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Easton's hiring a town crier. No one is applying.

Plus, on the trail of a lost Pennsylvania river.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.
April 28, 2023
Inside this edition: Lehigh Valley's 'lost river,' battlefield overnights, chocolate milk, tree deliveries, light show, and something to cry about. 
🏆 TEST YOUR PA IQ: What a week! If you think you've been paying attention, there's only one way to prove it: Put your knowledge to the test with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: ‘Landmark step toward equality,’ legal pot next door, and local media fusion.
A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

The name of which popular Pennsylvania-based gas station and convenience store chain is the Ojibwe word for Canadian goose? 

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)

Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One thing worth reading: Salon reports that researchers have sent labeled objects, mostly marked-up ping-pong balls, down a "lost river" in the Lehigh Valley. None have ever been seen again.

» One thing worth knowing: The National Park Service is turning historic farmhouses on Gettysburg battlefields into quasi-Airbnbs. WITF reports that includes the “bloodiest farm” in American history.

» One thing worth sharing: Wasted Milk Duds and Paydays from Hershey's are fed to cows at a York County farm, which sells milk to the chocolatier. The Inquirer ($) calls it a full-circle mooment.

» One thing worth trying: Wish your Philadelphia block was a little leafier? You can get a street tree, or a yard tree, for that matter, delivered by the city. TikToker @andrew_the_arborist shows you how it works.

» One lightshow worth reliving: If you missed the Northern Lights earlier this week, no worries:  Photographers and videographers in State CollegeNorthampton County, and Union County did not.

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Your guide to finding resources on cases, vaccines, and tests

» Dems in Pa. House majority move on long-stalled priorities

» Editorial: Penn State prez unfairly took aim at 'fake news'

» Pa. doesn’t fund public defense. Shapiro wants to change that.

» Pa. business registry 'black hole' followed system update

» Full guide to the candidates for Pennsylvania's Supreme Court

» Guide to the candidates for Commonwealth, Superior Courts

» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.’s 2023 primary election

» Court decision does little to clear up confusion over ballot curing

» Register to vote in the May 16 primary here; deadline May 1

» Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary; deadline May 9

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A town crier rings a bell outside a storefront.
Easton will give you something to cry about. (Chris Fithall / Flickr)

Are you loud? A fan of Middle English and formal decrees? Owner of a very vintage wardrobe?

If the answer to any of those questions was yes, the City of Easton would like a word.

For roughly two years, the centuries-old seat of Northampton County has been looking for a new town crier to replace the previous one, who moved away. And in that time there have been no takers. Not a one.

(Quick, someone blame millennials.)

Mayor Salvatore Panto Jr. says there haven’t been any applications either, but he isn’t letting go.

Panto admits the position is a nice-to-have and not a need-to-have in the digital age. But he thinks it’s fun, and as a former history teacher he feels it’s a nice little nod to the city’s colonial-era bonafides.

“Easton was one of three cities chosen for public readings of the Declaration of Independence,” Panto told PA Local. “It’s also home to the oldest continuously operating outdoor farmers market in the country,” which predates the Revolutionary War.

The town crier commemorates both, working at the annual Heritage Day festival and the opening of the market each year.

There’s more: According to the official job application, the town crier is also expected at the Christmas Peace Candle lighting, major mayoral announcements, “and some of the other 120 events held annually.”

All appearances are subject to MOOSE, or Mayor’s Office of Special Events, approval. 

Before you apply, know that the position is unpaid. It’s also bring-your-own-costume.

Panto says the town is open to discussing a wardrobe reimbursement but added: “We haven’t discussed it with an applicant yet because we haven’t had an applicant.”

He’s hopeful that’s about to change.

“Believe it or not we just had a phone call yesterday with a person who may or may not be interested,” he said on Thursday. “They wanted more information, but that’s the only call we’ve had.”

Part of the problem, Panto theorizes, is the time commitment. But he acknowledges the shadow of Easton’s former (and also first) town crier, David Rose, still looms large: “David left very big shoes to fill.”

It was Rose who pitched the idea to Panto before becoming the mayor’s inaugural appointee. He held the post for eight years — while commuting to his real job as a program development specialist with the New Jersey Department of Corrections — and represented Easton in international town crier competitions.

Now retired from his 9-to-5, Rose lives in Maryland and serves as president of the American Guild of Town Criers, which his successor in Easton is encouraged to join, per city officials.

The Guild — which functions like other craftsmen's guilds, setting standards and exerting some control over industry competition — is down to less than 20 rank-and-file members, a sizable share of them in New Jersey. (Britain’s equivalent, the Ancient and Honorable Guild of Town Criers, has closer to 150 members.)

The American Guild’s website celebrating an ancient craft that predates mass media by eons is currently out of service. “I’m not quite sure what happened,” Rose notes of the technological snafu. He remained remarkably soft-spoken throughout our 30-minute phone call.

Rose says a good town crier is affable, community-minded, and historically literate. They should also be comfortable writing proclamations and shouting them. Voice projection is key. Raw volume isn’t.

Rose says he kept his voice limber by singing in his car on the way to work at top volume.

I ask about the period clothing.

“There’s a number of companies that make costumes for the reenactment community. You can just google it,” he explained. “Historical Emporium has menswear.”

Rose makes a brief conversational detour to note that women often make exceptional town criers: “They sometimes have the best voices for projecting. We have a few women members [in the Guild].”

Rose, who is now the town crier for a local historic preservation group in Maryland — active appointments are required for Guild membership — says some criers are paid when hired out by local businesses. But he’s only aware of one crier with anything resembling formal, gainful employment: A chamber of commerce hire in New England.

In Easton, the search for an eager volunteer will continue. The job listing and application, which asks interested parties to draft a 100-200 word proclamation on the spot, will stay up.

Rose isn’t necessarily surprised that it’s been slow-going. Volunteerism is down just about everywhere. The craft is also increasingly esoteric. But he’d love to see the opening filled.

So would Panto, and the mayor hopes that maybe someone reading this will step forward. Here’s to getting the word out.

Colin Deppen, PA Local editor

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Our favorite quote about Pennsylvania — or from a Pennsylvanian — this week.

“For me, this is very fun. Except for the people problems. Those are no fun.”

—Luis von Ahn, co-founder of Pittsburgh's Duolingo, on running the company behind the most popular language learning app in the world

Our favorite reader-submitted photo of the week.
A new forget-me-not in the meadow, via David G. Send us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A blue flower unfurling from a larger plant.
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

Wawa is the Ojibwe, or Ojibwa, word for Canadian goose. It's also the name of the Pennsylvania town where the Wawa company started.

"To this day, Wawa's corporate headquarters are still located in Wawa and the Canada Goose is now a literal and metaphorical symbol for our company," spokesperson Lori Bruce told NJ.com

There's way more Wawa trivia where that came from, including that the company started out as an iron foundry, The New York Times once labeled it a "convenience cult," it has its own "university," and Wawa stores once carried food from Pizza Hut and/or Taco Bell.

Thanks for reading PA Local. We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? 

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