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Pumpkin patch rolls out of sight

FROGTOWN – When Paul and Linda Stahlman were considering converting their Clarion County farm into a pumpkin patch nearly a dozen years ago, their biggest worry was that it would be a bust.

“We could do this and no one may come,” Paul Stahlman said last week, while reflecting on 10 seasons of operating Paul’s Pumpkin Patch in Frogtown.

But the people came. Boy, did they come.

And now, after 11 years in the business, the Stahlmans announced recently that they are retiring and that the popular fall destination will not open this year.

“We knew last year,” Paul Stahlman explained. He said he told the teachers who came along on the many school trips to the pumpkin patch that the 2018 season would likely be the final one. “It was real fun, but it was a terrific amount of work.”

Both retired school teachers, Paul and Linda Stahlman started thinking about what to do with themselves, and their family farm, after retiring from their teaching careers. Paul said the idea of a pumpkin patch came to him while visiting his sister in Virginia in the fall of 2007 where they stopped in at a pumpkin patch.

“I was looking for something to make a little money on the farm,” he said. “[Farming] was bad then, and worse now.”

He began researching the topic, working with farm and business organizations in the area who told him that the timing was just right to open a pumpkin patch as there was a growing interest in connecting people with the food they eat.

“That meant bringing people back onto the farm,” he said.

Paul’s Pumpkin Patch opened in 2008 and quickly grew into one of the area’s top attractions, drawing in thousands of visitors each year, from both local towns as well as from across the region and even out of state.

“It was the right mix,” Paul said of the patch, which not only offered pick-your-own pumpkins as well as a market full of a wide variety of pumpkins, but also hayrides, a corn box, mazes, a barnyard petting zoo and more.

“We had a lot of loyal followers,” Linda Stahlman said, noting that people not only came back year after year, but one woman even made the pumpkin patch a weekly destination. “Those kind of things make it hard to quit.”

As word spread about the pumpkin patch, and more people came each year, the Stahlmans kept adding to the experience at the farm which has been in the Stahlman family since 1845.

The patch was open every fall from 2008 to 2018, with the exception of 2016 due to illness. The couple said that despite the year off, the 2017 season was their biggest ever as far as attendance.

One popular attraction was “The Frogtown Flinger,” a trebuchet that was built by their sons.

Paul Stahlman said his sons told him, “Dad, if you’re going to have a pumpkin patch, you have to have a pumpkin launcher.”

Now, the launcher and much of the other equipment used at the patch has been sold, they said.

“It was strange seeing it hauled off,” Linda said of watching the trebuchet be carted away. “But what are you going to do with a trebuchet?”

The items were sold to another farm in the area that is considering starting their own pumpkin patch, Paul said, but declined to go into specifics.

Although planning to travel and spend time visiting their three sons in Pittsburgh, Chicago and San Jose, the Stahlmans said they still will keep farming their property, raising cattle, sheep and chickens.

The other difficult task at hand is breaking the news of the patch’s closure to their loyal followers.

“I feel bad for the school groups,” Paul said, explaining that the farm was visited by 600 to 800 students each year.

“We appreciate the people who supported us throughout the years,” he added. “It was a part of us. There’s chapters in your life, and that was a nice chapter.”


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Grants benefit Rimersburg Hose Co.

RIMERSBURG – The Rimersburg Hose Company has benefited recently from several grants that have helped the local firefighters upgrade their equipment, with an eye toward the challenges most volunteer fire departments in the area are facing, namely the lack of manpower.

Jim Foringer, fire chief in Rimersburg, said that as the number of volunteers who are willing and able to serve as firefighters dwindles, departments are faced with figuring out how to do what they do, but with fewer people.

A recent $13,280 grant through the Trans Canada Corp. not only helped the hose company upgrade its breathing air equipment, but also to purchase a new battery operated “jaws of life” rescue tool.

Foringer said the new tool can be used by one person, as opposed to the two to four people needed to operated the old hydraulic tool.

Even the breathing air upgrades were made due to the changing scope of area fire departments, he said, noting that firefighters are being called to scenes farther and farther from their home territory to help cover for other departments that are also shorthanded.

With fewer firefighters, there’s a greater need to refill air tanks quickly so they can get back into the fight.

“And you’re running more and more calls to assist other companies,” Foringer said. “We’re traveling farther than we used to.”

The grant helped the company upgrade its ability refill air tanks, going from a 4,500 psi system to a more modern 6,000 psi system compatible with today’s equipment. Foringer said Rimersburg Hose is the only company in the southern part of Clarion County with the mobile air equipment. The next closest is in Emlenton, he said.

The company also received grants from the Eccles Foundation over the past couple of years, totaling $15,000, that allowed it to install super bright scene lighting on all three of its main trucks.

“There was a need to get better lighting on fire grounds, accident scenes,” Foringer explained, noting that the old lights were inadequate.

Fixed Firetech lights were installed on the sides and back of the tanker and rescue trucks, and telescoping lights were placed on the fire engine.

“We’re making the scene safer,” Foringer said of the new lighting.

The fact that the hose company is applying for more and more grants is also tied to the decrease in volunteers, Foringer said. He explained that the money is needed now more than ever because it has become increasingly hard for small fire departments to hold regular fundraisers due to the lack of volunteers.

“You can’t do fundraisers with five guys,” he said. “That’s why we’re applying for these grants.”

As the manpower shortage has grown in Rimersburg and all around, Foringer said the department is responding to more and more calls.

In 2015, Rimersburg firefighters were called out 85 times during the year. That number jumped to 168 fire and rescue calls in 2018. And so far this year, through five-plus months, the company has already been called 73 times, including a whopping 23 calls in the month of May alone.

While a fire department such as Rimersburg could have handled many of the calls on its own a few years ago, now, Foringer said, companies are dual-dispatched during daylight hours because of the lack of manpower. He said they are working more closely these days with East Brady and Sligo departments to meet the need.

“During daylight, you’re lucky if you get three guys,” he said.

For structure fires, Foringer said what once took three or four fire departments, now takes five or six. And that means firefighters have to travel farther to reach the scenes.


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Honor students head beautification project at RVHS

NEW BETHLEHEM – Members of the National Honor Society (NHS) are typically known for leaving their marks on the academic landscape. This year, however, members of Redbank Valley High School NHS decided to leave their mark on the physical landscape of RVHS.

Just before the end of the school year, approximately 45 NHS students in grades 10-12 spent a day working on a beautification project that included adding landscaping to two heavily-trafficked locations on the high school’s campus — the side gym entrance and the football field.

According to recent RVHS graduate and 2018-19 NHS president Peyton Kirkpatrick, the idea for the project stemmed from a conversation among the local students last fall regarding school pride and curb appeal. It was then that the NHS voted to initiate a spring beautification project at the high school.

“One of the four pillars of the National Honor Society is service, so each year we coordinate service projects within our school and community,” Kirkpatrick said, noting that this year’s NHS members wanted to invest their time in a project that would last. “When we settled on the beautification project, I knew that it would be exactly what the district needed in this transitional time — something that makes a statement and says ‘Welcome to Redbank Valley home of the Bulldogs.’”

After creating their own design plans, the students reached out to the school district for support. District officials voted not only to support the project, but pledged up to $1,750 to help with expenses with the stipulation that the NHS had to fundraise the remainder of the $3,500 budget. In the few short weeks, Kirkpatrick said, society members received donations from several area individuals, families, businesses and school clubs and organizations, and the work day was set.

On May 29, members of the honor society and a few community volunteers cut back dirt, planted perennials and mulched around both sides of the building’s side gymnasium entrance.

“That entrance is heavily used for after school activities,” Kirkpatrick he said, explaining that the students wanted to transform the space into an entrance that was welcoming to the public and made a statement. “That was one of our biggest goals.”

In addition, he said, the students also built flower beds and landscaped the area under the scoreboard at the high school’s football field.

“The area around the scoreboard was kind of in shambles,” Kirkpatrick added, pointing to wear and tear from foot traffic. “We knew it had a lot of potential.”

All materials used for the project were purchased locally, and Kirkpatrick said students were able to complete most of the work in one school day. He added that the district was also “very accommodating” in providing equipment and allowing the NHS time to finish the project.

“I was so proud of the work ethic that the students in the National Honors Society displayed during our work day,” he said, noting that it was cool to be able to see their vision on paper become a reality. “They really stepped up and made this project happen. They took initiative and pride in the school that day — something I’m sure will continue for years to come.”

With the physical work already finished, Kirkpatrick said the next phase of the project includes the installation of two signs near the gymnasium entrance. One sign will sit in the corner of the entrance facing Route 28 and include the words “RVHS — Bulldog Country.” The second sign will be placed on the other side of the entrance and feature the school’s bulldog mascot. Both signs will be completed by Kline Signs of New Bethlehem and are expected to be installed by the end of July.

“I’m very pleased with how the project turned out,” Kirkpatrick said, noting that another goal of the NHS was to construct something that would last forever and could be built upon. “I think this is the perfect canvas for future leadership to be able to use to also leave their mark at our school.”

Kirkpatrick said the NHS beautification project would not have been possible without the support of the following donors: the Redbank Valley Class of 2019, Redbank Valley cafeteria staff, RVHS Outdoor Club, RVHS Future Business Leaders of America, KTH Inc., Kline Signs, the Kerle Family, the Andrew Sheffer Family, the Rick Kirkpatrick Family, the Dr. Chad Shaffer Family, Jeff and Kathy Wright, Dave and Mary Jane Chludzinski, Lynn and Linda Ferringer, Jeffrey C. Miller and a donation in memory of Aiden Rupp.

Anyone wishing to donate to the future development of the beautification project, or the NHS, should email colinsheffer@comcast.net.


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Area communities host Fourth of July fireworks

NEW BETHLEHEM – Area skies will come to life in the coming days as several local communities, including New Bethlehem and Clarion, celebrate Independence Day with firework displays.

Festivities in New Bethlehem will be held Wednesday, July 3, and will include fireworks and entertainment hosted by the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce in Gumtown Park along Water Street.

Starting at 7 p.m., local band, Son of Leroy, will perform on the park stage and continue until dark, when the fireworks show by PyroExtreme will light up the sky from its launching site across the Red Bank Creek at Shirey’s Landing.

“It’s always been a nice event,” said chamber firework’s chairman Austin Blose, noting that spectators should expect a longer fireworks display this year.

According to Blose, Cornerstone Church of God has once again signed up as a food vendor for the event, as well as Zack’s Restaurant, which will offer picnic-style food options as a benefit for the Redbank Valley Chamber.

“All of the proceeds from the Zack’s booth will go back to the chamber,” he said.

New vendors at the park this year include an area face painter and local Girl Scout Emily Truitt who — with the help of Zack’s Restaurant — will operate a lemonade stand to benefit her Victory Garden project in New Bethlehem.

“A lot of families come out for the event. We usually get hundreds of people in the park.” Blose said, explaining that the Independence Day festivities will include something for attendees of all ages. He added that he hopes to see the event grow in the future. “It’s nice that the chamber is able to do this for the community. We’re hoping for another great year.”

For those watching the fireworks from locations other than the park, the J.M. Smucker peanut butter factory in New Bethlehem is asking that no one park on or near the company property, including Walnut Street. The company will be in full operation during this time and will have trucks coming and going.

Also on July 3, the Clarion Area Chamber of Business & Industry will also mark Independence Day with its annual “I Love Clarion” Celebration at Clarion University Memorial Stadium.

Gates open at 5 p.m., with local country singer Coston Cross kicking off the event with a performance from 5 to 7 p.m.

Local businesses and vendors will be on hand also beginning at 5 p.m., selling food and refreshments — including hamburgers, hot dogs, kettle corn and frozen custard.

Back by popular demand, the Wrangler Band will take the stage at 7 p.m., performing a variety of music from country hits to classic rock.

C93 will host a live remote during the event, which will culminate at dusk with the fireworks display presented by Pyrotecnico.

In an effort to support current military members, a collection table accepting donations will be available. Monetary donations to assist with shipping costs to the troops are also greatly appreciated.

Anyone interested in volunteering at this year’s event should contact the Clarion Area Chamber of Business and Industry at (814) 226-9161 or info@clarionpa.com. More information on the event is available at www.clarionpa.com, or the Clarion Chamber’s Facebook page.

Dates for other area Independence Day firework displays include:

• July 3 — St. Marys Area High School, St. Marys, at dark.

• July 4 — Barclay Square, Punxsutawney (Groundhog Festival), at 9:45 p.m.

• July 4 — Corsica Fireman’s Grounds, Corsica, at dark.

• July 4 — Taylor Memorial Park, Brockway, at approximately 9:45 p.m.

• July 4 — Wolf’s Corners Fairgrounds, Tionesta (Wolf’s Corner’s Fair), at 10 p.m.

• July 4 — MACA Park, Marienville, at 10 p.m.

• July 4 — Ford City Memorial Park, Ford City (Summerfest), at 10 p.m.

• July 6 — Cameron High School Football Field, Emporium, at 9:30 p.m.

• July 7 — Ford City Memorial Park, Ford City (Summerfest), at 10 p.m.


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Clarion Mayor Parker to leave office July 8

CLARION – Monday, July 8, will be Clarion Mayor Dan Parker’s last day in office. The executive director of Clarion Free Library for the past eight years, Parker will be moving to take a similar position at the Ringwood Public Library in New Jersey.

Parker has served as Clarion’s mayor since being approved by the borough council in December 2016 to fill the seat vacated when Dave Walters relocated. He won the general election in 2017.

“I’ve loved it here. And I like to think that I’ve done some good work with the Clarion Free Library. But the opportunity that came up in New Jersey seemed like a good chance to expand my horizons and grow a little more as a professional. So I seized the opportunity,” Parker said.

His decision to pursue the mayoral position actually grew out of his job as a librarian. “A good librarian is a political animal, you know,” he said. “Good librarians interact with local officials and township supervisors and various other government officials. I think a librarian should be active in the community.

“And so those things together made me work with the Blueprint Community activities that are going on here in the borough and a lot of other nonprofit organizations. And I just thought it was a good way to be of service to the community.”

Parker says one of the keys to performing successfully as a small town mayor is fostering collaboration with borough council. “The borough council controls the money and they have all the power. So you need to have a good working relationship with borough council to make sure that you at least have the opportunity to consult with them, advise them and provide your input on local issues.

“The mayor is the focal point in the community. So the mayor is the one who hears the community — the good things and the bad things. And I think it’s incumbent on the mayor to take that information to council and make them aware of what the community is worried about, what they’re concerned about.”

While Parker considers performing marriages to be his favorite official duty, he points to working with the police department as one of his biggest accomplishments.

“We were able to promote Bill Peck as our chief, and he’s a young man, he’s a go-getter. He’s got a great vision for what he believes community policing should be in a small rural community. And he’s committed to making our community safe. Stopping the inflow of illegal drugs I think is one of his primary goals. And he’s been very good at that. So I’m very pleased at the work we’ve (Parker and the borough council) done with the police department here,” Parker said.

The job, which pays a yearly salary of $210, is not without its challenges. “Well, Clarion has some challenges. You know, really working to try to better the economic situation here in Clarion has been a challenge. And we’ve worked hard at it. The mayor’s office and council have worked really hard with local businessmen and with local groups to try to stimulate economic activity here.”

Parker says one possible solution Clarion should look at with regard to these economic concerns is entering Pennsylvania’s Main Street Program, a comprehensive, community-based approach to revitalizing downtowns and central business districts. “I think that would be a great help to us. And I think that’s something I hope council and the future mayor will explore.”

Upon moving to New Jersey he doesn’t plan to pursue political office in the short term, though his comments on the subject seem to indicate he hasn’t ruled out doing so in the long term.

“I will probably be involved in the community. I don’t know very much about New Jersey politics, but I suspect that there’s probably a lot of people waiting in line to be mayor of Ringwood and other elected positions. So I think I’m just going to start out as a community volunteer, see where that goes.”

In the meantime, Clarion begins searching for a new mayor who will, much like when Parker took office, initially be appointed by vote of the borough council. No matter who eventually becomes the new mayor, Parker offers some words of advice.

“Be accessible and listen to everybody. Even if it’s just a complaint, put a smile on your face and listen, because that’s what the citizens really want. They want someone to listen to their concerns. So make sure that you’re available to them, that they know where to find you, and they know how to get in touch with you. And then just listen to what their concerns are.”


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Leisurely Visits

You could chalk it up to hometown bias, but we think there is no better place anywhere around to watch fireworks than New Bethlehem.

The Independence Day fireworks display will be held here this Wednesday evening, July 3, and Gumtown Park is the place to be.

The fireworks are launched on the Armstrong County side of Red Bank Creek, directly across from the park, making it one of the closest places spectators can sit to watch the bombs bursting in air.

Some come on out, bring a blanket, and lay back to look straight up as the Fourth of July is celebrated in style here in Newbie.

* * *

Another event in the area that features fireworks this week is the Wolf’s Corners Fair, which started this past weekend in northern Clarion County and continues through Saturday, July 6.

The $8 admission includes all shows, midway rides, parking and more.

Events for the remainder of the week include the Farm Stock and Tuff Farm Tractor Pull at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 2; the ATV and Lawn Tractor Drag Races at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3; Extreme Bull Riding at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 4, followed by fireworks at 10 p.m.; the 4WD Truck and Open Tractor Pull at 7 p.m. Friday night; and the Full-Size Car and Mid-Size Car Demolition Derbies at 7 p.m. on Saturday to close out Fair Week.

For a complete schedule of events, visit www.wolfscornersfair.com.

* * *

And speaking of fairs, the 81st edition of the Clarion County Fair is coming up fast, and The Leader-Vindicator will have you covered next week as we present our annual special section dedicated to Fair Week and the many events and shows that are planned.

Be sure to pick up your copy next week, which will include full daily schedules, stories about the various shows and much more to get you ready for the Clarion County Fair, which runs July 21-27 at Redbank Valley Municipal Park in Alcola.

* * *

We had a call the other day from a car racing enthusiast who is trying to track down a photo of a race car that was once driven by a New Bethlehem man named Ron Clinger.

Clinger apparently drove the No. 3 mid-1920s coupe in modified race classes throughout the area in the 1960s, ending in 1967 with his death following a race in Houtzdale.

If anyone has a photo of the car, or knows a living relative of Ron Clinger, please call us at (814) 275-3131 ext. 225 and we will forward the information along to the man who is looking for it.

* * *

The Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau recently announced its new Wine, Beer and Shine Tasting Trail, just in time for the busy summer travel season.

The trail brochure highlights 15 wineries, six distilleries and two breweries within the five counties of the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region with descriptions for each location and convenient driving map.

To receive a free copy of this brochure, visit PAGO.com/free-information or call (814) 849-5197. It is also available at select PA Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau members’ locations.

* * *

Don’t forget that The Leader-Vindicator office will be closed on Thursday, July 4, in observance of Independence Day.

Additionally, post offices, banks, government offices and many other businesses will be closed for the holiday, along with all PennDOT driver license and photo centers.

We hope you have a fun and safe Fourth of July!

* * *

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Pennsylvania State Police remind the public that it is illegal for pet owners to leave their dog or cat in hot vehicles.

Last fall, Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 1216, the Hot Car Bill, a law that gives police officers and first responders the authority to enter a vehicle and retrieve a cat or dog that is in immediate distress. This new law raises awareness of the dangers of leaving pets in parked vehicles and empowers law enforcement to make decisions on behalf of an animal’s welfare.

The law states that an officer or emergency responder must have a good-faith and reasonable belief that the dog or cat is in imminent danger, make a reasonable effort to locate the driver of the motor vehicle, take reasonable steps to ensure or restore the well-being of the dog or cat, use no more force than necessary to enter the motor vehicle, and leave notice on the vehicle about where the dog or cat can be retrieved.

This law does not give civilians the authority to take this type of action. If you see a dog or cat in a vehicle that appears to be in distress, contact the local authorities. Do not enter the motor vehicle yourself.