The trees have arrived in Fountain Park and at least one sponsor, Carter Appraisal Services, got right to work stringing lights. By next weekend the park will be loaded with decorated trees in time for Franklin's Old Fashioned Christmas celebration.
Last year COVID forced the Barrow-Civic Christmas Tree
Extravaganza to shift gears and move outside.
The move proved to be so popular that his year the Franklin Fine Arts Council, after the Barrow decided to host their traditional indoor event, decided to do it again with the help of the Rotary and French Creek Farms.
Beith said recently that she really thought it added even more holiday beauty to the town.
Hallmark moments on their way
Tree sponsors will have this week to perfect their display. Last year several photos where shared around the world of the beautiful display. especially after the snowfall.
The Oil Region Library Association post on social media that folks can get the first 15 issues of the Hidden Heritage collection. We did a little story about this project back in October and can say for certain that this will be a unique and treasured gift for the holidays. For just $25 you get 15 editions featuring the regiontory in unique storytelling from a trio of dedicated history buffs. Long-time wordsmith Judy Etzel weaves the stories she and Kay Dawson research. They then present a pile of infuriation to Natalie Cubbon who expertly designs the twice a month newsletter publication.
A limited number of editions will be available for sale from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11th, at the Oil City Library.
To read more about the project you can check out the story we did back in October here.
An always family friendly First Night celebration will again bring folks to Oil City. Each year there is plenty of things to do with the kids as well as quality music in several venues on both sides of the river.
It's a laid back affair with short fireworks displays as bookends for all the entertainment.
Check out so many other things happening around the region during these holidays here.
Autism writer brings message of acceptance to Rocky Grove
"This is for the people in the back of the room- the teachers. You could be the one to start something wonderful," Jude Morrow told the assembly at Rocky Grove High School last week.
Morrow, who is the author of two books on autism, visited the area from Northern Ireland to talk about his life growing up. He described overcoming many negative stereotypes associated with autism and becoming who he is now - an author, motivational speaker and social worker with a global network dedicated to the education of how important autistic people are to the world.
"Who in the audience has a smartphone?" he asked the students. Nearly everyone raised their hands. He then explained the roll autistic people had in the advancements of science and technology that led to everyone having mini-computers/communication devices with them at all times. "Steve Jobs was autistic," he told the crowd.
He then listed a number of many very focused and successful people who had autism. Einstein, Mozart and Marie Currie were all autistic according to Morrow. "These are facts, look them up," he told the assembly.
Photo provided by Rocky Grove High School
Rocky Grove wasn't Morrow's only stop in the area. Earlier in the week, he spoke at Clarion University. On Thursday, he made an appearance at the Franklin Chamber of Commerce. And on Friday he spent time with a group of kids in the morning at high school before giving two assembly talks in the afternoon.
He used his own story to point out how beating misconceptions, stereotypes and finding the right combination of people along the way can make all the difference in the world for anyone, but especially someone with autism.
"This wonderful boy had so many challenges from the way other people viewed him," Morrow described himself to the crowd of teens and during his TEDx talk on YouTube.
Morrow didn't come all the way across the pond to just give a motivational speech. He has a mission to teach the world about the positives of the autism community and not the negative stereotypes.
As part of the assembly, Morrow projected a slide with a definition of autism - "a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by social difficulties and/or obsessive and repetitive behaviours whilst having narrow interests."
"That's pretty negative isn't it?" he asked before tasking the crowd with seeing that definition as a barrier. 'How would you feel if you were always being told what you can't do or what you are doing isn't normal?"
He emphasized that to the person with autism their behavior is perfectly normal.
So much focus is placed on what an autistic kid is not. By labeling autism as a disorder stigmatizes the individual. He asked everyone to consider the good qualities the individual has instead. "We are the ones asked to change," he said. Instead of seeing social interactions or "quirks" as negatives, the audience was challenged to accept those things as individual traits or perhaps even strengths.
Allowing people to be who they are and helping them grow can lead to incredible things.
"The next Nobel Prize winner might be in this audience," he said to the students and teachers.
Among the things Morrow shared was a story about how he played as a child. "I loved to line my toy cars on the window sill," he told the audience. He said he would have a blast playing that way alone for hours. Adults deemed it to be obsessive behavior and not appropriate, so efforts were made to get him to play differently and with others kids.
"On the schoolyard, there was chaos," he explained about how he saw the other children's idea of play. He described holding his teacher's hand not knowing how he could fit into that type of play. He just wanted to play his way.
Then he told the crowd something he would repeat many times, "Yet, I was the one asked to change."
Morrow came to the United States to sign and share his books in hopes more people would grow in their understanding of what autistic individuals have to offer.
He also took the opportunity to make friends wherever he went. That was evident when Franklin Chamber of Commerce director Jodi Baker Lewis held an informal meet and greet. When a learning support teacher dropped by to get a book, Morrow gladly signed it and threw in a spoiler about his memoir. "I don't die at the end," he whispered with a smile.
His gentleness kept things light throughout the one-on-one interactions, which much like his presentations, included humor to keep people relaxed while he informs.
Also while at the chamber - the idea that this is a small world was revealed when Jim Malliard popped in to say hello. Morrow was nearly speechless when he unexpectedly saw the familiar face. Malliard, whose son has autism, runs a podcast that hosts guests from all over the world. Almost a year ago Morrow was Malliard's guest on the show. "I live here in Polk," Malliard said as Morrow's jaw dropped when he recognized his voice. "Why didn't you tell me," was his only response.
They got a chance to talk briefly and talked about perhaps doing another podcast.
Morrow is always wanting another chance to reach more people with his message agreed.
Perhaps the most important meeting happened a few moments later when Mark Snyder came in and the two began to talk. Snyder was fixated on a specific part of Morrow's TEDx Talk on YouTube. Morrow understood Snyder's fixation and worked to answer while showing him further explanations that are not in his book or on the video.
He was impressed that Snyder was openly talking about his autism at such a young age and he commended his knowledge. Morrow told Snyder they are part of a very important group of people and part of the same tribe. "It is easier for me to talk to you, than is talking to them" he told Snyder as he gestured toward the rest of us in the room.
He wasn't being distrustful to us, he was explaining to Snyder it is OKto seek out those you're comfortable talking with. It was a beautiful exchange.
Morrow's business Neurodiversity Training International seeks to train and raise awareness globally. He has clients all over the world, including Antarctica, which he insists is a long story that he'll tell someday.
Through group talks and one-on-one sessions, he is hoping educators become more aware of how to best support and teach children on the spectrum so they can better achieve their potential.
"We don't think of the word autism as a disorder, and yet we're stigmatized," he said. He encourages people to embrace they are different and understand that their talents may lie within those differences. If this society can at least begin to understand this, he'll know his work is helping better humanity.
To learn more and follow Morrow visit www.facebook.com/neurodiversitytraining.
His books can be found on Amazon.
"There is definitely a need," said Joyce Frenz who helps organize the Good Hope and Zion Lutheran Chursh's annual Thanksgiving Meal delivery program.
As of last week the church was a little nervous that people weren't signing up for the free meals. Office administrator Kristen Craido said only about 150 people had signed up. Since that time the number has doubled, but they have typically served over 400 meals a year. They don't want anyone left out. Last year with COVID 19 they weren't able to provide the meals so they want to remind everyone they are back and wanting to warm bellies..
They are still accepting names and they really want to help provide the turkey dinners with mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy along with a special green bean with bacon side dish recipe, cranberry sauce and a piece of pumpkin pie.
The combined church meal is possible because of the many volunteers from the community and even other churches. "It's an amazing amount of people who want to help," Frenz said. She told stories about people wanting to help because their parents or grandparents helped and they want to keep passing that down to the next generation.
Though they always could use more help. "We don't have enough drivers," said Jeff Clark who was helping organize delivery routes. He said they'll figure it out but would accept more drivers if anyone steps forward. Anyone able to help can call (814) 676 - 9122
They serve most meals in the Oil City area, but have some requests from Seneca, Franklin and Dempseytown as well. And they try to get them delivered on Thanksgiving between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
With 45 large turkey breasts being cooked over the next couple days and 65 pies to be picked up, they will have enough to feed more folk than what has signed up thus far. Frenz said that normally the deadline for signing up was Sunday, but this year they are extending it to be sure they serve as many as they can.
There are more churches and organizations also providing meals this year so the lower numbers could be a result of that, but Frenz, nor the kitchen full of volunteers, want anyone to go hungry.
The church also announced they are starting up their twice a month free meals served at the Zion Church downtown.
Every second and last Tuesday of the month they serve dozens of people in need through grants and donations. Anyone wishing to help these programs can call the office for more information or send donations to the church.
More information can also be found on their website. www.goodhopezionlutheranoilcity.org
If there could be a queen of Franklin, Ronnie Beith would be wearing that crown, albeit reluctantly. She refuses to take credit for anything because she knows it takes quite a coordination of many to pull off a great downtown event.
But a whisper in my ear on Saturday in the middle of the Light Up Night parade from the queen herself said it all.
"This is my baby."
She was wearing a mask, but her smile was obvious. Beith loves, loves LOVES Light Up Night and the Christmas season.
The parade, the fireworks, the singers and that tree...... Franklin's tree is a marvel. Only about twenty feet shorter than the one at Rockerfeller Center tree. "With the star this is the tallest one we've had," said commissioner Mike Dulaney who also helped put the lights on the this year. Dulaney has volunteered since the first tree in 2015.
The 53 foot tree with a three foot star towers above Franklin. It is a gift from the city of Franklin to its 6,000 or so redients and the people who venture in to town to shop or eat during the holidays. It might not be the tallest community tree, but thanks to Beith and architect of the plan, Dan Weiland, who figure it out each year, it is ours..
This years tree came from up on the hill.
The Lafon family in the Oak Hill area od Franklin were having troubles with the roots of their "picture tree" and knew it had to come down.
Franklin's need became the Lafon's donation and entry into the city's history. Several area businesses: ITC Crane, Wayland Contractors, Klapec Trucking and Paul Bunyan Tree services donated hundreds of dollars worth of time, labor and equipment for the month and half of holiday enjoyment for those who pass through Franklin.
On Saturday Beith and her long list of helpers put on a few dozen unit parade, brought in top-notch singers and then, at the of the parade, lit the tree lights and then lit the sky with fireworks. The crowd along Liberty Street was three or four rows deep to watch the parade.
"I am going to be a bit wordy – but it comes from my heart. Where does one begin to say thank you to so many special folks!" Beith wrote on social media the next morning. She then did go on to thank everyone.
"I am feeling so much joy and gratitude."
And the comments on her post echoed Beith's gratitude.
"It was the perfect night, the fireworks were absolutely beautiful! Thank you all," said Deb Krizon.
Ashleigh Phillips said "An absolutely amazing event for our community. Well done! Thank you!"
Susan Biddle Blair said "I was in town around 4:00 and was a little worried. There were chairs out for the parade but not many people. Then just like magic and on cue….here came the people!!!
What a great event…thanks."
"This was our first year attending and it will be now the first of many! Absolutely loved the atmosphere and the shops that were open great parade, tree lighting and fireworks! Thank you all for your hard work and dedication, my three year old had a magical time!" said Shelby Crider. And the comments kept on going.
This is a premier western Pennsylvania event.
"It all comes together in a labor of love! Thousands of smiling faces, happy children and lifetime memories are the endless reward," wrote Beith.
This special season has begun!"
Beith is still looking for businesses, organization and individuals who want to decorate a tree in Fountain Park for Old Fashioned Christmas in a couple weeks. Last year this event, out of COVID - 19 necessity was such a hit they wanted to do this again. It became many a "hallmark" moment for folks on social media sharing holiday photos that it just may become the next big Franklin tradition. They are always finding ways to add onto their already successful traditions.
If interested in learning more about the Fountain Park trees contact Ronnie at email@example.com
Ronnie's parting words, as always, look positively forward, "We wish you many joy-filled moments and good health in the weeks ahead!
Franklin Chamber's annual wine walk drew hundreds downtown Friday to check out what Franklin businesses have to offer and sample area wineries. The chamber and other business organizations are always trying to get folks downtown. Friday's wine walk did just that and it also gave folks the opportunity to stock up for the holidays and even purchase some gifts.
Feature picture of the day
One Tuesday volunteers were waiting around the Venango County Courthouse for the arrival to town's holiday centerpiece, a 53 foot tall Christmas Tree. The tree arrived and is being decorated and on Saturday will light up to oohs and ahhhs and hundreds of photos will be taken. No thousands.
Let there be Light Up Night
Edited at 11 a.m. to correct a time.
There will be Christmas in Franklin afterall. The arduous search for the city's centerpiece of the holidays, the large tree for the front of the courthouse, ended with a family giving to their community while also ridding their yard of a pine that likely needed to go.
Robin Lafon, of the Oak Hill neighborhood in Franklin, said Tuesday that recent problems with the tree roots growing into pipes was causing her and husband Tim to consider taking down the tree that has been in their front yard since they moved there 31 years ago.
A chance to become part of Franklin's history and the cries of "do it, do it" from the grandkids helped them make the decision.
"It was always our picture tree," said Lyndsie Lafon who said there was a photo of her posing by the tree when she was little. "It was probably only about 15 feet tall."
On Tuesday, the Lafon family saved Christmas for Franklin by donating the tree, now 57 feet tall to Franklin.
"It looks like the Grinch's tree," Robin said one of her grandchildren claimed as it was being taken down and lifted by a crane. "(I think) because it is flying through the air," she explained.
"It's pretty cool," said Robin who was reluctant at first but warmed up to it more as she watched it go into place in front of the courthouse.
"I never really thought about it being a beautiful tree, but seeing it in front of the courthouse and hearing people talking about how beautiful it is... it is beautiful."
As she stood watching her daughter and grandson Eliott rise up to the top of the tree for ceremonial placing of the star she elaborated, "it's going to be a great memory and it's for a good cause." Though staring at the tree a little longer she said she will miss collecting the pine cones for crafts. "I won't miss all the pine needles everywhere though."
Franklin events coordinator Ronnie Beith couldn't have been happier. Normally she would know where the tree was coming at least a month out from Light Up Night. But this year it was only last Wednesday she could finally exclaim "We have a tree."
Dan Weiland, one of the original architects of the tradition of bringing a giant tree downtown said he looked at dozens of trees, some on google maps and others in person. It wasn't until the Lafon tree surfaced that he had a winner.
With a few feet were cutoff the stump, the tree measures 53 feet, which was the same height of the 2018 tree.
Beith calls her dedicated crew of volunteers her elves. Paul Bunyan Tree Service, Klapec Trucking, ITC Crane and Whalen Contracting all volunteer their services to this endeavor each year.
Volunteer crews will be on hand Wednesday to begin officially decorating the tree with lights, which number in the thousands including 586 that twinkle, according to Franklin Fine Arts president Pat Dolecki.
"They were all replaced this week," she said after the new lights, ordered in August, were stuck getting to the states. She said they were due to arrive in September. But, like the tree, they didn't have them until last week.
The Lafon tree and its twinkle lights will get a chance to shine when they make their formal debut Saturday following the Light Up Night parade.
Light Up Night kicks off the holiday season this Saturday with events all day including a chance to see artist Fred Carrow and get signed copies of his newest artwork "Christmas Magic Over Franklin" at Victorian City Art & Frame. The Franklin Library will host a Cookie Walk Bake Sale from noon to 3 p.m. A variety of downtown shops and restaurants will be open throughout the day and the Barrow Civic Theatre will hold a concession stand under the marquee.
The theatre will also once again host an indoor Christmas tree display, which is expected to include more than 50 trees. On Saturday, the lobby will be open from 1 to 9 p.m. It will be available for viewing throughout the holiday season based on the theatre’s regular business hours and performance schedule.
At 4:45 p.m., Nathaniel Licht, Rachael Mellor and Anna Lehnortt will perform in front of Fountain Park. Right before them the Franklin Madrigal singers will entertain.
Warner’s Bakery will give away free cookies and warm cider from 5 to 7 p.m.
The Light Up Night Parade steps off at 6 p.m. Local schools, bands, dance groups, service groups, churches, businesses and community organizations will build floats, march and perform including the Franklin Silver Cornet Band and the Franklin High School Black Knight Marching Band.
The popular Zem-Zems will be zigging and zagging in their motorized vehicles
New this year, the Franklin Post Office will gather children’s letters to Santa before the Big Guy makes his appearance at the end of the parade.
After Santa passes through town, parade goers move into position in front of the courthouse for the lighting of the Christmas tree and town followed by the fireworks blasting off from Fountain Park.
“Please join us on this magical night as we ignite the true spirit of the holiday season in the hearts, minds and souls of people of all ages,” Beith said.
UPDATE: Franklin Chamber of Commerce executive director Jodi Baker Lewis is inviting the public to an informal meet and greet Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. with Jude Morrow.
Morrow will be in town for a week and plans to speak at Rocky Grove High School on November 19. That presentation is for the student and teacher community. Morrow will also be meeting specifically with students with autism who have signed up for a more one-on-one discussion about what resources and tools they have to make the most out of their education and life.
Editor's Note: Eight & 322 plans to sit down with Morrow this week to learn more about him and what we can do as a community to be more aware and help our neighbors with autism.
Nature of Things columnist Anna Applegate shared one of her favorite photos of her Saint Bernard Sherman. Applegate says Sherman is a professional at posing for photographs. This specific photo netted almost 200 likes and numerous comments on a Saint Bernard lovers Facebook page. Check out the next post on The Nature of Things for more on Sherman's "modeling" career.
The eleventh hour of the eleventh day
I was taken a bit by surprise today as I crossed over Veterans Bridge in Oil City prior to the parade and Veterans Day observance ceremony. There were hundreds of folks lining both sides of the bridge waving flags and holding signs.
The Oil City elementary school's took buses downtown, armed with red, white and blue things they made. Some made headbands with the names of the seven branches of the military, others made signs thanking veterans and so many of them waved flags and cheered as the small parade marched across the bridge.
The Oil City American Legion held its annual observance that culminated in a service at Central Plaza at 11 a.m. The parade left Justus Park on the city's Northside and processed over Veterans Bridge, stopping in the middle to toss a flower into the Allegheny before finishing up at the plaza.
The new Venango County Veterans Affairs officer Harry Whittemore gave the keynote speech. Memebrs of several area organizations took part including the V.E.T.S. Honor Guard, the Els and the Oil City Marching Band.
The plaza was filled with over 100 people, but the parade route was loaded and loaded with kids.
Below are a few more photos from the observance.
Wednesday night a small gathering at the new visitor center display gave the ORA a chance to show off the work and thank those who put in the time. Phillips said the cost of running a stand alone visitor center is extensive, so partnerships like this one with he Franklin chamber make sense and benefit each other and the region. This is the fourth such project for the ORA with visitor center displays in Emlenton, Titusville and Oil City..
Franklin Chamber of Commerce director Jodi Baker Lewis said that the chamber is known to get 30 to 40 visitors on any given Saturday, so this new display is a welcomed addition to what she was already offering visitors. She thanked the ORA for the opportunity to showcase this new display.
Yodeling echoed through the halls of Franklin High School Monday night. No it wasn't the folks hollering about masks or CRT at a school board meeting, It was the talented Grace Turk singing ""he Lonely Goatherd" song during dress rehearsal for the upcoming combined Franklin and Rocky Grove high school production "The Sound of Music." Turk is playing Maria Rainer, the part made famous by Julie Andrews in the classic movie about the Von Trapp family's escape from Nazi occupied Austria into Switzerland. Though many virtues were taken with the adaptation, it is a classic hero's tale of standing up for what is right on many levels.
On Monday, the Franklin production was ironing out early kinks to be ready to open on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Franklin's auditorium. The show runs three nights - Thursday, Friday and Saturday with all performances starting at 7 p.m.
The show features a live orchestra, the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic songs, terrific performances by Turk and others including a very sweet Gretl who falls asleep on the steps during the "So Long, Farewell" scene, and great wardrobe.
These school shows benefit the theater and music programs allowing them to give the students a more rounded education experience as well as give back to the community. Doors open
Below are more photos from their first dress rehearsal.
Visit https://sayerrich.zenfolio.com/p332393649 for even more photos.
Oil City' Main Street's mural program fixed a problem mural by replacing it with a bigger show stopper on the side of State Street Furniture just off the Veterans Bridge on the city's south side..
Holidaysburg artist Michael Allison has finished his second Oil City wall endeavor. His Chief Cornplanter and the Oilmen mural has adorned a wall a couple blocks away from this newest effort.
Allison has been installing and touching up this huge painting for a few days with the help of his cousin Mark King.
"Accomplished something kind of special today," Allison wrote on his Facebook page.
This replaced another train themed mural that was deteriorating and needed to come down.
Holding on to the moment
Cranberry Elementary student gets a surprise in time
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