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Local hop harvest brings family, friends and brewmaster to farm

ST MARYS — On a recent, sunny Saturday with light breezes and low humidity, family, friends, and a local brewmaster gathered at the Hoffman Appalachian Farm on Taft Road to celebrate the annual hop harvest.

Master gardeners from the Penn State Agricultural Extension were on hand to conduct the annual Certified Naturally Grown inspection. CNG inspections offer peer-review certification to farmers producing food for local communities who work in harmony with nature, without synthetic chemicals or GMOs.

After testing the moisture content the prior weekend, Joshua Brock, owner of the Hoffman Appalachian Farm, decided it was time to harvest.

“It is the moisture inside the hops that we are looking for. We like to see around 80 percent moisture content before we pick,” he explained.

Family and friends picked cascade and nugget variety hops from bines cut by Brock. Bines are the flexible climbing stem of the plants which are perennial and take three to five years to bear fruit.

Vince Assetta, head brewer at Straub Brewery, stopped by for some research and development and to tour the expanded hopyard.

Assetta added freshly harvested cascade hops, also referred to as wet hops, to Straub Lager beer fresh from the eternal tap at Straub Brewery.

Brock later reported that “I loved the fresh hopped cascade in the Lager.”

The remaining hops were placed on drying bins and dried in an oast built by Brock’s father in law. The oast has notches for each bin, circulates ambient air and typically takes eight to ten hours.

When asked about the joys of farming Brock said, “Harvest time is the easiest part of the process. Erecting the poles, planting, hand weeding, and stringing the bines is pretty labor intensive.”

Brock is farming the land originally purchased in the mid 1950s by his grandparents Ray and Helen Hoffman.


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Summer Music Fest honors coordinator

DuBOIS — Jack Averill has been bringing music to DuBois for more than 35 years.

For years, every Thursday evening, from late June through August, that music can be heard coming from the Edward V. Cherry Amphitheater in the DuBois City Park.

Last week, officials from the City of DuBois honored Averill, now in his 80s, for his community service in coordinating the annual Summer Music Fest for nearly four decades.

The tribute was prior to the next to last concert of the summer, which featured the music of rock ‘n roll band ELEMENT. The concerts are sponsored by the City of DuBois.

“We just felt that it was time that we honored Jack Averill for all of his hard work in scheduling the bands every year,” said city Manager John “Herm” Suplizio.

When Averill first started bringing music to DuBois, the concerts were held on Long Avenue and the venue changed throughout the years before being held on the stage of the amphitheater.

A plaque honoring Averill will be placed in the DuBois City Hall.

In addition to the band, those attending were treated to a free cold beverage and hot dogs cooked by DuBois City Council members, Mayor Gary Gilbert and Suplizio. Also in attendance were city Treasurer Lisa LaBrasca Becker and city Controller Shane Dietz.

“It was an unbelievable turnout,” said Suplizio, noting that more than 500 hot dogs were served.

Final Summer Concert

Having been rained out earlier, the DuBois Community Band is ready to perform the final Summer Music Fest concert of the summer at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cherry Amphitheater in the city park.

The DuBois Community Band plays a program of patriotic, show tunes, sacred music, classic music and marches.

The public is invited to bring a lawn chair and enjoy an evening in the park.


Photo by Chris Wechtenhiser 

DuBois Central Catholic’s John Ritsick, front left, leads a small pack of runners that also features teammate JP Piccirillo and Elk County’s Catholic’s Isaac Wortman and Jacob Carnovale out of the woods for the first time Tuesday during a meet at DuBois. Wortman finished third on the day, while Carnovale and Ritsick were fourth and fifth, respectively. Piccirillo came in eighth.


BPifer / By Beth Pifer bpifer@thecourierexpress.com 

From left, John and Snook Brock and Jason Lang picking cascade hops during August harvest.


Motorcycle crash claims Ridgway man

BRANDY CAMP — A Ridgway man died as the result of a motorcycle accident in Horton Township, Elk County, Tuesday.

State police at Ridgway report that around 8:15 a.m., 57-year-old Scott N. Covert was riding a 2003 Harley Davidson motorcycle south on Route 219 when he was unable to avoid a deer that entered the road just north of Toby Road. The impact threw Covert from the motorcycle.

He was flown by medical helicopter to UMPC Altoona, where he died as a result of his injuries.


Photo by Dianne Byers 

The Clearfield County Commissioners proclaimed September Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month and set Sunday, Sept. 9 as Clearfield County Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day. A walk for the cause is to be held Sunday in DuBois. Pictured are in the front row, from left, are Commissioners Tony Scotto, John Sobel and Mark McCracken; back row, Clearfield County Suicide Prevention Team Behavioral Program Specialist Mary Brown.


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Casali’s Italian Grille
CASALI'S ITALIAN GRILLE: St. Marys restaurant owner talks expansion

ST. MARYS — Casali’s Italian Grille, an Italian restaurant on South St. Marys Street has announced its expansion.

Casali’s is a family-owned business offering Italian food, fresh ingredients, custom cocktails and infusions and microbrews.

Jeff Loeffler, who owns Casali’s LLC with his sister and brother-in-law, Julie and Eric Wonderling, said it has always been their goal to work with other area businesses, while aiming to attract more local and traveling customers.

Casali’s, which opened in 2013, recently started an expansion process, incorporating a new local wine, shine and brew room, along with additional seating, a rental room and more. The Grille will stay open throughout the expansion, which Loeffler hopes will be complete in October.

“This expansion is necessary because there are too many people coming to St. Marys, but spending their tourism dollars 30-50 miles away,” Loeffler said. “We want to draw them to our town, show them a great experience and hopefully send them home wishing they could stay longer next time.”

Loeffler is a certified Master Mixologist worked for Darden Restaurants for 12 years and was a culinary assistant for several stores.

“That’s our niche here — almost everything from the kitchen has something from the bar in it.”

CIG features local wines and brews from places such as Straub Brewery, and pasta sauces with ingredients from local venues.

Trip Advisor has Casali’s rated the No. 1 restaurant in Elk County, and it also received the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in 2017. The restaurant was voted best Italian in Elk County last year, and was a finalist for best bartender and best in Italian in the tri-county area in 2018, Loeffler said.

“We have done a really good job at establishing a great base of incredible clientele over the past few years, and we’ve started thinking about what the next step is.”

Casali’s expansion will not only benefit the business itself, but hopefully the St. Marys area in general and all it has to offer, Loeffler said. The goal is not to compete with other businesses, but work together to be better.

The front of CIG will expand to incorporate not only the new wine, shine and brew room, but indoor seating, a decorative environment and fireplace, free internet and television, open ceilings and a 28-foot bar, as well as a room that can be rented out for parties. The new room will include more than 50-70 local wines, moonshines, beer and merchandise, Loeffler said.

The new addition will also offer specialty chocolate and coffee drinks, such as alcoholic and nonalcoholic lattes, with a signature roasted blend from Aegis Coffee Roasters of DuBois.

A “kegs and eggs” breakfast service will be served in the new room from 6-10 a.m.

Bar hours will be extended after midnight, and wine will be available by the bottle for takeout.

By developing key partnerships with area agencies, the restaurant’s owners are confident they can bring in more tourism dollars, while attracting some of the two million people per year who travel through St. Marys but don’t stop, Loeffler said.

“St. Marys is a wonderful place, located in the heart of the PA Wilds,” he said. “It’s in the middle of all kinds of outdoor and historic attractions. The people here have integrity, are hard working, welcoming and friendly, and put out great products and services.”

For more information, visit Casali’s Italian Grille on Facebook, www.casalisgrille.com or call 814-834-6400.