Culture of Allentown, Pennsylvania
The culture of Allentown dates back to its settlement in the 18th century. Religious groups, such as the Moravians, wanted to escape persecution in Europe and settle in the newly discovered land. Lenape Native Americans occupied the Lehigh Valley area. 19th and 20th century immigrants include Germans, Italians, Asians, and more recently, Hispanics, and African Americans. The city's culture is based on the diverse population that lives there.
Before the first European settlers arrived, the region that would become Philadelphia was inhabited by the Lenape, a Native American people. Mennonites, Amish, Moravians and Pietists moved to the state during the 17th century, because of Pennsylvania's freedom of religion. A century later, in the 19th century, many Catholics moved to the area from Germany and Ireland. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown is the head of all the Catholic churches in Allentown and the surrounding area.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, Hispanic and African American groups moved from the South into Northeast cities. In the last 10 years, many of these people have moved from New York City and Philadelphia to Allentown and Reading.
Allentown has some public art scattered around the city. A monument honoring war veterans is located in the middle of Hamilton and 7th Streets in Center City. Graffiti once commonplace throughout the city, has been virtually eliminated through an anti-graffiti program administered through the city. In an effort to eliminate graffiti, the city has painted murals in some of its city parks and high graffiti locations, given out rewards for turning in people who deface buildings with graffiti and arrested graffiti artists.
The Allentown Symphony Orchestra performs at the Allentown Symphony Hall, located in Center City north of Hamilton Street on North 6th Street. The city also has some citizen bands, which perform at the West Park bandshell. These are: the Allentown Band, the oldest civilian concert band in the United States, the Marine Band of Allentown, the Municipal Band of Allentown and the Pioneer Band of Allentown.
Youth Education in the Arts makes Allentown its home. YEA sponsors The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps, a ten-time DCI world champion, as well as a senior drum and bugle corps, a competitive scholastic marching band circuit, and the Urban Arts Center of the Lehigh Valley.
Rock and hip hop performances are popular at Allentown's Crocodile Rock. Past and future performers include: Hollywood Undead, Pitbull, Day26, Metro Station, and Fabolous. The city's underground scene – centered around the now-closed venue Jeff the Pigeon gained attention when hardcore punk group Pissed Jeans were signed to Sub Pop and stoner metal act Pearls and Brass signed with Drag City.
Allentown has a large radio market boasting many genres of music.
In popular culture
Allentown's reputation as a rugged blue collar city has led to many references to the city in popular culture:
- Allentown is mentioned in the 2011 movie The Hangover Part II when Ed Helms sings a cover of Billy Joel's song "Allentown".
- Allentown is mentioned in the song "Fed To Death" by indie rock band Say Anything. It is the opening song on their 2009 album Say Anything.
- On the January 17, 2009 episode of Saturday Night Live, in the skit "Good Excuse," a guest is urged to tell his girlfriend, as an excuse for his breakup with her, that his company is relocating to Allentown.
- On the May 15, 2008 Season 4 episode of The Office, Jan Levinson tells Michael Scott that she has to go to Lamaze class in Allentown.
- Allentown is mentioned in the 2008 movie, The Wrestler as a location where Mickey Rourke (playing Randy "The Ram" Robinson) had wrestled leading up to his comeback.
- The All-American Rejects, a power pop group, in 2006, filmed the music video for their song "Dirty Little Secret" at Dorney Park and several other Allentown-area locations.
- Allentown is where the Free Armies and the U.S. military first meet in combat in the fictional comic series DMZ Comics, launched in 2005 by DC Comics.
- On August 10, 2003, CNN broadcast Achieving the Perfect 10, a critical documentary about the Parkettes National Gymnastics Training Center, located in Allentown.
- On the March 9, 2002 episode of MADtv, in the skit "Religious Christian," a character named Christian leaves his day trading career to preach door to door throughout Allentown. However, his obvious homosexuality leads to an awkward meeting at the Tucke home.
- In recurring Sarah Strohmeyer novels published between 2001 and 2006, the fictional character Bubbles Yablonsky resides in the Allentown area.
- In the Season 5 episode of Frasier: "Roz and the Schnoz," which first aired May 5, 1998, Niles tells Frasier that a man from Allentown is donating a lung to his brother.
- The television production company Medstar Television, which produced the series Medical Detectives from 1996 to 2000, and the series Forensic Files from 2000 on, is headquartered in Allentown. Locations throughout the city have been used as settings for dramatic reenactments of crimes profiled by the shows.
- The X-Files season 3 episode "Nisei", which aired November 25, 1995, is the first of a two-part episode in which character Dana Scully joins a UFO abductee group in Allentown. In the season 4 episode "Memento mori", which aired February 9, 1997, characters Fox Mulder and Scully return to Allentown to follow up with one of the women from Nisei.
- The 1990 dark comedy film, I Love You to Death, directed by Lawrence Kasdan, is based on an attempted murder that happened in 1984 in Allentown.
- Allentown's Dorney Park was a film location for John Waters' Hairspray, released in 1988.
- Allentown is referenced as the secret location of a bomb planted by The Joker in Frank Miller's comic book series, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, published in 1986.
- The city is the subject of the popular Billy Joel song, "Allentown", originally released on The Nylon Curtain album in 1982. Joel's song uses Allentown as a metaphor for the resilience of working class Americans in distressed industrial cities during the recession of the early 1980s.
- Allentown is the hometown of up and coming showgirl Peggy Sawyer in the long-running, Tony Award-winning Broadway musical 42nd Street, released in 1980, and its associated Academy Award-nominated movie. When Sawyer expresses her desire to leave Broadway to return to Allentown, the show's director and entire cast successfully dissuade her by singing the famed musical number "The Lullaby of Broadway."
- Allentown is mentioned in the opening lyric of the Frank Zappa song "200 Years Old," which appears on his 1975 album Bongo Fury.
- Allentown is mentioned twice in the 1970 Frank Sinatra song "The Train," which appears as the first song on his album Watertown.
- Allentown was the film location for much of James Neilson's film Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows, released in 1969.
- Hiding The Bell, a 1968 historical fiction novel by Ruth Nulton Moore, chronicles the events surrounding the hiding of the Liberty Bell in Allentown in 1777.
- Allentown was the subject of the 1963 Irving Gordon song "Allentown Jail", which was subsequently recorded by several other artists, including The Kingston Trio, The Lettermen, The Seekers and Jo Stafford.
- In the 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdie, character Rosie Alvarez is from Allentown. In the song "Spanish Rose," she sings: "I'm just a Spanish Tamale according to Mae/ Right off the boat from the tropics, far, far away/ Which is kinda funny, since where I come from is Allentown, PA."
- Allentown is mentioned in the 1957 book, On the Road, by Jack Kerouac.
- Allentown was home to the character Duane Doberman in The Phil Silvers Show, a CBS comedy series that ran from 1955 to 1959.
Film and television
Allentown does not have much influence on film and television, but neighboring Bethlehem holds an annual film festival, The SouthSide Film Festival. Allentown receives most of its television from Philadelphia and New York City, but Channel 69, WFMZ-TV, covers local and regional news.
Allentown is influenced by cuisine from the Pennsylvania Dutch, Hispanic and Latinos, and Philadelphia. Allentown has a local variant of the Philly cheesesteak, and local pizza parlors. Pennsylvania Dutch foods like head cheese, liver pudding, sous, chow-chow, apple butter, and others are available at some diners across the region. Ethnic food types represented include Dominican, Puerto Rican, West Indian, Japanese, Italian, Lebanese and Syrian. Fast food and restaurant chains have established a presence in the Lehigh Valley due to the growing population. A regionally-famous hot dog chain, Yocco's Hot Dogs, maintains several restaurants in the city.
Philadelphia Eagles' training camp is held annually in Bethlehem. The Lehigh Valley Spring Home Show and the Lehigh Valley Auto Show are held at Stabler Arena in Center Valley. The AAA minor league affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, plays its home games from the beginning of April through the end of September each year at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown.
The Drum Corps International Eastern Classic has been held for over thirty years at J. Birney Crum Stadium, bringing together the top junior drum and bugle corps in the world over two nights of competition.
Amusement Parks & Zoos
Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom is the area's main amusement park, since Historic Bushkill Park closed in 2006. The Lehigh Valley Zoo and the Trexler Nature Preserve are the two zoos in the Lehigh Valley. The William F. Curtis Arboretum is the area's arboretum.
Allentown is home to these museums:
- Allentown Art Museum, art
- America On Wheels, automotive transportation
- Da Vinci Science Center, science
- George Taylor House, historic house
- Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum, local history
- Liberty Bell Museum, history
- Mack Trucks Historical Museum, automotive transportation
- Museum of Indian Culture, Native American
- Trout Hall, historic house
The Allentown area is home to many shopping areas and a few indoor malls. Many national stores can be found here as well as regional chains.
The Lehigh Valley is home to several golf courses. Saucon Valley Country Club hosted the 2009 Women's U.S. Open. Allentown is home to a high quality city-run golf course, the Allentown Municipal Golf Course.
- Buildings and architecture of Allentown, Pennsylvania
- List of people from the Lehigh Valley
- Media in the Lehigh Valley