As we mark the 38th year of the downtown party, now known as Celebrate Erie, we decided to take a look back at how it all started. John Horan, now Executive Director of the Erie Housing Authority, was the Planning Director for Mayor Lou Tullio and was there in 1976 when it all began.
He tells me it happened by accident. 1976 was the bicentennial of the country, and the city did not have any fireworks on the 4th of July. The community was up in arms so Mayor Tullio planned a Labor Day celebration with a huge fireworks display and called it "The Salute to the People of Erie." It was a huge success. Roughly 60,000 people were in attendance. Tullio then decided to move it up to the second weekend in August and in 1977 it was dubbed We Love Erie Day's.
During the city's difficult financial times, Tullio asked the Chamber of Commerce to take over - they agreed.
But during Mayor Joyce Savocchio's administration the chamber passed the reigns back to the city.
We Love Erie days continued through the Savocchio administration and became Celebrate Erie in 2002 during the Filippi administration when he decided to change things up and bring Erie to the forefront. The Filippi administration changed the name, added the Taste of Erie, and tried to showcase the arts and culture of our city.
The Sinnott administration has carried Celebrate Erie to what it is today, and John Horan says Mayor Tullio would be proud.