Here are a few of our favorite moments. Teacher CP Mooney said it was a very smooth first day and Principal Gary Canfora agreed.
We dropped by Central Elementary School at the end of the first day of class Tuesday to try to grab the feeling of the first day.
Here are a few of our favorite moments. Teacher CP Mooney said it was a very smooth first day and Principal Gary Canfora agreed.
Photograph courtesy of Brooke Lawrie
(Editor's Note: After we spoke with Ian, he sang the national anthem again. This time he was not so lucky, but he still has a winning record of 2-1. Thanks for the update, Ian. This story was first written for the Titusville Herald.)
Little known fact, the Pittsburgh Pirates are undefeated when Shrek sings the national anthem.
Ian Best played the lead ogre in Titusville’s Summer Theatre production of “Shrek The Musical” a few years back. He now also sung the nation’s song twice for Pirate home games, and Pittsburgh (47-75) went on to win both times.
“I don’t think (anyone in the front office) knows,” he said of his possible good luck charm status. “I think if we put together a streak of five or six games… we should bring it up,” he said with a laugh.
Earlier this year Best took a job with the Bucco Brigade, a group of support staff dedicated to providing entertainment at the ball games. “We shoot T-shirts, hold the finish line for the Pierogi Races, hand out promos and whatever else we’re asked to do.” He was thrilled to be able to get the job because he grew up loving baseball.
“Most people would be surprised that baseball is my first love, they think music,” he said, noting he’s been doing musical theater since ninth-grade at Cranberry High School. He has performed in shows all over the region landing leads like the one in Titusville and more recently as Buddy in “Elf The Musical” at the Barrow-Civic Theatre in Franklin.
His performance of Buddy led to some recognition by a Pirates fan from Franklin who was at the second game in which Best sang the anthem.
Though he mostly sings in ensembles, Best is also known for his years competing in Franklin’s Taste of Talent Vocal Competition, where he was the 2021 co-champion and capped off the contest singing “This is the Moment.”
He said that experience of singing in the competition was valuable as he auditioned for singing the anthem for Pirate home games.
He got the opportunity because the Bucco Brigade was asked by management to help audition possible singers.
“I joked with my boss that I was going to ask if I could audition and she was like ‘I was going to ask if you wanted to’,” he said. Once it was agreed that he would also audition, the reality hit him.
“I had to scramble, before this year I’d never sung the national anthem, not by myself. On the way down to the field I was humming the song in my head trying to figure out a key.”
He figured it out. “They liked it enough to give me a shot,” he said.
Now he gets to stand at home plate of a major league field, a dream he’s had since he was a kid, though at that time he probably assumed he would be holding a bat instead of a microphone.
The first time was an afternoon game that he was called in to fill. He didn’t really have the opportunity to let his friends know about it in advance. After singing the anthem, he went right back to work with the Bucco Brigade. And they won.
The second time he had friends come down and his boss asked him if he wanted the night off. So he took advantage. “I was bopping all over the stadium (because they had seats in different locations) and we had a great night watching some baseball,” he said.
And the Bucs won… again.
Maybe the Pirates should make him sing every night.
The busy weekend turned into the busy week, but here are some photos from our time in Tiniest Saturday morning making photos for The Forsest Press.
The conversation probably went a little something like this:
"I want to shut down the bridge and put a bunch of artists and crafters, a couple stages for music and bring some folks to serve beer and wine and we want everyone to have fun." Kay Woods to City council.
"..... crickets.... uh..... can we even do that?" City council to Woods.
But then the next thing you know Bridgefest was born. Kay Woods doesn't really settle for not taking a good idea and making it happen.
Woods said the idea took off after Kathy Bailey and The Main Street Program got the refurbished Center Street Bridge lit up with changing colored lights and had big party to celebrate on the bridge. Then a year later she and Woods combined forces for the two night event.
They not only, with the help of many others, shut down one bridge, they shut down two bridges and hundreds flocked in over two nights, one night on the Center Street Bridge for more youth oriented activities and the other a bit more raucous and adult on Veteran's Bridge with bands performing alternating sets on each end of the bridge with plenty of vendors in-between.
On Saturday afternoon several dozens of people turned into several hundreds of people as the band Dead Level began to perform and though you could be just about anywhere in the city to hear them, it seems most people preferred to be on the bridge.
Edited to correct wrong numbers.
Imagine how excited you would be flying just above a meandering river on a hot summer day, your belly just skimming off the surface of the cool water. You smile big and bright as you look out at high cumulous clouds surrounded by the blue sky above the green hillside.
You just want to go on forever and ever.
Sounds nice, doesn't it?
As far as we know a rock cannot feel those things, but if it could, one stone could've asked the above question after experiencing the joy of its life this past Saturday at the Rock in River Festival after it skipped a record 53 times to find it's forever home at the bottom of the 2022 Pennsyvalnia River of the Year - French Creek where it meets the mighty Allegheny River in Franklin.
This one rock looked like most any other if you're not a flat stone aficionado, but when it left the hand of Tidioute's Andy "Big Rock" Severns, like most of the other rocks he threw that day, but it did something no other stone has done in the history of the Rock in River Festival – it broke the 50 skip mark.
In 2020, Dave "Spiderman" Ohmer of Titusville hit 50, but due to COVID, the official PA State Stone Skipping Championship eventhad been canceled. A group of throwers met socially distanced on the banks anyway - simply due to their mutual love of throwing stones and watching them dance across the water. They witnessed Ohmer’s mighty throw and his feat became one for the unofficial record books.
If Severns' rock had feelings, it would've been beaming with pride. If it had ears as it began to sink it would have heard the underwater muffled cheers that echoed across the valley of the over 100 people up on the hill at Riverfront Park.
As great as that stone is sitting at the bottom of the river now, it is not alone.
Somewhere at the bottom of that river are two stones that have each held the title of Guinness Book record holder. One thrown by the late Russ "Rock Bottom" Byers of Franklin that was two skips shy of Severns' toss Saturday. But the other stone went a whopping 65 times by Max Steiner.
But neither of those were thrown in the Rock in River Festival competition, which hosts the PA championship, one of the four top competitions in the country.
Severns' becomes the top throw in the competition's history. As it kept going and going across the water the festival judges realized they never had to count that high before. They huddled and came up with 53. A record for the festival but not for the world.
The current world record, 88 skips, is held by Kurt "Mountain Man" Steiner (no relation to Max). That stone sits quietly at the bottom of a Allegheny National Forest lake near Kane, PA. It was recorded, analyzed and counted several times before the number became one of legend.
Severns had many good throws the completion, all but one odd 2 skipper were in the highest of the day, including a few in the 40s. His aggregate score for six throws was well over 200.
Saturday's conditions must've been pretty good because several competitors recorded impressive high scores. Second place went Aaron "The Kracken" McCracken of Oil City. He competed against all odds while undergoing treatments for cancer over the last year. WIth 46 skips, McCracken tossed one further than any previous Rock in River champion too.
Third place went to the 13-year-old David Ohmer, son of four-time champion Dave Ohmer. Earlier in the day, the younger Ohmer won the amateur competition and qualified to compete in the professional division with a toss of more than 30 skips. His younger brother, Luke, also qualified and admitted his older brother was a better skipper. David's third-place throw of 44 gives him family bragging rights for a little while, as he bested his dad this year.
One of the fun aspects of the competition is the nicknames that are given, usually by the announcer who tries to add a bit of fun color to the event. Some of the names stick like those listed above - Russ "Rock Bottom" Byers, "Kurt "Mountain Man" Steiner and Dave "Spiderman" Ohmer.
Nicknames for this year's top three are Andy "Big Rock" Severns, Aaron "The Kracken" McCracken and David "The Foot" Ohmer - though it's a little unclear if that one will stick. His little brother's nickname, however, has potential - Luke "The Electric Luke Orchestra" Ohmer.
Below are more photos from the event.
To read 2020's story click here: http://www.8and322.com/eight--322/we-dont-want-to-see-any-kerplunks
I started this day two weeks ago... at least that is how it felt.
The Tionesta Indian Festival Parade was where I began my Saturday. It was hot. Suddenly my shirt was wet and beginning to be equal parts cotton and equal parts salt. I saw Sen. Scott Hutchinson and realized his district was larger than I previously known. He told me later in the day, when my shirt was about 85% salt, he represents all the way up into Warren County. I admit I didn't really know that until today.
Then I headed to Franklin for the annual Rock in River Fest, and apparently, Scott and his wife Mary Beth did too. I, admit at this point, I made a tactical error of eating a hamburger and drinking a beer. This, in retrospect, was not a good idea before going to the final round of this rock skipping event. It was quite warm and the sun was beating mercilessly down. Gatorade and a salad would've been smarter. The heat was really something and making my shirt akin to a solid salty sweat-filled aromatic life of its own.
And I was feeling a bit dizzy and dehydrated when Franklin Fine Arts Council president Pat Dolecki insisted we drink a bottle of water. Thank you, Pat! The bottle lasted only seconds in much-needed relief.
I ended the day on the Veteran's Bridge in Oil City where I'll admit I spent more time talking than I did making photographs. I saw many folks I hadn't really seen in a while. Ears were bent and laughs were had as we commiserated and caught up on life.
All of this, over 100 miles of driving and 14 hours or so, leaves me a tad bit tired and weary.
After downloading a few hundred photos and trying to peel this shirt off my body, I wanted to write and post something, but just I'm just too dang tired to post much. (Scott Hutchinson, by the way, looked perfectly together and dry when he looked at me and held up three fingers indicating that we saw each other all day long at these different events.)
So here is just a little post to say I will be posting more from these events later.
The members of the Silver Cornet Band are not ones to toot their own horns... well actually they are, but they are not braggarts.
This band of music buffs, many who are teachers, are part of a 166-year-old community tradition full of ups, downs and local legends. Every other week during the summer this collection of blue shirted brass aficionados put on a show in Franklin's Bandstand Park. They call themselves one of the oldest community style bands still in existence in this country. No one seems ready and equipped to dispute that claim given that they first formed in 1856 and were incorporated 20 years later.
This Thursday they will perform their final show of the summer beginning at 7:30 p.m. Every show includes a bit of music history read in the dulcet tones of band historian Peter Greene.
The current band leader, Terri Wittreich, said the band's final show will be comprised of the favorite tunes of the year picked by the members. They then take a little time off. In October they begin preparing for their annual "Pops Concert" performed in front of a crowd at the Barrow-Civic Theatre the day after Thanksgiving. They have been playing this holiday show since 1979.
The band is always looking for fresh blood and this year they welcomed four new members, according to Wittreich. Their summer concerts are free to the public, but they do accept donations to put towards new equipment, uniforms and shirts for members. They also have sponsorships from groups like the Elks, Moose and Eagles lodges.
Learn more about supporting the band, their history or just to keep up to date on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2207681351
I wasn't able to be at the fair as often as I would normally like to be. But there were a few images I captured and moments I had that will stick with me.
Here are a bunch of photos with brief memories to keep.
To see more photos please visit: https://sayerrich.zenfolio.com/p691825828
ABOVE: One of the sweetest faces I saw this year belonged to (not Max though I enjoy seeing he and his family each year) this grand champion cheese yield holstein.
Witness to history and a sense of pride for someone I've watched growing up.
Grew up going to the fair, bringing up own family going to the fair.
Looking out for one another.
Fear is one of the worst ever feelings. So I'm not a huge fan of rodeos because every animal has the flight or fight instinct thrust upon them through fear. Maybe not the horses. They seem to like to run.
Fun and excitement.
Support and friendship.
All I could think about was Hal-pint from "Little House on the Prairie."
I missed the mullet competition sadly, but this year's fair solidified that the mullet, one of those 'my era' hair styles that was truly thought to be buried in a time many of us try to forget, has made a dominating return.
Fair families are big families because everyone is family.
Earlier in the week board president Brad Deeter said entries were up this year, which bodes well for the future of the fair.
Nope, you'll never get me on a bull, never.
Respect and friendship among colleagues.
Market steers are powerful.
To see more photos please visit: https://sayerrich.zenfolio.com/p691825828
"Your favorite retired balloon is going to be there," a message was sent to Eight & 322 this past week. A few years back while I was working at The Derrick I went up to cover the Wings and Wheels event at the Venango Regional Airport in Franklin, I saw this old balloon being filled with air to allow visitors to the event walk inside the colorful giant. I had seen this before and took one of the best photos I have ever made inside one at the Thurston Classic, Meadville's annual hot-air balloon event.
And I thought this balloon looked like the same one.
It was. It once belonged to a nice guy named Frank Byham who retired it when he bought himself a new balloon. So for years at different events he would bring the old balloon out to fill with air to create a playground that folks seemed to love. Frank is now in his 90s and he sold the balloon years ago, but it is still around adding a big splash of color and fun for visitors to air shows all over the region.
And it helps this old photographer fondly rememberer the many conversations over the years with Frank.
Again, besides the 100s of cars that showed up, the crowds were large around the WW2 Beach City Baby.
Editor's note: Facebook memories from the last several years told me a couple of things... I love photographing the fair and that ragweed and hay get the better of me at this time of year. Ah-choo!
Add in trying to get used to a new schedule with helping out my friends at The Titusville Herald and this year I just wasn't getting to the fair for the same amount of coverage as usual. I do love covering the fair and should've been sharing the old memories all week too. Ah-choo!
Check out photos from earlier in the week at these links:
These boots are made for pedaling
Crowning achievement makes history
Some rodeo action from yesterday
The 2019 Rocket graduate has been in shows since 2015 and recently has been involved in the experimental Red-Eye Theater in Franklin.
They are joined by a virtual who’s-who of Franklin theater including the Santa looking Bill Trimble who plays the genius scientist who ended up dead in his own chair.
The theater only holds 60 so securing a ticket in advance is advised. There will be six shows . Friday and Saturday beginning at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday. The same schedule for the following week.
As an added bonus to the show, a couple local coffee shops are expected to set up under the Barrow’s marquee to sell coffee to keep with the theme.
More information: visit the theater’s website at https://barrowtheatre.org.
United States Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania stopped in Crawford County Tuesday to talk to local Democrats from the steps of the county's headquarters on Diamond Park in Meadville. Casey talked about not getting much sleep of late due to helping to get the vote for "The Inflation Reduction Act" over the weekend.
Casey said the passing of the bill allows thousands of Crawford Countians to keep their healthcare because it kept the Affordable Care Act from expiring this year.
But his main reason for coming to the county was to energize the troops in what he described as a red (Republican) area. He talked about the importance of the Senator race involving Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz for future votes involving voter and reproductive rights legislation as well as the future environmental concerns.
He introduced Dan Pastore who is trying to unseat United States Congressman Mike Kelly. Pastore echoed many of Casey's points.
It was a chance for local Democrats to come together. "It's important to show support our support and get [yard] signs and to talk with other like minded people," said Debbie Cagle. She and her husband Tom are dismayed by the number of people who still believe the 2020 election was fraudulent.
Just over 620 people voted from the crowd of over 700 at Sunday's Taste of Talent finals. The steering heat didn't stop Kaleb Beichner from two high energy performances to woo the audience and judges.
Beichner spent the first few weeks of the competition almost sedately hiding behind a guitar as he sang, often with his eyes closed. The judges were complimentary of his voice and song choice but suggested he get out from behind the guitar.
Not only did he take their advice he stunned judge Nathaniel Licht who commented that Beichner wasn't even close to the same performer he saw in week one adding that he was blown away. All judges said that Beichner was a completely different performer in the finals as he appeared to have high energy walking back and forth around the stage and working the audience.
And it must've been enough, a.standing ovation ensued after his final song and he was the top vote getter in the competition.
Alexander Karg, Ruth Herrick and Christian Agnew each gave crowd pleasing performances. Emcee Tammi Dahl Matthews said votes between the contestants were really close the day before in the semi-finals and just didn't really know who was going to rise to the top.
Editor's note: This posterization was an accident that we just thought looked cool so we thought we'd share it anyway.
The dapperest dude in Taste!
A voice that belts it through your brain.
From the soul.
The epitome of "I did it My Way!"
A quick learner and the winner.
See more of this year's Taste of Talent photos by Eight & 322 at https://sayerrich.zenfolio.com/p639871164
Rocky Grove High School students Jaimie Thomas and Cailyn Shaffer stood holding each other's hands to support one another in the center of the grandstand stage at the Venango County Fairgrounds Sunday. Moments earlier they emerged from the Venango County Fair's cow barns looking like they were heading to the prom. They made their way across the dusty paths avoiding small mud puddles to the grandstand where a small crowd awaited their entrance in their formal gowns.
Not your typical fair attire that's for sure.
The two contestants introduced themselves and then had to await the judges decision who would be crowned the very first Venango County Fair queen. This is a new pageant according to fair board member Dan Nicklin, who said this is different than the 4-H queen and king which are generally picked by the 4-Hers.
This Fair Queen will go on to the State Farm show to represent the county this winter.
As the two friends stood together they supported each other by holding hands and chatting in the center of the stage. The four judges tallied the results from their essay, an earlier interview and speech, and their welcoming announcement to the crowd.
No one was more surprised than Thomas when her name roared out over the loud speakers. "I was shocked," she said. "It's very exciting. It is a pleasure that I'm able to be the first queen."
As queen, Thomas will greet visitors to the fairgrounds in the ticket booth and walk around the fair this week.
She will also make appearances outside the fair to promote what the fair does for the community. She will appear at the annual 4-H at the Mall event as well as Franklin's Light Up Night this fall. But most importantly she will be the first ever Venango County representative in the State Farm Show Pageant this winter
"I'm super proud her, this is super out of her comfort zone. So for her to even try ... I'm so proud of her that she took that little step outside of her box," her mom Sara Watson said.
Shaffer will serve as the first alternate and they will both be around helping to promote the fair and the Fair Queen program for future generations.
Below are the contestants' essays answering the question "What my fair means to my community."
My fair, the Venango County Fair, plays a key role in my community for small businesses, education and building relationships.
Small businesses in the area benefit from the fair in multiple ways. The fair brings in
additional traffic to the Franklin area which allows small businesses to market their products to
more people - often creating loyal customers from both in and out of town.
In similar ways, it allows organizations like volunteer fire departments to raise money using booths at the fair. The fair also educates the youth and families in the community about the agriculture industry and where their food comes from through talking to exhibitors.
Exhibitors also continue to build skills like communication, respect and personal relationships with many community members. 4-H also provides members opportunities to earn scholarships which help with
further education. This enables young adults to bring their knowledge back to our community
and improve the agriculture practices we use.
My community also benefits from the fair by the relationships it creates. Exhibitors and
community members gather in one spot to see the animals, the exhibits and the special events
such as the demolition derby and livestock auction. Enjoying these events together creates a
unique bond among the community members who can rely on and help each other in times of
These are just a few reasons why the Venango County Fair plays a key role in my
community for small businesses, education and building relationships. Most importantly, it brings
the community together. Because when a community is bonded together we are stronger and
can make positive changes in and around the place we call home.
The Venango County Fair celebrates everyone’s successful learning and showing off the
best from this year’s harvest and handmade crafts. This fair is quite vital to my community and it
means the whole world to them.
The week is fully packed with exciting events from the horse shows all the way to the derbies and fireworks. To my community this is the place to be, which is why a lot of people take the whole week off from work or their normal daily activities.
This all just because they want to enjoy their fair.
Our fair has provided a meeting place, a recreation area, and a lovely camping site for those to enjoy. The Venango County Fair is the place to be, not just because of the lovely animals or the roaring demo derby, but because it took a community to put it together. It is also a chance for 4-H alumni to see what their clubs are doing at the fair this year and a chance for them to meet old friends once again.
It is a great way for them to say “Thank you 4-H” for helping them shape their future. The youth get to engage and connect with others that have the same interests as them. Each one of us is making enjoyable
memories year after year.
These memories are the reason why my community cares for our fair. Our fair has provided entertainment for youth and adults for many years and plans to continue this for many years to come.
Editor's note: We were working on another story tonight so we missed the semi-finals. All photos are from previous nights.
.... all will move on to Sunday's finals where each will perform two songs as they vie for the 2022 Taste of Talent championship. The event kicks off at 4 p.m. at Bandstand Park.
The Venango County Fairgrounds was just "bogged" down Saturday as they opened the gates to truckloads of critters and cars with bushes go items from the best beet to 5x7 copies of their best sell phone photos.
This kicked-off the annual weeklong fair. Besides all that work being done in the main exhibitors section, out behind the grandstand area the sound of revved up truck engines pierce the quiet as mud boggers tested their torque and driving skills traversing giant puddle of brown gooey water. Dozens of folks sat in bleacher seats or up on mounds of dirt to watch the modified trucks try not to be stuck in the mud.
Check out the fair schedule to figure out when you want get a funnel cake or the famous sausage sandwiches over at the Reno Fire Department booth as you check out what all the mooing is about.
Iris Callahan performing in Taste of Talent on July 20, 2022
For Taste of Talent competitor Iris Callahan, choosing to help a family friend in a time of need was more important than winning a vocal competition. The friend had to have emergency surgery and needed someone to help them during recovery.
"Besides my commitment to Taste of Talent, I didn’t have much on my calendar, so it was fortunate timing to be able to step up and help where I could," she said.
This unfortunate turn of events meant that Wednesday's elimination round didn't need to eliminate anyone after all. The event organizers decided all remaining contestants would move into the semi-final round.
The votes collected Wednesday will not be in vain, they will be kept and added to the votes cast in Saturday night's semi-final round.
So, Madison Wakefield, Alexander Karg, Christian Agnew, Shanay Jackson, Kaleb Beichner, Tim Craver and Ruth Herrick will be back vying for a shot at the finals the following day. Only four of the seven will advance. The event kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The finals begin at 4 p.m. Sunday with the remaining competitors each singing two songs for a chance to woo the crowd.
Callahan expressed regret that she won't be able to make it back to watch her new found friends in the Taste of Talent family. "I had a wonderful time participating in Taste of Talent. It’s been refreshing, coming from a somewhat competitive gigging scene in Dallas/Fort Worth to be met with support and camaraderie from other musicians in the midst of a literal competition," she said.
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