CLARION — The 4th annual Clarion BBQ Festival, held the weekend between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day in the Clarion Mall parking lot, seemingly had something for everyone and appeared to come off without a hitch.
“Overall it was very good,” said festival co-chairman John Stroup discussing this year’s event. “More people attended. Saturday was so packed it was unbelievable. The flow of the activities was all very good. Great volunteer help, cleaning and things picked up well as far as the regular fair part. All the festival part with all the vendors, it was exciting.”
Free admission to the festival and almost perfect mid-spring weather brought people out for the event, initially conceived by co-chairmen Bo Garritano and Stroup to benefit Clarion University’s W.S. Tippin Scholarship Fund and the Clarion Hospital Foundation.
“Anything we make after expenses goes 100 percent to the two beneficiaries. We run a very slim carry-over fund, just enough to carry advertising, promotion, things like that. We run it very slim. Our mission is definitely to support those two beneficiaries,” Garritano said.
This year the festival cleared $6,000, meaning $3,000 will be distributed to each beneficiary.
According to the Clarion University website, the scholarship fund provides scholarships to students who compete on intercollegiate teams at Clarion.
Wendy Snodgrass, athletic director at Clarion University, said, “We’re really thankful for this event. It’s such a fun event, one that I look forward to every year. And any way we can continue to impact our students we’re happy to do so. And events such as this really allow us to impact our student-athletes and that’s what it’s all about.”
Beyond supporting athletics, university President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson sees the event as helping foster a positive relationship between the campus and community.
“I just gave an announcement over there (during the festival’s opening ceremonies) kind of talking about the importance of the relationship between the town and the university. The partnerships that are so critical to developing our future,” Pehrsson said.
The Clarion Hospital Cancer Center will receive the funds earmarked for the hospital’s foundation, with monies going toward the purchase of 3-D mammography equipment. According to literature provided by the Clarion Hospital Foundation, this state of the art equipment will make detecting abnormalities easier, thereby improving the early detection of breast cancer.
The highlight of the Chainsaw Woodcarvers Auction was the sale of a bench featuring a three dimensional relief of the Clarion County Courthouse carved into the backrest. It fetched $450.
Brian Fox made the bench, which took 10-12 hours, while Steve Nelson carved the intricate relief of the courthouse.
“How many hours? I didn’t time myself. I worked on it over a week. I mean it’s best to work on something for a few hours and then let it sit for a little bit and come back and you see it in a little bit different perspective,” Nelson said.
Melinda White, who lives in Brookville and works in Clarion, summed up the reason for perhaps why many people attend the event, saying, “I came out today because I’m excited to see all the people coming to Clarion, both the woodcarvers and all the barbeque people here. It’s great to see people out and about and get some good food and maybe go home with something for the yard as well.”