A couple weeks ago, the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce held the 39th Annual Oil Heritage Festival in downtown Oil City, with entertainment, food, a parade, arts and crafts, children’s activities, and more.
This was my fifth Oil Heritage Festival since working at the Chamber, and each year, I have the privilege of seeing our area come alive. Those who have moved away drive miles to come home for the events, people fill the streets and parks to enjoy the music and vendors, kids scream with excitement when catching candy from parade floats, and friends and family are reunited at family and class reunions.
The amount of community pride during this week is amazing to witness, and I look forward to next year’s festival when we celebrate the 40th milestone. At the same time, though, I hear many comments from those who were around for the festival in years past, such as, “It’s sad how much this festival has suffered,” “This park used to be completely filled during Oil Heritage years ago,” or “I miss when this festival was a week long with events every day.”
Many don’t say these things with a negative intention, but it can be a huge damper to those who work hard to make the festival happen. I see our staff, volunteers, local business owners, nonprofit organizations, vendors, and City of Oil City employees work tirelessly to bring this festival to the community.
The community could have given up on this festival when oil manufacturers left in the 1990s, but instead, we stuck together and continued to show our pride, no matter what happened. The festival is not the same as it was when it started 40 years ago, but it represents what our community has faced and how we have come out stronger than ever.
What does our area’s “heritage” mean to you? Maybe you think of your family and the generations who have grown up here, the oil industry that once existed here, or the many people who helped build this area. We would not be where we are today without all of this.
At the same time, think about our future and those who are making a huge impact in our community right now. It’s important to not forget about our heritage and where we have come from, but it’s also essential to appreciate the efforts taking place to help our area continue to thrive. Maybe we are not “booming” as we were years ago, but I witness community members coming together each day to help make a difference and move our region in the right direction.
As a young professional in Venango County, I take great pride in where we have been and where we are now. I also look forward to see where we will be in the next 40 years, and I encourage you to do the same.
(Learn more about the Oil Heritage Festival at oilheritagefestival.com)