City of Independence Bicentenary Celebration Begins With Ice Cream Party, See Gallery
A 200-year coronation and prison sentence in Whitesville
By Sandy Rigas
Smiles were wide as young and old gathered on the lawn of the Whitesville Fire Department on Wednesday night for an ice cream party to begin the city’s long-awaited bicentennial celebration of Independence.
Under sunny summer skies and moderate temperatures, residents and former residents enjoyed ice cream and conversation, with the music of Dick Pensyl, gathering in the tent, sitting in chairs on the lawn and strolling on sidewalk. Some of those who had homes along Main Street enjoyed the party from their porches and lawns.
Adding color to the scene are the many bright and creative costumes of past eras, with bonnets and long skirts for women and girls, suspenders and short pants for young boys. Local resident Denny Shay was dressed in a vintage “Daniel Boone/Davy Crockett” wild frontier costume.
Among the highlights of the evening, the crowning of the Bicentenary Court. The town’s oldest residents, Lyle Van Etten and Luella Kear, were crowned king and queen, and the prince and princess were Wrigley Smith and Ciarra Delill.
Among the local dignitaries present were New York State Senator George Borrello and Allegany County Legislator Dwight Fanton. Representing State Assembly Joe Giglio was Community Liaison Officer Deb Aumuck.
“The Prison – Resurrected”
Besides ice cream, the presence of the recently restored Independence City Jail, which was originally housed in the old American Legion, where “all law and order matters were then conducted, was particularly interesting and delightful. said Independence City Supervisor Jeri Reichman. “Lost” for years, the structure ended up in a hedgerow on Ike Fanton’s farm, where it served for a time as a chicken coop and pigsty.
Bill Meunier of Independence City Council undertook the arduous task of rehabilitating the jail, which included “rebuilding the bottom”, he said. “It took about 90 hours of work to fix it.” Looking around at the smiling faces peering through the bars, he added, “It was worth it. People are what we do all this for.
On loan right now for the bicentennial, the city of Independence hopes to give the restored jail a permanent home at Whitesville City Hall, Reichman said.
Meanwhile, the children lined up on Wednesday night with their parents for the chance to step inside the prison and have their pictures taken. The jail will remain on display on the lawn of the Whitesville Fire Department.