Monthly Archives: June 2018

Brownsville Runner Gionna Quarzo Wins State Championship

Brownsville Runner Gionna Quarzo

Brownsville Runner Gionna Quarzo

Gionna Quarzo, 15, may have started off as a swimmer, but when she saw the Brownsville Area High School cross country track team jogging past her home every day, she decided she’d like to try running herself.

And try she did. Before the school year ended, she’d won the cross country Fayette County Championship while in the seventh grade and repeated the feat the following year.

Gionna still swims, currently as a member of the Uniontown YMCA swim team, but her main focus is now on running. This past school year, in May, she took part in the 2018 WPIAL Championship at Baldwin High School in three events. She came in sixth in the 1,600 meter run, third in the relay and, most impressively, first in the 3,200 meter run, which qualified her for the PIAA State Championship in Shippensburg at the end of May

In the 3,200 at Shippensburg, she bird dogged behind the lead runner for the first seven laps. When she started the eighth lap, she picked up the pace, forged ahead and won by3 or 4 seconds.

“I felt good the entire race, and wanted to stay behind the lead because I knew she was my speed,” Gionna said. “I didn’t know how well she sprinted, and when I saw that I’d won, I actually cried.”

For her efforts she took home a gold medal, much to the delight of her mother, Marci, her father, Rick, and sister, Jolena, 13, who all attended the State Competition.

“This was the first gold medal won by a female student at Brownsville Area Senior High School since Violet Michaux won one in 1999,” said Jim Barak, the school’s head track and field coach. “And it’s only the second time in the school’s history that a female student has won a gold medal at State.”

When asked about the secret to fast running, Gionna said “natural ability and hard work.” Daily she gets her mileage run in jogging around town and uses the school track for speed.

This year, Gionna started to train with the West Virginia Flyers in Morgantown two times a week under Jonathan Wright. She said the experience lets her run against faster girls and that Wright gives her harder workouts and corrects her technique when needed.

With a state gold already earned in her sophomore year, Gionna’s next goal is to run in the Brooks PR, a big invitational meet with some top female runners. She also has her eye set on breaking the state female record for the 3,200. Ironically, she came pretty close to matching the current record of 10 minutes, 34 seconds when she came in at 10 minutes, 48 seconds in Shippensburg this May.

“Gionna is a very nice, polite and humble girl,” Barak said. “I had her in my Ancient Civilizations class and found out about her athletic ability when the middle school coach phoned me and said ‘You have a really good runner in Gionna Quarzo.’

“When I first saw her run, I was very impressed,” he continued. “She’s a real hard worker, and, to my knowledge, she’s the first Brownsville student to run in the Penn Relays. I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do next track season, and we’ll do everything we can to help promote and encourage her.”

Gionna Quarzo’s Running Accomplishments to Date

Two time County Champion MVP for Cross Country for two years in a row.

Two time All County Track Team member

Nov. 2017 – Nike Regional Cross Country Meet – 30th out of 600 runners

Feb. 2018 – New Balance Indoor Nationals. Came in the top 20.

April 26-28, 2018 – The Penn Relay Carnival (world’s biggest track meet) won 15th overall.

June 2018 – New Balance Outdoor Nationals Placed 16th in the nation.

2017 – Placed 3rd female in Four on the 4th  Race in Morgantown.

Story by Dave Zuchowski for Pennsylvania Bridges

Student Achievement Center groundbreaking held

GroundbreakingWestmoreland County Community College held a groundbreaking ceremony June 7 to mark the beginning of construction on a new Student Achievement Center at the Youngwood campus. The center will be a renovation of Founders Hall, which is located at the college’s Youngwood campus.

The renovation and creation of the Student Achievement Center will foster individual and collaborative learning resources. It will also be home to a comprehensive support services environment for the college community. The center will focus on helping students, faculty and staff achieve the greatest level of success in all of their endeavors.

“Students are our focus. With the new center, we have aligned the design with our mission to provide student support programs that allow them to achieve their goals,” said Dr. Tuesday Stanley, president, Westmoreland County Community College. “Their success will always be our greatest achievement.”

“The Student Achievement Center is an example of innovation in education,” said Chad Amond, Board of Trustees chair. “Students are working in group settings more and more. This mirrors what businesses are looking for in students they want to hire. The college needed space that was more conducive to this workforce expectation.”

Westmoreland President Tuesday Stanley presided over the ceremony attended by business and community leaders and elected officials. Faculty and staff from the college also attended the groundbreaking.

Speakers at the event included Westmoreland County Community College President Dr. Tuesday Stanley, Westmoreland County Commissioner Charles W. Anderson, Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas, Westmoreland County Community College Board of Trustees Chair Chad Amond, Westmoreland County Community College Educational Foundation Chair Phil McCalister, and Westmoreland County Community College Board Trustee Bridget Johnston.

Special guests in attendance included Tim Gribbin representing State Representative Eric Nelson (57th District); Indiana County Commissioner Rodney H. Ruddock; Westmoreland County Community College Board Trustees Larry Larese, Ron H. Ott, Jess Stairs, R. Douglas Weimer and John D. Wright; Westmoreland County Community College Educational Foundation Board members Mark Cain, L. Christian DeDiana, Michael Hricik, Bonnie Lewis, William Scalise, Judith Scheeren and Joseph Trimarchi; Westmoreland – Fayette Workforce Investment Board Executive Director Bill Thompson; Kelly Folts, CannonDesign; and community members James Cherubini, Dr. Rob DePasquale and Louisea Vrable.

The renovation team consists of CannonDesign, architect; Turner Construction, construction manager; and Hudson, general contractor.

The center is expected to be open in time for fall 2020 classes.

Southwestern Pintsylvania: Bloom Brew

This month, I sat down with Jeff Bloom, the owner of Bloom Brew in West Newton, on a  Friday night when the weather was being unpredictable. When I pulled up, I saw a small garage, filled with wooden kegs and casks of aging beer, as well customers, most of whom appeared to be regulars standing around enjoying their drafts. Tables were set up outside under tents with a lovely view of the Youghiogheny River, and the customers were all packed inside the garage trying to stay out of the rain. We decided to grab one of the picnic tables outside for our interview, but that was short lived because after about ten minutes, the skies opened up and it was pouring. Within minutes there was an inch of water around me and it was thundering and lightning. We continued our interview inside the taproom, only being interrupted when a keg needed to be changed.

Bloom has liked beer for years, but his appreciation of what he calls ‘better’ beer began in the late 1990s to early 2000s. He credits his wife as the person that got him into brewing, thanks to a ‘Mr. Brew’ homebrew kit she purchased for him for Christmas one year. Initially, he didn’t use it, but did eventually take the dive and attempted to recreate a larger brewer’s Cherry Wheat with the kit. After this attempt, he knew that with better equipment and some research he could do a lot better and he was quickly hooked on homebrewing. He purchased the necessary equipment and after adding some steel shelving turned his dining room into his “brewery.” At this point, there were at least three areas in his home, including a loft, filled with beer and beer making paraphernalia. His wife’s patience was starting to run out when she asked him what his plans were for all of the beer, but he didn’t have one yet, so he continued to take beer to parties and give it to friends and family. This led to his attending small beer vendor shows, which in turn introduced him to others in the craft beer industry. He began to notice that those that had been in the industry for a while, such as Chris Dilla, formerly of Bocktown Brewery, were drinking from his table and encouraging him to start his own brewery. At that point, he didn’t have quite as many beers as they have now.

When you look at the tap list at Bloom Brew, which has 24 rotating drafts – all uniquely named – you’ll notice a few things that you won’t see at a lot of other breweries. First, they didn’t jump onto the IPA bandwagon. While they do brew IPAs due to current demand, out of 24 taps they usually only have about four or five at all times. Bloom himself said that they do not follow trends, which is why you don’t see a tap takeover of IPAs at his brewery like a lot of others. He feels that part of what makes them special is that they are experimental in that they can brew what they want, when they want, and brew in small batches to perfect what they are making. They will brew multiple versions of one beer before deciding which is perfect, asking friends, employees, regular customers, and tasters to sample them and give input. They may tweak the yeast, amount of fruit, or even the aging time repeatedly until it’s perfect. Also, all of the names are created by Bloom. He tries to use local references, even though some may not get them, while at other times an idea just appears in his head. ou will see more sour beers at Bloom Brew compared to other breweries, which is part of the ‘brew what we want, when we want mentality.’ Sours generally take a long time to brew thanks to the need for aging, so a lot of breweries, especially smaller ones, don’t put the time and effort in. At Bloom Brew, most, if not all of their beers are aged, and the sour beers are aged a minimum of 18 months by the time they are drawn from the tap for the first customer. The only restrictions that they have are the federal restrictions on allowed ingredients. All recipes need to be reviewed and approved before sale and there is a list of pre-approved ingredients. When they started brewing, there was a list of only about ten ingredients with a lengthy approval process to get other ingredients added to it. Now, it is a multi-page list with different variations of each ingredient. Bloom believes he was one of the pioneers that got kumquat on the list as an approved ingredient.

Regarding ingredients, the brewery tries to locally source as many as possible, but when it comes to grain, it’s difficult because there just aren’t many local places that can supply the breweries in the area yet. He does get a lot of the fruit from his own orchard or – for example – the peaches are Chambersburg peaches, and he also tries to use what’s in season. As a former beekeeper, he also has some of his own honey left that he uses in some of his beers.  Along with his small orchard, Bloom has a small crop of hops that he’s growing, and even has a small patch of hops outside of the brewery, including chinook, centennial, magnum, and cascade. Bloom said local water doesn’t cause any issues with their beer, but they do use a standard filtration system. The last question that I asked him was which beer or beers on the tap list, when I was there, filled him with the most pride. He actually had a hard time with this, and I imagine it would change with every tap list update. He wanted to say the Barrel Aged Peach Buzz, which is a peach sour, but it sold out right before I got there, so it wasn’t on tap when I asked the question. He’s proud of all of his beer, and says that “If it doesn’t meet our expectations, it goes down the drain.” He did say he’s a big fan of his ‘Shweat,’ which is a pineapple-habanero beer. He also just finally started to use his nitro tap, which he was excited about, thanks to the license to sell pints coming in. Bloom said that nitrogenated beers don’t work as well in growlers, which are 32 ounce or 64 ounce containers to go, so he was waiting until he could sell pints to hook that up.

With the ability to now sell pints, and the weather warming up for the summer, check out Bloom Brew’s website for upcoming events. They do have limited hours, but plan on having music and food trucks throughout the summer.

Bloom Brew’s hours are Wednesday & Friday, 4-10 p.m., and Saturday 12-10 p.m.


Author’s Note: I am working on setting up interviews with other Southwest PA breweries. Is there a brewery you’d like me to cover? Reach out to me via email –

Story by Reanna Roberts for Pennsylvania Bridges

“Great Gatsby Gala” fundraiser planned

Megin Harrington

Megin Harrington

The Century Inn in Scenery Hill built in 1794 regularly transports its visitors to another time but on July 28 that journey will take them to the Roaring 20s and the decadence of The Great Gatsby.

The Great Gatsby Gala is a fundraising event for the Scenery Hill Civic Committee which was formed after a fire heavily damaged the historic inn on August 15, 2015. Owner Megin Harrington realized without her business as an anchor, the specialty shops in the community were hurting.

“Our first event was a heritage festival. Each year we feature a different era of history and we have craftspeople who sell homemade things of that vintage,” Harrington said. “This September will be our third year doing that and we give tours of the town.”

The committee also sponsors movie nights the second Saturday of the month during the summer, showing films geared toward children and family viewing with related activities such as costume contests.

The Great Gatsby Gala won’t include any film footage, but the adults attending the event are encouraged to come in costume, donning their best vintage clothing. Each attendee will also need to provide the speakeasy password to enter the garden party, drawing them into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s private world of excess during the public time of Prohibition.

“Our bartender has been doing some research,” Harrington said. “The Southside Fizz had a sprig of mint in it. He said the mint was in case the place got raided. You could chew the mint to hide the odor of the alcohol.”

The menu will actually be a bit more upscale than Gatsby may have served.

“There is a record of what the Stork Club was serving, and the hors d’oeuvres weren’t that interesting — things like aspic and stuffed celery. Ours will be much better,” Harrington said. “It’s going to be a sensory overload.”

To add to the atmosphere, cigarette girls will be passing out the hors d’oeuvres on their trays.

Harrington said the Washington Jazz Orchestra will be playing Big Band music and Charleston lessons will be offered.

“There will be lots of dancing and lots of food,” Harrington said.

And of course, the iconic billboard featuring the all-seeing eyes from the novel and its movie versions will also be present.

Tents will be set up in the garden around the gazebo, lit with Edison lights, so the event will go on rain or shine.

“But it will not rain,” Harrington said.

Harrington said she is preparing for 200 guests for The Great Gatsby Gala. Tickets are being handled through

Story by Christine Haines for Pennsylvania Bridges

Strangers became family on Canonsburg 4th of July Committee

The Canonsburg Fourth of July Committee. Front row seated from left to right: Anthony Colaizzo, Shari Zemencik, Bill Brooks and Tom Shinshasky. Back row standing from left to right: Ray Margiotta, Jeff Shinshasky, Joe Margiotta, Rich Gossard, Susan Hofrichter, Laurie Rigby, Becky Pihiou, Rob Macieko and Jennifer Shinshasky

The Canonsburg Fourth of July Committee. Front row seated from left to right: Anthony Colaizzo, Shari Zemencik, Bill Brooks and Tom Shinshasky. Back row standing from left to right: Ray Margiotta, Jeff Shinshasky, Joe Margiotta, Rich Gossard, Susan Hofrichter, Laurie Rigby, Becky Pihiou, Rob Macieko and Jennifer Shinshasky

It was another typical first Monday of the month meeting taking place in the upstairs of the White Eagles Club in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. These meetings begin the month after Independence Day and continue on-schedule until June of the following year, wherein the frequency increases to every week until the eventual celebration on the Fourth of July. This has gone on for the past fifty-six years since the first one was held in 1962. Now known throughout the rest of the state as the celebration where residents put out their chairs days in advance, the parade and day’s celebration has become a mainstay for citizens of this slice of Americana. Although the complexity in preparation of this holiday has increased, the heart of the organization remains the same.

“When most of us first met, we were strangers,” recalls Co-Chairman Tom Shinshasky, “but we became generational friends, attend each other’s family events, graduations, weddings, there’s a great bond of love here.” Tom is one of the oldest members who has been involved since 1969.

The core of the present committee includes second and even third generation family members, most of which can be traced back to the original Co-Chairmen, Steve Zemencik and Fred Terling (yes, my father), although I haven’t earned the committee stripes that my fellow legacy members have like Shari Zemencik.

Shari started in her early teens taping numbers on cars as her first job and has moved in and out of various roles for the past forty years. Currently, she is the committee’s Treasurer.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA“As the Treasurer for the last many moons, my first challenge is money,” says Shari. “Are we spending too much? What we spend, do we spend it wisely? Do we have enough sponsors and/or donations to cover the current year’s expenses?”

Initially, the parade was small and relied solely on donations from the community and local businesses. The expenses include paying for the parade units, fireworks, security and insurance.

“The first parades I was involved in was a band and a couple of cement trucks with red, white and blue stripes on them,” recalls Co-Chair Bill Brooks, a member since 1972. “Uncle Steve (Zemencik) called me and Tom as we were the only two who could drive stick-shifts on the local convertibles the dealers lent us for the dignitaries in the parade. That’s how it all started for me.”

Throughout the years the committee has adapted to many changes. As elements were added and fireworks displays became bigger and bolder, the need for additional income became an issue for the all-volunteer committee. Things like rain insurance became a consideration if the weather would not cooperate on the morning of the parade or the evening fireworks festivities. This is where corporate sponsors came in.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAReturning to the meeting. Jennifer Shinshasky, Tom’s Daughter and second-generation member, informed the committee that this year she recruited a record number of 58 sponsors. Although this is great news, it also presents an additional challenge of finding banner carriers, two each for the sponsors. That is just one aspect of the preparation that goes into the celebration that tens of thousands show up for every July Fourth.

There is a lot of work that goes into this event from a logistical perspective. This is only a small glimpse into one meeting, on one day a month out from the parade and events.

Being an all-volunteer, member driven organization, there must be more than just the legacy members, or all the tasks simply couldn’t get completed.

“Membership is always a big challenge,” echoes Shari Zemencik. “I think we maybe average 10 to 15 members at the most at our planning meetings. We have additional people that help us just for the parade or the park or the stadium which helps get us through the day. Without those additional helpers, we would be in trouble. We are all getting older and I get concerned that we have enough man/woman power.”

One of the most significant meetings will happen on the evening of July the third. This is when the parade Co-Chairs, Jeff Shinshasky and Beth Brooks-Ludwin, both second generation legacies, will gather the bulk of the additional people who are part of the parade committee. The night before, Jeff and Beth take their volunteers through the parade list, unit-by-unit, review the order and staging locations. With over 120 units, quite an improvement over one band and cement trucks from the sixties, organization is paramount from 7:00 am to 9:30 am the morning of the Fourth.

“The single greatest challenge is keeping it all organized,” confirms Jeff Shinshasky. “It can be organized chaos down there (staging areas). Every unit, whether a band or a car has a particular spot to be staged in and having people there that are experienced and know what they’re doing is a must.”

parade2croppedAs the meeting closes, I reflect on my youth spent with my father, one of the founders and my brother Sean, who was at one time Parade Chairman and is still one of those vital, experienced parade volunteers the morning of the Fourth. I smile as here I sit, not involved in the celebration, yet writing a feature about it. It must be in the blood as many have said when I ask why they still do this.

Tom Shinshasky summed it up, “I remember all the great times and keep making new ones. This is for the love of community and giving families a reason to stay in town and be active on the Fourth.”

As for Shari, “Life gives everyone so many personal challenges that this is a chance to make people happy. This gives all of us second and third generation legacy members a chance to carry on the tradition.  They are like family to me. We all grew up not knowing anything else but this for the 4th of July. I’ve had both of my kids help at one point in time with the celebration. My son still helps. You could say he’s a third generation legacy.”

As for me, this is a special tribute to all those people I haven’t mentioned by name who have been a part of my life because of this celebration. This Fourth of July as I sit in my customary chair in the backyard which yields a perfect view of the fireworks, I know I’ll hear my father’s voice echoing from the past, “We want a boomer.”

Story by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges

Pennsylvania Bridges June 2018 Edition – Lean on Me

june-2018-cover_9xThe June 2018 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges – Lean on Me – is now available online and in print.