TOWANDA - Bradford County celebrated its bicentennial in a big way Saturday with a patriotic parade and other activities in Towanda.

The town was bursting with pride on the 200th birthday of the county. Prior to the parade, state Rep. Tina Pickett and state Sen. Gene Yaw took part in a ceremony on the county courthouse steps as they and other dignitaries formally recognized the bicentennial.

In addition, as part of Old People's Day, two residents, Newman Benson, 91, and Florence Gowin Smith, 98, were honored as the oldest. Smith's daughter, Charlotte Sullivan, said that her mother - who will be 99 next month - was touched by the recognition. "She thought it was very nice."

Pickett, who presented the commissioners a resolution from the state House of Representatives, said she wondered what life was like in 1812 for residents here. She said it had to be an exciting, challenging, and interesting time - like today. Pickett said she looked forward to the county's next 200 years. She noted that state Rep. Matt Baker was also involved in making the resolution possible.

Yaw presented a citation in honor of the county's bicentennial. "I hope it finds a place of special significance in the courthouse," he said. The three commissioners, Doug McLinko, Mark Smith, and Daryl Miller, who accepted the honors from Pickett and Yaw, also rode in the parade as grand marshals.

Regarding Old People's Day, Yaw reflected on the importance of the event, which he said meant something to him. He feared that older people were less appreciated in today's society. County residents 70 years old and older were invited to gather for a group photo in front of the courthouse. A strong showing of veterans was in the audience.

Copies of the photograph will be presented to the commissioners and the historical society, which will include it in their archives. When the people were asked if they wanted Old People's Day to continue in the future, there was a positive response from the crowd. Matt Carl, managing curator at the Bradford County Historical Society, and Henry Farley, president of the historical society, were encouraged by the day. Displays from the 10 museums in the the county were set up in the courthouse.

"It's been a good opportunity for all of them to be together at one place," Carl said.

"It's going very well," he said of the celebration. "We've been very happy with the weather. It's been a beautiful day. People of all ages have been here."

Dressed as Ben Franklin, Jay Cory, manager of Ben Franklin Crafts in Towanda, distributed copies of the Declaration of Independence. The eloquent words of the historic document were read by Guy Abell.

Civil War re-enactors slept out the night before on the lawn of the courthouse and were present Saturday in costume. Their encampment included tents and even a small camp fire. The microcosm of Civil War life on display brought the past home.

Kurt Lafy, one of the re-enactors, said that McLinko gave them permission for their camp fire. The commissioner proved he had a sense of humor.

Lafy recalled McLinko's response. "He said, 'just don't burn the courthouse down.'" During the ceremony on the courthouse steps, McLinko thanked the re-enactors for taking part in the bicentennial. Lafy said it was a good night for the re-enactors to camp out.

"It was a beautiful night, beautiful sleeping weather."

As a re-enactor, Lafy noted that he was representing the 141st PA Volunteer Infantry Co. A. He said this is the regiment from Bradford County that was in the Civil War. He noted that people were interested in their re-enactment, including their uniforms and medals.

"We bring the fact home that this is what their ancestors lived." After the parade - after the floats, the firetrucks, and the marchers had disappeared down the street - one resident, Joyce Davidson of Milan, walked back down the sidewalk.

She said that she enjoyed herself during the festivities.

"It was a good parade."

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: