. He said it began with how he and his sister, Beverly, were raised and taught to be respectful, polite, sincere, genuine and caring.
Right on point. That’s exactly why the Luzerne County Arts & Entertainment Hall of Fame was established — to honor those who achieved so much and who learned all those same critical lessons right here in Luzerne County.
Harnen and each of the other inductees fit that bill.
The first inductee was Bobby Baird, 93, a legendary trumpet player who has played for U.S. Presidents and dignitaries all over the world.
In his emotional acceptance speech, Baird said he was humbled and honored to have been chosen a member of the inaugural class.
And that was the theme throughout the night — every inductee said they were honored and humbled and thrilled to be in this first class.
Sue Hand, the prolific watercolor painter from Back Mountain, was so overwhelmed that she cried during her acceptance sppech.
Sam Lesante, representing Oscar winner Jack Palance, and Erika Funke, accepting for Tony Award winning Santo Loquasto, were also humbled to be chosen to accept the awards for the legendary recipients. Likewise Tony Brooks, accepting on behalf of 19th century artist George Catlin for the Wilkes-Barré Preservation Society.
All of the inductees and their families and friends were gathered for a very special evening. They were awed by the speeches, the performances and the realization that this Hall of Fame was long overdue and is now here for good to honor all who have made such significant contributions in arts and entertainment all over the world.
Harnen, Baird, Hand, Palance, Loquasto and the iconic Mel Wynn & the Rhythm Aces, Lee Vincent, The Buoys, The Badlees, C. Edgard Patience, Barbara Weisberger, Catlin, Ham Fisher, Adrian Pearsall, Breaking Benjamin, Brunon Kryger & the Kryger Brothers, Eddie Day Pashinski and Joe Nardone & the All Stars — all deserve this honor and they will be joined in the years to come by so many others who have accomplished so much and who have given all of us lasting memories.
We at the Times Leader were proud to be involved in the project, which was especially important to one of our own, reporter and columnist Bill O’Boyle. He and local music legend Joe Nardone Sr. were recognized with Founders Awards for their trailblazing efforts to bring the Hall of Fame to fruition.
”When Bill first started gathering the committee together, I knew that the Times Leader as organization would throw full support towards the non profit’s mission of celebrating arts and entertainment legends from Luzerne County,” Publisher Kerry Miscavage said. “They really did build a bridge within this underserved area, and we could not be more proud of Bill and the entire LCAEHOF committee as they awarded the first group of inductees.”
Congratulations to all the inductees, and to those who made the event possible.
We look forward to future inductions. And more dancing.
— Times Leader