MINERAL SPRINGS — Dave Knepp of Mineral Springs, rural Clearfield, has fond memories of the Clearfield County Fair.
Knepp, who will be 81 in October, and has been making and performing music for 71 of those years, has numerous remembrances of the fair. Many of those experiences involve volunteer work and music.
He worked as an assistant to the superintendent in the fair’s floral department for years, retiring in 2017. He said his long career helping with the fair’s flower contest earned him numerous friends and the opportunity to catch up with those who faithfully entered flowers into competition each year.
Knepp said his group, The Pennsylvania Ramblers, performed many times at the fair. Knepp said the band was started by his father, Fredrick Knepp, and several years later, he took over as the lead singer and performed along with his brothers, Henry, James and Duane Knepp. Two of the brothers’ cousins also performed with the band during the 20 years it was in existence, Lyle “Rook” Wisor and Richard Woods.
Knepp said some of his favorite recollections are of the country and western band performing at the fair on “Granger’s Day,” which he said was always held on the Thursday of the fair and was a highly anticipated event each year. The Pennsylvania Ramblers provided background music for the county’s granges’ square dancing teams that performed the intricate dance moves for bragging rights in front of the fair’s grandstand.
“That was one of the things we liked best playing for those square dances. We would play music and the teams would dance. We really liked that,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Ramblers, Knepp said, was also one of the first bands to perform during the Clearfield County Fair on the David H. Litz Stage in the Clearfield Driving Park’s grove. “It was really an honor for us,” he said.
“I would like to thank the fair board for allowing both me and my band to perform at the fair,” he said.
Knepp also recalled when performing at the fair earned the band a regular spot on DuBois radio personality Charlie Moore’s show on WCED.
Moore heard the band perform the “Orange Blossom Special” at the fair. “He invited the band to appear on his morning show,” Knepp said, noting the first performance evolved into a standing appointment each Saturday for years. “We were on so often, people started calling us ‘Charlie’s Boys,’” he said.
Knepp also has an “almost” fair experience that he now wishes he could have a do over for. He said many years ago teen idol Bobby Rydell performed twice at the Clearfield County Fair. He said it was prior to Rydell’s first visit when his manager knocked on the door of the home where Knepp lived. He said the manager asked his wife if Knepp would be willing to play lead guitar in his show.
Knepp said, after consideration, he turned him down because he didn’t feel he knew Rydell’s songs well enough to perform with his band but said he now he wishes he had accepted.
Knepp said he has been playing music since he was a young boy. “Both my parents played music. When I was little, my mother, Dorothy June, taught me a song, ‘When My Blue Moon Turns Gold Again’ on her guitar,” he said.
As a second grader, he learned to play chords on a mandolin. He recalls when he was in fourth grade that his music instructor would allow he and another student to lead the music class each Friday because they were both able to play instruments.
Knepp said he performed throughout junior high and high school. He recalls performing for a square dance at the junior prom. His performance was so good, he was invited to perform at the senior prom.
Through the years The Pennsylvania Ramblers was active, Knepp said the band performed many times for free. He said he continues the practice by performing each week for the residents of Mountain Laurel Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. He said for more than 40 years he has been adding music to resident’s lives starting out with one-hour concerts and now playing a second one-hour concert for the patients with dementia.
“I do it every Sunday. I have a burden for senior citizens,” he said, adding, “My doctor told me I should keep doing it as long as I am able. He said it’s therapy for the residents and something doctors aren’t able to do for them.”
He said the performances are well received. “The residents relate to me. They know me and they sing along with me. They like the older children’s songs like ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and ‘This Little Light of Mine.’ They really sing out when they know the songs.”
The Pennsylvania Ramblers, while no longer taking engagements, have a standing booking at Knepp’s family reunion. “The band gets together every year and performs at the family reunion,” he said.