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Agencies urge fireworks safety for upcoming holiday

Independence Day celebrations are just around the corner, and many people in the community look forward to seeing brightly colored sparks light up the sky.

Many have the day off work and plans with family and friends to barbecue in the backyard, hang out at the pool or have a picnic by the river.

If you’re setting off fireworks, though, there are many things to remember and consider to keep you and those around you safe.

According to the National Safety Council, the month of July historically has an astonishingly high number of visits to emergency rooms. “More fires are reported on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year,” and two out of five fires are fireworks related, according to a council spokesman.

The National Fire Protection Association says that an average of 1,300 house or building fires and 300 vehicle fires occur in relation to fireworks each year.

In fact, people without experience are encouraged not to set off fireworks themselves, but to watch them from afar as displays conducted by professionals. The American Red Cross recommends being at least 500 feet away from the location from which they are launched.

In 2016, around 11,000 people were injured in firework-related incidents. Even small devices like firecrackers and sparklers can be dangerous to children or anyone setting them off, says the NSC.

Some parents may not realize sparklers can reach up to 2,000 degrees and could possibly catch and ignite on clothing. Even small, seemingly harmless firecrackers can cause burns. Bottle rockets have been known to cause harm to teens, even resulting in reduced vision due to eye injuries.

The American Red Cross gives basic fireworks safety tips such as never being impaired by drugs or alcohol while lighting them, never lighting them indoors, having a bucket of water nearby, refraining from relighting a malfunctioned firework and always wearing protective eyewear.

If enjoyed safely and from the appropriate distance, fireworks are one of the best parts of holiday-related celebrations each year.

Pet awareness

Something else people often forget during their Independence Day festivities are their animals at home, who are likely to be traumatized by the loud “booms.”

Both dogs and cats have sensitive ears, and will even go so far as to break through gates, fences or windows to try and escape what they’re experiencing during fireworks.

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends keeping your dog or cat in a closed room and inside of a crate in order to keep them from running away and to help muffle the noise.

It’s also recommended to give them a healthy-dosed sedative, play soothing sounds for them and make sure they’re hydrated. If fireworks are traumatic enough to cause health issues, pet owners are even encouraged to stay home to coax them through the experience.

Photo by Chris Wechtenhiser 

DuBois Little League All-Star Drew Cook belts a pinch-hit RBI double to the fence in right-center in the top of the seventh inning Sunday against Johnsonburg/Kane. Cook's hit put DuBois up 9-8 in a game they went on to win 12-8 to stay alive in the District 10 Tournament.

St. Marys Public Library:
A SUMMER ESCAPE: St. Marys Library offers puzzles, games for youth

ST. MARYS — Children at the St. Marys Public Library not only have escaped school for the summer, but are learning how to escape other scenarios, too.

About a year ago, the St. Marys Public Library began offering escape rooms, an interactive in-person puzzle experience for youth and adults.

The escape rooms are for children and adults ages nine or older, said Director Leslie Swope. Each room contains five or six puzzles participants are to solve together in a 45 minute time period. The activity is held once a month on a weeknight.

The escape room idea has been good for youngsters, since it teaches them how to use their brain in a different way, while also giving them the chance to develop leadership and teamwork skills, Swope said.

“As I have watched the kids do it, it’s very educational in a way they aren’t used to,” she said. “They are thinking in a different way and thinking outside of the box. It’s good for adults, too.”

Each room has a different theme, and the game comes from an education kit. The kits are created by people like teachers and librarians, Swope said.

Some themes so far have been Pandora’s Box, Harry Potter, Back to the Future, an Olympic Team and “Elf” at Christmas time.

Swope encountered her first escape room in Pittsburgh, and thought it would be a great idea to bring back to the library and get not just younger children but older youth involved as well. They have been successful, and usually people who attend one return for another, she said.

Families sometimes do the puzzles together, but alternatively, parents are able to spend leisurely time in the library until their child is finished, Swope said. Escape rooms can be a great bonding activity for families, too.

“The library is considered a safe place, so parents don’t feel weird leaving the kids alone here,” she said.

Swope said one of the purposes of the escape room is to remind youth that the library is a safe and welcoming place, and there is always something fun to do there. It also gives them an outlet in the summer to keep their brain working.

Library staff also holds story time for younger children, a lego club, “crafternoon” for middle and high school students and monthly book group for teenagers.

“We see the kids coming in, and we want to do something with them to give them memories of the library and keep them coming,” Swope said. “Whenever school is out we like to provide things for the kids to do. It’s all about keeping them engaged.”

A music-themed escape room will be staged Thursday, July 19 at 6 p.m. There is about a 15-person limit for each room, and participants must register at the front desk.

Call 814-834-6141 for more information.

File photo  

This file photo shows products at Kneppy’s Fireworks. Consumer fireworks were legalized in Pennsylvania last year.

A VERY BERRY TRADITION: Reynoldsville festival to return this year

REYNOLDSVILLE — A very “berry” tradition will return to Reynoldsville this year, celebrating a small-town tradition with blue faces and lots of smiles.

The Red, White and Blueberry Festival will be held July 13, 14 and 15, at a new location — the Harry F. Kunselman Playground & Reynoldsville Park.

This is the festival’s fifth year, said Chairman Sam Bundy. The event brings many unique aspects to the community, like a trolley ride that takes visitors to two blueberry farms just outside Reynoldsville — Maxim Berry Farm and Himes Blueberry Hill Farm.

“It’s really interesting to give people the opportunity to go out to the farms and see what is being produced,” Bundy said. “It’s kind of neat to see what’s happening outside the borough but in our area.”

One of the most exciting features of this year’s festival will be the first National Blueberry Pie Eating Contest for competitive eaters. It will be held Sunday at 2 p.m., and the youth version will be Saturday at 1 p.m.

A festival favorite is always the Blueberry Pie Eating contest, after which youngsters are known to have blue faces and full tummies.

The festival may differ from others in the way that different businesses and locations throughout town feature different activities, Bundy said. There are discounts at local stores and restaurants, and more occasions specifically geared towards the festival crowd, like beer tasting at downtown distributors or free hotdogs at S&T Bank.

On Friday, there will be a rummage sale at the Foundry, firemen’s bingo and rollerskating at the Reynoldsville Rollerdome. A free outdoor movie, weather permitting, will be shown at 9:30 p.m. at the park.

Saturday features the most events — a blueberry pancake breakfast, craft and vendor fair, motorcycle fun run, children’s bike parade, a beer tent, race at Hummingbird Speedway and fireworks at 9:45 p.m.

A beer tent sponsored by the DuBois Area Jaycees is also a festival addition this year, and will be held Saturday from 4-10 p.m.

“Sunday Fun Day” will offer Church in the Park at 10:30 a.m., free ice cream and free swimming, the American Cancer Society Duck Derby and bingo.

One of the biggest goals of the festival and the Reynoldsville Communtiy Association is to help downtown businesses and attract people to the town they treasure, Bundy said. Organizers hope to see the event grow in popularity and for more people get as excited and passionate about it as they are.

“We wanted to do something to attract attention to Reynoldsville, and let people know we are there,” Bundy said. “We are trying to help area businesses, and establish our own identity as a town.”

For a complete listing of daily events, visit

Photo by Elaine Haskins 

Contestants are shown participating in the blueberry pie-eating contest during a previous Red, White & Blueberry Festival in Reynoldsville.