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Jefferson County marks 150th anniversary of courthouse

BROOKVILLE — In September of 1829 a meeting was held that would be the birth of Brookville and the formation of the county seat of Jefferson County.

Three county commissioners – John Mitchell of Centre County, Robert Orr of Armstrong County and Alexander McCalmont of Venango County – met at the home of James Barnett where they accepted the offer of John Pickering for land for the county seat, naming it Brookville because of the number of springs and streams in the area.

In a deed dated July 31, 1830, Pickering gave the county “the square of ground where the courthouse” now stands “upon which to erect county buildings.” In 1832 the first courthouse was built on the same tract of land where the current courthouse sits. It was torn down in 1866 and the current courthouse was completed three years later in 1869.

In the 1850s a jail and a house for the sheriff was built on the west side of the courthouse. That building was demolished in 1927 when the county added the rear wing that still is part of the courthouse today.

The county on Friday marked the 150 anniversary of the current courthouse’s compeletion. The all-day event included courthouse tours, the unveiling and dedication of a new World War II KIA/MIA Memorial on the courthouse lawn, a musical presentation by the Punxsutawney Area High School Marching Band, an art exhibit with the courthouse as its theme, an official ceremony on the front porch of the courthouse, cupcakes, an original play and the lighthing of the clock tower.

“The evening of Sept. 13, 1869, our courthouse was dedicated as a temple of justice to the county. The Honorable James Campbell, of Clarion County, the President Judge of the Judicial District, gave the dedication speech,” Jefferson County Commissioner Jack Matson said at the official anniversary ceremony. A recording of the words of that speech was then played over the loud speakers.

It was within this speech that those in attendance learned that it cost $80,000 to erect the current courthouse, which Campbell called “at once an honor and an ornament to the town and the county where the titles of their property may be securely kept, their wrongs redressed and their rights vindicated. It belongs to every man, woman and child in the county. They have a right to be proud of it, to guard it from injury, to protect it from harm.”

The Honorable Kevin M. Dougherty of the Pa. Supreme Court noted that “this courthouse signifies the best a county has to offer. I can be so bold as to say this edifice is a monument that was shaped by the people of Jefferson yet it is the thing that has shaped Jefferson County. You don’t realize the time capsule that you look at. The history, the rule of law, the protection of our citizenry all starts here. But mostly, what we have to realize and appreciate today is that 150 years ago the constitution proved it could work. When the executive, the legislature and the judiciary branches of the government come together good things happen. You’re looking at it.”

State Rep. Cris Dush, of Brookville, said that less than 40 years after the first courthouse was erected, “the need became apparent for a temple of justice, as president judge James Campbell, Jefferson County’s first president judge, called this building, to be erected for the citizens of Jefferson County. Temple of justice is a fitting description of the purpose of buildings like this.”

Borough Councilman Randy Bartley, in talking about the courthouse, said “This didn’t happen by accident. This was a vision. The original commissioners in a pioneer community, shortly after the Civil War, had a vision to build this structure. In 1927, the county commissioners floated a bond issue ... it was the right thing to do. They put in an elevator, they put the L on here. The commissioners who decided to rehab this building not many years ago, and they tore this thing apart and built it up ... it was done becuase it was the right thing to do. The current commissioners shined the old girl up today and people, you have reason to be proud.”

Jefferson County President Judge John H. Foradora quoted Pope Paul VI saying “If you want peace, work for justice. But justice is an illusive proposition. What is justice... We’re human, we’re prone to make mistakes. We need to acknoledge those mistakes and move on together. But there are times we actually see that justice. Today we are asked to decided every facet of human life and human mind. From preconception to post grave and even out into the stratusphere but we do that with the idea that justice is here. Even though we can’t achieve justice in 2019 when you pull into this town, this building still stands for justice because at least once a week I walk in my large courtroom and there are people in there taking pictures that say ‘We drove in off the interstate. What a beautiful courthouse you have. This is just a wonderful building.’ So it still sends the message, this is where justice is served and we try as humans to meet that.”

Also speaking during the ceremony was Deb Pontzer, on behalf of U.S. Congressman Glenn “G.T.” Thompson. Pontzer read a floor speech Thompson gave on Thursday about the 150th anniversary. Also speaking was Moriah Hathaway, who read a proclaimtion on behalf of Gov. Tom Wolf.


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Harmony Grange Fair ready to open Tuesday

WESTOVER — It’s almost time to put out the welcome mat for another Harmony Grange Fair. The annual celebration of agriculture and the community coupled with food and fun has been drawing crowds for more than 65 years.

The Harmony Grange Fair opens Tuesday, Sept. 17, and concludes on Saturday, Sept. 21. The grange and fairgrounds are located at 5386 Ridge Road, Westover.

The annual fair is sponsored by Harmony Grange No. 1201 of Westover. Manager Shae Harkleroad said, for many that plan, carry out or attend the fair, it is more than an event – it’s a homecoming.

“I say this every year but this fair could not exist without the generosity of people who give their time and talents to make this fair what it is. There are a lot of little neat things that happen here and it’s the community and everyone working together to put on an event that happens one week out of the year. We are very pleased to be able to offer a good event here and it is because of our volunteers and our visitors that we can.”

The theme for the 2019 fair is “Our Fair Makes Memories.” Harkleroad said in regards to the Harmony Grange Fair there could not be a truer statement. He said the majority of the fair board are second or third generations of families that started the fair as an indoor agriculture exhibit in 1953. Families that gathered and shared their recollections of former fairs and hopes for years to come.

Since its beginnings the fair has grown and added new activities but has never lost sight of its main purpose – to involve the community.

Harkleroad said one of the ways the fair is doing that is through social media. In addition to a Facebook page that it utilizes for announcements, giveaways and live feeds from many of the fair’s exhibits and activities, it also broadcasts using resources such as Instagram and Snapchat.

One of those who assists with the social media is Curtis Chambers who with his wife Chelsey document all the happenings during the five days of the fair. “We are using this to bring a new audience. People around here know the fair and love it but we want everyone to know just how great it is,” Chambers said.

Harkleroad reported the board and volunteers have spent the weeks leading up to the fair improving infrastructure on the grounds. He said this year, electricity and water supplies were upgraded for vendors stationed at the midway.

A section of the animal barn roof was blown off during a winter’s storm and it had to be replaced. Also upgraded was a walk-in cooler utilized by the grange and volunteers to store many of the foodstuffs needed to cook foods offered during the grange’s nightly dinners and at its food stands.

Another big advance for the grange is that it has completed the sale process to acquire the land where the fair’s track is located. Harkleroad said a ribbon cutting is planned for Tuesday as part of the opening ceremony to officially celebrate and a second ribbon cutting will be held prior to the annual truck pull on Friday, Sept. 20. Harkleroad said after many years of waiting, the purchase of land from the Harmony Area School District was finalized earlier this year.

He said the transaction took longer to complete than anticipated because of some wording on some of the legal documents that had to be corrected prior to completion of the purchase.

He expressed thanks to the grange’s attorney Timothy Durant of Clearfield and the district’s solicitor David Consiglio the difficulties were worked through. “We would like to thank the patrons to the fair that made it possible for the grange to save and build funds for the land acquisition.

Harkleroad said he is hoping for good weather during the fair and based on this summer’s weather believes he will see full display stands in the fruit, vegetable and floral exhibits.


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Powdered metals course to be offered, taught by professionals in St. Marys

ST. MARYS — Elk County business leaders are coming together to sustain the thriving powdered metal industry and its future.

Northern Pennsylvania Regional College Workforce Development will offer an “Introduction to Powder Metallurgy, Part I” course Oct. 15-Dec. 17 at the Community Education Center of Elk and Cameron Counties in downtown St. Marys.

The 40-hour, two-part course is designed to provide an overview of the industry and all its aspects, offering education from the “beginning to end product,” production, starting with raw material of metal powder, knowledge of machines, including molding presses and furnaces, sintering safety aspects and more.

The course, part of an introductory series, will provide instruction from seasoned powder metal businessmen in the area, said Northern Pennsylvania Regional College Workforce Development specialist Terry Hinton.

Part two of the course will be offered next year, and then hopefully, an “advanced level” course in the future, Hinton says.

“This is a way to keep our powder metal industry flourishing, so that people will come here and stay here,” she said.

The second part of the course will address the inspection process, tooling materials and designs, elements of automation and robotics and career positions in powdered metal.

The Elk and Cameron county area is a huge hub for the powder metal industry, Hinton said.

Eric Wolfe, president of Horizon Technology Inc., a small St. Marys business and powdered metal parts manufacturer, will be the course’s opening instructor.

Wolfe is also a MEEA – Manufacturing, Education & Employment Advancement, Inc. – member, a nonprofit organization aiming to support advancement of education and manufacturing employment in the Elk County and surrounding region.

MEEA has become “the voice of the manufacturer,” Wolfe says.

“We’ve experienced significant growth in the powder metal industry, but our challenge is getting enough people to work,” he said.

Put simply, there are not enough people to take the place of the retirees the area will see in the coming years, Wolfe said.

“We need to be planning for ways to attract people into the region, offset the population decline and decline in the availability of a workforce,” he said.

Organizations like MEEA and NPRC are committed to seeing this industry continue to grow in Elk County, Wolfe says.

Part of NPRC’s mission, Hinton adds, is to make valuable courses like these affordable. This course can be for those wishing to enter a career in the powdered metal industry, or those who already work in it.

Instructor and Advantage Metal Powders, Inc. owner Jason Gabler said the course is a great “stepping stone” for employees aiming to move up the ladder and advance their careers.

This course is an extension of a three-day manufacturing course already offered in State College by the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF), Hinton said. Penn State DuBois also offers die-setter training and engineering technology programs.

The goal is not to compete with these courses, though, Wolfe said, but to compliment them. This can also benefit students who wish to pursue an engineering degree.

These instructors will keep the course exciting, informative, scientific and knowledgeable, Hinton says.

“It’s very important we have experts in all of the units,” she said.

Gabler will be teaching a large majority of the class, going over aspects like specification of materials, properties of powder, compaction, chemistry and others.

For more information about the course, call (814) 230-9010, visit https://regionalcollegepa.org or email workforcedev@rrcnpa.org.


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Organizers prep for upcoming Peanut Butter Festival

NEW BETHLEHEM — The New Bethlehem area will go nutty next weekend as the popular Peanut Butter Festival returns for its annual three-day run.

Held in New Bethlehem’s Gumtown Park along Water Street, the festival, now in its 24th year, pays homage to the community’s Smucker’s peanut butter factory.

“We’ll have just about all the varieties of peanut butter manufactured here in New Bethlehem at the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce tent,” chamber member and longtime festival volunteer Amanda Coon said. She noted that the products include the Smucker’s all-natural varieties, as well as the Goober brands and some items that are not sold in this area or even in the United States.

“We will have the peanut butter and chocolate, which people love,” Coon said, adding that as a result of production schedules, the festival won’t have the popular peanut butter and honey variety this year.

The festival kicks off Friday, Sept. 20, at 4 p.m., although Coon noted that some food vendors usually open earlier in the day.

“We have some new entertainment for Friday night,” Coon said of the The Wrangler Band, which will perform on the festival stage starting at 7 p.m.

The music begins following the crowning of this year’s Peanut Butter Festival Queen at 6 p.m. Six local girls are competing in the scholarship contest, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. A special reception will be held for all the past contestants who are returning to help mark two decades of the contest.

Also on Friday, Kahuna Balloona will be on hand to make balloon creations for children from 4 to 8 p.m. They will also return Saturday during the same times.

Saturday’s schedule begins early with the 5K race along the Redbank Valley Trail at 8 a.m. Registration begins at 7 a.m. at the park along Water Street.

Crafters and food vendors will begin opening at 9 a.m., the same time that entries will begin to be judged for the annual Peanut Butter Bake-Off. Cash prizes are offered in several categories, and the full rules can be found on the festival’s website at www.PBFestival.com.

At 10:30 a.m., the Mountain Bike Race starts off along Penn Street before venturing off-road on the course of hills and valleys around the community. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. at the New Bethlehem Town Center (former Keck building), with a required pre-race meeting at 10 a.m.

Back at the park, a Surprise Eating Contest will be held on the stage at noon, with the food being prepared by Zack’s.

The afternoon’s big event is the parade along Broad Street at 3 p.m., with more than 30 units signed up to take part.

An inflatable carnival for kids will run from 4 to 8 p.m. in the park.

“It will be ready to go for the kids right after the parade,” Coon said.

In the evening, the Route 8 Band will perform two shows, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and 7:30 to 9 p.m., leading into the fireworks display above the park to cap off the night.

“It will be a great show,” Coon said of the fireworks. “Everyone raved about the Fourth of July fireworks.”

The festival wraps up on Sunday with a busy schedule, starting off with the addition of a new community church service, hosted by the Cornerstone Church of God, at 9:30 a.m. on the stage.

Also in the morning, the annual Motorcycle Bike Cruise will start off at 10 a.m., with registration beginning at 8 a.m. in the S&T Bank parking lot along East Broad Street.

Crafters and food vendors will open shop at 11 a.m. on Sunday, the same time that the chicken dinner hosted by the New Bethlehem Fire Co. will begin serving.

The Knight Cruisers will host their car cruise-in, which usually draws several hundred classic automobiles, from noon to 5 p.m., and the tractor show will once again take place along Water Street near the dam from noon to 4 p.m.

The inflatable carnival will again be held in the park on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

On the festival stage, Sunday’s lineup starts off with performances by students at Dancer’s Studio at noon, followed by the NBC Barbershop Chorus at 2 p.m., and Jimmy Swogger and Friends at 3 p.m.

During the three days of the festival, small rubber ducks will be sold in the chamber tent for Sunday’s duck contest on Red Bank Creek, which begins at 3:30 p.m. The buyers of the first three ducks to flow down the stream and bump into the large duck will win cash prizes.

The festival concludes at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Coon said the festival grounds this year will be full of 40-plus craft and vendor booths, along with a dozen or more food concession booths.

And throughout the weekend, the chamber’s tent will offer new festival merchandise, including T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, coasters, pins and more, as well as special Char-Val Candies chocolate and peanut butter goodies, and of course, jars and cases of the locally made Smucker’s peanut butter.

“Thank you to all of our sponsors — we’ve been very fortunate to be supported so well by the community,” Coon said. “And thank you to all the volunteers that make this happen, along with the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce board of directors.”

For more information on the festival and its events, along with registration forms, visit www.PBFestival.com.