London has Buckingham Palace; Paris, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre; Philadelphia has Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

Then, of course, there are many small American towns with claims to fame that are somewhat less impressive. Take Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum in San Antonio for example, or the world’s biggest ball of twine (19,873 pounds in 2013) in Cawker City, Kansas.

The little borough of Bangor falls comfortably in between. Founded by in 1760 by Robert M. Jones, who named it after his hometown in Wales, it was a key player in the region’s then-booming slate industry. Today, it’s home to more than 100 businesses, a thriving parks department, and numerous cultural and
civic organizations.

It’s also home to some notable attractions that are absolutely worth the short drive to get to them.

Franklin Hill Vineyards
7833 Franklin Hill Rd, Bangor

Local wine legend Elaine Pivinski and her former husband bought a 35-acre farm in the late ’60s. The couple toyed with planting apples, but settled on a single acre of grapes in 1976. That little patch grew to 13 acres by the ’80s, and the output was sold to local wineries.

That is, until they established their own winery in 1981. It’s underground, which provides the steady temperature needed to make good wine. Early batches were just a few hundred gallons, but they sold well.

Decades passed, and sales continued to increase. Elaine and her husband parted ways in the mid-’80s, and she now is the sole owner of the business, which she has expanded. The vineyard now produces 68,000 gallons of vino annually.

Franklin Hill Vineyard is also a registered woman-owned business entity, and employs nearly 30 women. Elaine says some of her early hires were moms, just like her, who wanted fulfilling work while still having time for their families.

No matter how your palate is tuned, Franklin Hill probably has a wine to match it, from Chambourcin (a dry, oak-aged red) to Carnival (cotton candy infused white).

But the biggest seller by far is Sir Walter’s Red, a sweet Concord wine named after her father who also smoked Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco.

“We recently started our own distributorship,” Elaine says. “Our wines are available in Pennsylvania state stores, as well as our own shops. Late last year, Wegmans added the brand to its stores, and we’re the number-one seller in the Lehigh Valley Wegmans stores.”

Bangor Trust Brewing
15 Broadway, Bangor

When is a brewery not a brewery? When it serves all sorts of delicious food and locally made beverages—but hasn’t made a
single drop of its own. Yet.

Co-owners Traci McGinty and Leo Bongiorno share decades of experience in the brewing industry, and formed their business partnership in 2016. They took over the former Blue Mesa and adjoining property for
their brewpub.

The brewery itself is under construction, with its sights set on becoming a nano-brewery by the fall of this year, starting with a “3-1/2 barrel brewing system for porter and German
pilsner,” Traci says.

For now, Bangor Trust Brewing keeps its customers satisfied with house specialties like Prince Edward Island mussels and frites and an assortment of soups, salads, and flatbreads. You can wash it all down with craft beers from local breweries such as Hijinx, Sly Fox, Funk; Hardball cider; spirits from Social Still; and wines from Franklin Hill, Tolino Vineyards, and the Renegade Winery.

Traci adds that Bangor Trust strives to source things locally as much as possible. “We get most of our proteins from Nello’s Specialty Meats. Our dairy comes from Klein Farms; coffee, from Baby Harry Coffee Roaster; and we get our ice cream from Dinky’s, right in our neighborhood,” she says.

Columcille Megalith Park
2155 Fox Gap Rd, Bangor

When you’re squeezed by the pressures of daily life, consider escaping to the serenity of Columcille Megalith Park. Sort of an American Stonehenge, Columcille was founded by Presbyterian minister William Cohea Jr. A soul-stirring visit to the isle of Iona—where early Celts thought one’s spirit could pass between the physical and mystical worlds—inspired him to recreate its ambience in the U.S. 

The park features scores of striking stoneworks. Some are deliberately crafted, others are in their natural state—ranging in weight from 4 to 15 tons. Towering over them all is “Mannanan,” at 20 feet in height and 45 tons in weight.

“The site had been an old farm,” explains Brian McGuire, board president. “Some of the stones are the remnants of stone walls the farmers built, while others were brought in from local slate quarries.”

Although its main purpose is to provide a place where visitors can be present and focused, Columcille is also the site of several spiritual gatherings during the year.

“Everyone has their own beliefs,” Brian says. “But they can all gather as a group to observe the summer solstice. Being there when the sun rises can be a quiet and introspective time, as you mark the end of one season and the beginning of another.”

There’s also a Samhain observance in late October, which encourages visitors to “think about those who have passed before them, and to honor their traditions,” he says.

Museum of VHS

Although Blu-Ray and online streaming are the kings of video these days, the lowly VHS tape cassette still has a dedicated following.

Bangor resident Earl Kessler is among them. “I was a big fan of horror movies on tape when I was growing up,” he explains. “When video stores started to fail, I started buying up as much as I could.”

In 2015, he organized his ever-growing collection of tapes and related ephemera in the Museum of VHS, “an endeavor to establish an informative, educational, and fun nucleus of VHS celebration, nostalgia, and appreciation,” as his website puts it. It’s a virtual and moveable museum, one that he takes to comic conventions, swap meets, and similar events, which enables him to interact with other fans of the medium. Earl has taken his exhibits to the Superchief show in New York, Allentown’s Alternative Gallery, and to his own annual event—“Severed”—at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg.

“My audience is growing,” Earl says. “The museum draws long-time video-store fans—but it’s also a retro thing, kind of like the resurgence of vinyl records. It’s become kind of hip to like VHS.”

Earl’s collection now includes rare and authentic tapes, including significant titles such as “Blood of the Vampire,” perhaps the first horror movie released on VHS; old VCRs and other hardware; posters; painted t-shirts; and original artwork.

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