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Save the dates for an innovative season of Cal U Theatre

An Evening of Creative Works – The Blaney Theatre – October 4, 5, 6 @ 7 pm, October 6  @ 2 pm

This annual production is filled with a mix of genres and performance styles that provide a form of expression for our students.  One acts, dance pieces, devised performances, digital performance, Reader’s Theatre—the door is open for exploration. Subject matter may not be suitable for younger patrons.  

Red Horse – The Blaney Theatre – November 1, 2, 3 @ 7 pm, November 3 @ 2 pm

A devised production inspired by the work of the Mabou Mimes and Lee Breuer

A completely original retelling of the experimental 1970s production.  Red Horse is a collaborative creation; Actors create images allowing dialogue to give way to actor’s bodies in a poetic staging of the life of the Horse. Exciting for the whole family! Red Horse marks the twenty-second annual first year student show, and one of the first devised productions by first year Cal U students.  As always, a great deal of fun you do not want to miss!

Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf – Steele Hall Mainstage Theatre –   December 6, 7, 8 @ 7 pm, December 8-9@ 2 pm

Music and Lyrics by Harry Connick, Jr.

Book by Lauren Gunderson and Andrew Fishman

Based on the song by Harry Connick, Jr., and adapted from the television show written by Andrew Fishman

Beloved bumbling Eubie is back for one more year in Bluesville.  Join him, Gilda, Hamm, and the big man himself, Santa, for this heart-warming musical filled with the holiday spirit.  Steele Hall will be filled with elves galore as Cal U Theatre students and members of the local community come together to bring this show to life.  This production is suitable for all ages!

Edges – The Blaney Theatre –February 21, 22, 23 @ 7 pm, February 23 @ 2 pm

Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Edges is the first musical attempt by award-winning composer/lyricists Benji Pasek and Justin Paul (of Dear Evan Hansen fame).  Edges is a song-cycle about burgeoning adults asking coming-of-age questions. This charming, witty and honest examination of adulthood explores what happens when we are teetering on the edges of our lives.  Mtishows.com

Unexpected: A Selection of Symbolist Plays, Steele Hall Mainstage Theatre – April 4, 5, 6 @ 7 pm, April 6 @ 2 pm

A night filled with the unexpected sure to make your mind to roam, your heart yearn, and your hairs stand on edge. One-act plays by Maurice Maeterlinck, Susan Glaspell, and Valery Bryusov will have you on the edge of your seat.  As symbolist plays traditionally handle thought provoking content, our selections are sure to provide a night full of surprises.

Commit to the Bit: An Evening of Sketch Comedy and Improvisation.  Steele Hall Mainstage Theatre – April 17 & 18 @ 7pm

Graduating senior Jeshua Myers, known to audiences for his portrayal of Ram (Heathers, the Musical) and Barfeé (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Jesh will combine his training in theatre and improvisation in this showcase.  

An Evening of One Acts – The Blaney Theatre-   May 2, 3, 4 @ 7 pm, May 4th @ 2pm.

Join us as we welcome our new crop of directors with this evening of one act plays ranging from laugh out-loud comedies to through-provoking dramas. Some subject matter may not be suitable for younger patrons.

Brownsville man launches new biz after inventing smart meter

koseveckWhen most people have a leak in their water system they call a repairman; Mark Kovscek isn’t most people.

For Kovscek, who lives in Brownsville, a faulty boiler valve resulted in spending the summer at Amazon headquarters in Seattle working on perfecting and marketing a new smart home product to work with Alexa.

“It dates back to the summer of 2014. In August of that year my water bill was $50 higher. I kind of ignored it until September when it was $50 higher again,” Kovscek said. “The valve in my boiler was bad and it would fill up the overflow and put it down the drain without me knowing it.”

Kovscek said he researched systems that would detect leaks, but they were all more expensive than the money they would save in most cases. So he began designing his own smart water meter, resulting in the invention of H2know and Kovscek’s company, Conservation Labs.

“I found a way to measure sound waves and to convert them to water measurement,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said each water-using device in a home has its own special sound frequency, letting H2know distinguish between a running toilet and a dripping faucet. H2know records all water usage in the house, not just the leaks, so homeowners can take steps to reduce their water usage if they would like.

“We can tell you not only that the water was running, but that the toilet was flushed seven times and the shower was run twice, and for how long,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said H2know is designed to give homeowners information on how they are using water and can provide customized conservation measures, estimating that most homeowners could save as much as $250 a year through simple measures to prevent waste. The device, Kovscek said, also provides peace of mind by giving homeowners real-time information through a smartphone app and alerts.

“If it’s a catastrophic leak, we want you to know immediately, so you’ll receive either a call or a text,” Kovscek said. “We catch leaks within minutes, and not 30 days later like I did.”

Despite the technology, Kovscek said most homeowners could install the device themselves in a short period of time, clamping it to a pipe and connecting it to their wifi network.

Conservation Labs launched H2know at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. Kovscek’s demonstration was seen by people from the Environmental Protection Agency and, unbeknownst to him at the time, by Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban.

Kovscek is currently participating in the second cohort of the Alexa Accelerator in Seattle, a 13-week program sponsored by Techstars Seattle and Amazon for startup companies. There are nine companies, including one from Tel Aviv and one from Cambridge, UK participating in the program. Each is working on its own products with voice-related technologies.

“Techstars has a lot of these programs around the country. The one here is with Amazon, Alexa Techstars Program,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said the 13-week program has been extremely beneficial with workshops to support business growth and working on the technical design to work with Alexa.

“We met a lot of people. These people act as mentors and help us get the product to market. The real tangible benefit is that Amazon and Techstars are investors in Conservation Labs, so that brings money in,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said that at present prototypes of H2know are in a few dozen homes, but he is now testing with companies that reach millions of homes.

“We expect the first pilot-ready devices in October or November. We’re expecting to have the final production run in the second quarter of 2019,” Kovscek said.

The H2know devices may also be pre-ordered through Conservation Lab’s Indiegogo account, https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/h2know-iot-water-meter-save-money-avoid-disaster-apps#/

Story by Christine Haines for Pennsylvania Bridges

Tips from TechBoxz: Setting alarms with Alexa

alexaIn past articles, we have talked quite extensively about the four major Home Assistant options: Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri. By way of other publications, friends, and family you are more than likely knowledgeable in the most common commands they use, like turning on your TV or a lamp just by asking them, but did you know they can also create and share shopping lists, add appointments to your calendar, change television channels and remind you of tasks in need of attention? All four can perform each request with varying success, but Alexa still holds a slight edge. Add to this Microsoft’s recent collaboration with Amazon, and Cortana may not be around very long.

Full disclosure: I’m a bit biased towards Alexa. When I first became interested in home automation, Alexa was the only game in town. Siri was great, but her real strength was running an iPhone. She just hasn’t grown beyond dialing numbers and taking notes. As the years rolled by, Siri, Cortana, and Home added more features, but I already had an investment in Alexa. I will expand coverage and write a proper review once I’ve purchased the hardware for a break down of Home, Cortana, and Siri’s personal assistant abilities. For now, I focus on Alexa.

Alexa can be voice activated from your phone, Fire TV or an Alexa enabled device like the Echo or other third party devices such as Sonos’s One. Alexa can be accessed using the Alexa App to delete old recordings, see expanded options and skill settings or change account information. Here is a brief rundown of one of those areas.

Open the Alexa App and follow the selections: HOME > REMINDERS & ALARMS>

From here, we can add and review the currently set Reminders, Alarms and Timers. Though they sound very similar each has their own unique function. Alarms are the most fully featured of the three. Once set, Alarms go off at a specific time, can be snoozed, can be set to re-occurring and will continue to sound until turned off. Reminders are very similar to your phone’s notification function. A Reminder will go off at a specific time, but unlike an alarm there isn’t a snooze option and the alert only sounds once before turning itself off. Personally, I don’t see a need for the notification feature as it’s just a limited version of an Alarm. Timers are also limited alarms but serve a purpose I now can’t live without, the ability to easily set multiple alerts at specific times that delete themselves after I’ve turned them off. For those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen, imagine the ability to set five different timers, one for each item being prepared. I haven’t burned or overcooked anything since finding this option and my trusty LavaTools instant-read thermometer. Spouse Approval Factor = Ten plus.

When I started this article my goal was to impart some of the specific steps to find and use some of Alexa’s lesser-known features. I’ve underestimated the size and scope of that task. I now look at this as the introduction to a multi-part tutorial. If you have any questions or suggestions email eric@pabridges.com. See you next month.

Story by Eric J. Worton for Pennsylvania Bridges

Art drop brings scavenger hunt fun to promotion

ArtDropInvitePic-(1)Advertising for an annual big event typically involves shouting from social media rooftops and taking out ad space in local magazines or papers. But, for the second year in a row, Charleroi’s own Valley Art Club will employ an “art drop” as a fun way to lead art lovers to its annual juried exhibition. Hosted again this year by the Monessen Public Library, Valley Art Club’s 76th annual show kicks off with a public reception on Sunday, September 30, 2018 from 1 – 4 p.m., with exhibits on display until October 11.

During the exhibition, a Valley Art Club member will usually be present to answer questions and show visitors around said Francine Miceli, six year board member of the club. Most of the works on display will be for sale, while some artists offer prints as a more economical way to get art into the hands of a fan.

For the art drop, Valley Art Club members hailing from Belle Vernon, Charleroi, Coal Center, Grindstone, Monessen, Monongahela, Stockton, and West Newton will prepare original, one-of-a-kind works on a 5” x 7” medium using pencil, pen, or pastel.

“Most members are participating, and at least 25 original pieces will be dropped during the first week of September. They will be dropped in an envelope with the Valley Art Club logo at churches, doctor’s offices, libraries” and other places, Miceli said. Members will distribute works in their own town, increasing the drop’s coverage area.

The lucky finders will get to be keepers of the artist’s original, one-of-a-kind work. Though they’re sure to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of artwork that can fit on a 5” x 7” medium, the club asks one small favor, as Miceli explains, “We hope they do contact us in some way to let us know how they liked it…some artists have their card or an e-mail on the back and would like to be contacted to let us know what their reaction is to it.”

Also inside the art drop envelope is a postcard with information about the reception, including times and location. Additionally, Miceli’s own artwork fronts the postcard, giving art lovers a two-for-one find.

In addition to the art drop and art show, Valley Art Club continues its efforts throughout the year to get the message out that art is alive and well in the Mon Valley. “There’s still a lot of people who say ‘I didn’t know there are any artists around here.’ We try to do the best we can, and we’re trying to reach out more every year,’” Miceli said. “We do paint-outs (outdoor painting) at parks or different places people suggest we go. Sometimes we just go to the park and sketch so people know we exist.”

Valley Art Club’s visibility in the valley is set to increase through the talents of fellow artist and new “publicity person,” Dawn McKechnie, who Miceli says “wants to do a lot for the club. I’ve liked all her ideas so far.” Stay tuned for more.

Artists interested in joining the club’s roster may reach them at 724-872-4642 or directly on facebook.com/ValleyArtClub/. Miceli outlines a few requirements for membership, including a minimum age of 18, paying $20 for an annual membership, and attendance at three meetings per year along with the annual exhibition. Additionally, “We ask them to bring a couple of pieces in, and we vote whether to bring them in or not. I don’t know that anyone has been turned away.”

The club “could use some young blood in there” along with new artists, including more men, Miceli said, adding that the “only thing is, everything has to be two dimensional,” meaning no sculptures, textiles, photography, or the like.

Anyone finding a Valley Art Club art drop envelope is encouraged to post their find on facebook at: facebook.com/pg/ValleyArtClub/, while the public is invited to the September 30 juried exhibition and reception.

Painting top right by Francine Miceli.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Pennsylvania Bridges – August 2018 – Ada’s Blessings

august-2018-cover_9xThe August 2018 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesAda’s Blessings – is now available online and in print.

The Entertainment Chuckwagon: A Tribute to Joe DeNardo, Pt. I

Joe-Denardo-Cal-4Back in 1969, the Monroeville Mall opened, which allowed Pittsburghers to shop at 125 retailers and ice skate in a tropical setting in the “Ice Palace.” They could watch Marshall Matt Dillion (James Arness) keep the peace in Dodge City on their new color television sets with new episodes of the hit western “Gunsmoke” during prime time on KDKA, and they could satisfy their appetites by purchasing a dinner box for only 60 cents at any one of 16 Pittsburgh Kentucky Fried Chicken locations.

It was this year when Joe DeNardo began his run as meteorologist on WTAE where, for the next 35 years until his retirement in 2005, he was known as a reliable source of an accurate weather forecast. He was more than a meteorologist, though. He was a trusted friend Pittsburghers invited into their homes via their television sets.

There were three channels—11, 2, and 4. No weather channel, no internet, no apps on cell phones—no cell phones. If you had a golf game planned and you didn’t want to be swinging at hail stones instead of golf balls, if you had a romantic picnic planned for you and your sweetie and you didn’t want to be drenched with rain, if you were facing a commute in wintery conditions or didn’t want to be up to your bellbottoms shoveling snow, your local television weatherman was the one to count on. Starting in 1969, for many Pittsburghers, that man was Joe DeNardo.

DeNardo’s Pittsburgh weather forecasting career actually began back in in 1957 at KDKA. But in 1968, he decided to leave.

In a November 22, 1968 interview with Press TV and Radio editor Vince Leonard, DeNardo explained (1) why he and KDKA were parting ways: “Well, there are so many forecasters associated with KDKA that I have no control over disassociating them with my weather service.”

But another career opportunity was just around the corner, thanks to Paul Long, a friend and colleague from the KDKA days, where they first met in 1960. Long was hired by WTAE just a few months before DeNardo in 1969.

After hiring Long, WTAE General Manager John Conomikes sought his advice. Long recalled this discussion in an archival interview:

Conomikes asked me what ideas I had, and I said ‘I’d like to see your weatherman be Joe DeNardo. I think he could be had now,’ or words to that effect. And he said, ‘We’ve been talking to him, and he’s playing hard to get.’ And I gave him some more tips on how to tie the rope around DeNardo and drag him in here feet first.

Of course, Conomikes eventually did sign DeNardo.

“DeNardo’s the name. Weather is his game!” touted a February 24, 1970 ad in The Pittsburgh Press, featuring a smiling DeNardo in a suit holding both an umbrella and a tennis racket. “And DeNardo makes it a pretty accurate game. Oh, once in a while he carries an umbrella to his tennis match, but most of the time he’s right on the button with the most accurate forecasts in town.”

The duo of Paul Long and Joe DeNardo became a hit. Both were familiar and beloved faces in local Pittsburgh television news. Long stayed with WTAE until his retirement in 1994 and passed away in 2002 at the age of 86.

DeNardo and Long also liked to play practical jokes on each other. As DeNardo recalled in an archival WTAE interview, one involved Long’s habit of leaving his keys in his car after he parked.

One night, (2) DeNardo hid Long’s car by moving it from WTAE’s lower lot, where Long had parked it, to the upper lot. Later after the 11pm newscast was done, DeNardo found Long in the lower parking lot, looking for his car. DeNardo said to Long, “You leave the keys in it all the time. It had to happen sooner or later.” DeNardo suggested Long look in the lower lot. While he did, DeNardo quickly drove and parked the car where Long had originally parked it. Long returned, saw the car, said “I’ll be a son-of-a-. . .,” got in, and drove home.

TO BE CONTINUED…

For more of our Joe DeNardo tribute please check out September’s issue of Pennsylvania Bridges.

Sources consulted for this piece:

(1) news.google.com/newspapers?id=nYE0AAAAIBAJ&sjid=CJYEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7288%2C3570870

(2) old.post-gazette.com/obituaries/20020713longobit0713p2.asp

Story by Chuck Brutz for Pennsylvania Bridges

Southwestern Pintsylvania: The Lipkes from Leaning Cask

Leaning Cask brewer Joshua Lipke and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke

Leaning Cask brewer Joshua Lipke and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke

This month, I sat down with Leaning Cask brewer Joshua Lipke and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke, in Springdale, PA. The brewery has been open for a little over a year, but Joshua has been brewing a lot longer than that. He, like many others, started with a homebrewing hobby and expanded. The turning point for the Lipkes to take the step from homebrewing to opening their own brewpub was a trip to England in the mid-2000s. While there, they tried cask ales, which are a bit different than what you normally get in the U.S. in terms of brewing and serving style.

The brewery has three authentic English hand pumps, one of which is portable. Leaning Cask is also one of the only places in the Pittsburgh area that has a beer engine, which assists in pumping the beer from casks stored in the basement. Joshua says that while they do keep their beer warmer than most, it isn’t quite to the 50°F to 55°F that it would be served at overseas. Their beer is stored in the basement but not quite at those true “cellar” temperatures you would see in England. The casks are closer to traditional temperatures at 45°F to 50°F because they are stored in the farthest corner of the cold storage.

When it comes to the beer itself, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t only English-style beers that are brewed and stored in casks. Stefanie says they put any type into casks, and they often use it as a way to try out a new beer or style of beer since the initial release is on a smaller scale. Cask beers aren’t the only types they have, either. The brewery has 12 taps, which allows a wide variation—a little bit of everything.. On most visits to Leaning Cask, you will see three to four different IPAs on tap, their own cider, a stout or porter, a wheat, English ale, and some type of Belgian. Depending on when you visit, various seasonal beers will come into play, too. Another tradition you might notice is all the brews are named with a dog theme. The Lipkes love dogs and appreciated how dog-friendly English pubs are. They wanted to bring a little of that home with them, so they not only have dog-themed beer names, but they are also very welcoming to dogs, as long as they are well-behaved. They go even a step further than allowing dogs inside the bar—they have an actual indoor bathroom for dogs only. While it is becoming more common for breweries to allow dogs, this may be the only indoor dog restroom!

Joshua, the sole brewer, brews as close to traditional English style as his equipment allows. He has a thirteen-barrel setup in the basement of the pub, as well as room to expand upstairs. He says this setup is relatively large for a new brewery; less than ten barrels are more common for somewhere that has only been open for a little over a year. I asked if he had any advice for homebrewers who may be considering expansion into commercial brewing, and Joshua said, “Be prepared for the business adventure. It’s a lot more than just making beer. That’s the simple way to put it. Do your research, know what you are getting into and, really, if you don’t have a business background, get some help or some education on it because the bottom line is you are running a business. Brewing is my downtime. That’s when I don’t have to think about the other things. Even if you are making stellar beer, you’ll be able to make good beer at the commercial stage, but it’s everything else that goes into a business.”

At this point, Leaning Cask is Joshua’s full-time job, but Stefanie still works as an elementary school counselor full time. It was refreshing to meet a woman in the industry because the craft beer and brewery field is dominated by men. Stefanie says she doesn’t feel she’s been pushed aside or ignored and feels like she gets the same amount of respect as Joshua when she introduces herself as an owner. She is a member of the Pink Boots Society, an organization for women in the beer industry and, despite the support she’s experienced, says, “I definitely think there could be more recognition, awareness, and more females involved.”

With so many breweries in Southwestern Pennsylvania, The Leaning Cask offers a British twist that helps it stand out in a booming industry and provides a style of beer that was under-represented in the area until now. They distribute to approximately 20 locations in the area but, since Springdale is not far outside the city limits, why not go to the source to try their beer?

Leaning Cask is located at 850 Pittsburgh St, Springdale, PA 15144. They are open Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. New casks are released every Thursday.

FMI: leaningcaskbrewing.com

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 – PABridges.Reanna@comcast.net

Story by Reanna Roberts for Pennsylvania Bridges

Pennsylvania Bridges July 2018 – “Land of the Free”

july-2018-cover_9xThe July 2018 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges – “Land of the Free” – is now available online and in print.

Also, did you know? You can now read individual stories on our website! Keep scrolling for all the fantastic features contained in the pages of our July edition.

The Entertainment Chuckwagon: I don’t wanna grow up!

Washington-Mall-Toys-R-Us-EBack in my day, we didn’t have Amazon.com. We had these places called toy stores. You know, stores that sold toys. Just toys, not weed whackers, kitty litter, or hygiene products – just toys. And, we liked it!

There was Children’s Palace, Toyco, Circus World, Kay Bee, and more. But, now, those stores are gone. Toys R Us was truly the last of the stores that was solely toy focused, where a kid might look at this, look at that, get excited, and later throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the store until their parents bought them the toy they desired. Come on, you know you know someone who did this.

For me, it was a world of He-Man, The Real Ghostbusters, Go-Bots – that’s right, I said Go-Bots, not Transformers. I didn’t wanna grow up, I was a Toys R Us Kid.

So, when it was announced this past March that Toys R Us would be closing their doors for good, for this old fart, it signaled the end of an era for this middle aged guy. With the closing of Toys R Us, it so went the final piece of my childhood. First Children’s Place and Kay Bee Toys, now Toys R Us, now forever shuttered. That’s a real bummer, and it prompted me to learn more about the origins of the store.

So, where did it all begin for the Toys R Us saga?

According to toysrus.com, the store was the brainchild of 25 year old Charles Lazarus, who first opened a baby furniture store called Children’s Bargain Town in 1948 in Washington, D.C.

In 1950, Lazarus decided to try selling toys as well, soon discovering that when toys broke or fell out of fashion, parents would bring their children back to buy more. In order to ensure the success of his venture, Lazarus offered a wide assortment of toys for Joe and Jane Consumer to purchase for their children.

Then came 1957. Americans liked Ike, as he was sworn in for his second term as 34th President of the United States, Great Balls of Fire! was a huge hit for Jerry Lee Lewis, and Doris Day was playing The Pajama Game to the delight of packed movie houses across the country.

It was also the year the very first Toys R Us Store was opened in Rockville, Maryland. The “R” in the store logo appeared backwards to give the impression it was written by a child.  With a catchy name in place, now Toys R Us needed just the right mascot.

Choosing the right mascot is essential for a brand. Lucky Charms has Lucky the Leprechaun. The Pittsburgh Pirates have The Pirate Parrot. Pennsylvania Bridges has Chuck Brutz. And Toys R Us has Geoffrey Giraffe, a character who soon became as beloved as Toys R Us itself.

Geoffrey Giraffe made his commercial debut in 1973 as a live action guy dancing in a giraffe suit, then appeared in animated form as well. Geoffrey soon found a wife, Gigi. Soon, Junior and Baby Gee joined the family.

In 1983, the company branched out into selling children’s clothes as well, with the addition of Kids R Us, followed by Babies R Us in 1996 in 1996. In 1990, Lazarus was inducted in the Toy Industry Association Hall of Fame.

Sadly, Lazarus passed away on March 22 of this year from respiratory failure. Only two months earlier, in January, Toys R Us had announced that like Macy’s, Sears, and K-Mart, they would be closing a limited number of stores.

However, two months later, it was announced that all Toys R Us Stores would be closing their doors for good. Some in the Pittsburgh area closed by April, while the remaining locations closed this past June 27.

In an age of Amazon.com and Wal-Mart, specialty retail stores are a dying breed. Some may call that progress, but shopping online lacks of the excitement of a visit to an actual toy store.

Goodbye, Toys R Us, you may be gone, but never forgotten in our hearts. We’ll always be Toys R Us Kids.

Story by Chuck Brutz for Pennsylvania Bridges

Freshness is always in season at Triple B Farms in Monongahela

corn12Sticker shock. Though it happens when looking at new cars, there is a more common arena in life where it’s more prevalent – the grocery store. Small containers of berries, usually trucked in from out of state, can command prices ranging from $4 or $5 and up. Apples, peaches, corn, and more also cause one to swallow hard when deciding to pay the price. Freshness is compromised by shipping, and many a consumer has been dismayed to discover mold on their pricey produce the next day after purchase.

And taking the whole family to the grocery store for a shopping trip? Oy, what a headache.

The good news is, there is place to avoid sub-par produce while having a grand time with the entire family, and Triple B Farms, at 823 Berry Lane in Monongahela, is pleased to be that place.

Triple B’s berries, apples, peaches, corn, and much more are produced on location, as is fresh honey from their own hives. It’s easy to walk in and pick up something fresh and delicious, such as seasonal fruits, pies, jams, jellies, homemade fudge, and other delectables, but it’s during picking season where family fun on the farm comes into play.

Pop’s FarmYard, open on weekends during all picking seasons, provides plenty of fun – such as tube slides, jumping pillows, and rope maze, to name a few activities – along with Education Acres, where everyone can learn about agriculture in an entertaining, hands-on atmosphere.

“We do special (pancake) breakfasts and have a farmyard activity area where everybody plays together, and for adults and children to enjoy together,” said Suzanne Beinlich, who helps manage the market. The operation is owned and run by the Beinlich family, who have made it the family friendly location it is today. “If it’s a nice day, people enjoy getting out together as a family, and healthy, fresh food is a good thing now, and people enjoy doing that,” Beinlich said.

Triple B Farms provides agriculturally themed children’s books and toys to go along with education, Beinlich said. “One of the things we provide during the spring field trip is we teach (kids) to plant in a plastic glove, and once it sprouts they can remove the seeds and plant it and watch it grow.”

Picking seasons vary with crops, with berries in full swing now, and peaches, apples, and pumpkins available in the not too distant future. Head right in to Triple B and turn left to get started picking your own. In addition to having the freshest fruit picked by your own hand, saving money in the process is another plus. “Generally speaking, when you’re doing the labor, you’re saving some amount (over store bought) and that’s the idea behind pick your own crop,” Beinlich said, adding “and it’s a family activity everybody likes to do together. And you learn where your food comes from and how it grows”

Picking hours are limited generally from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., because, as Beinlich notes, “ripe fruit should be picked in the morning hours, because later when it gets warm, it’s getting soft, and by the time you get it home it has made its own jelly. We want you to have fresh fruit you can enjoy in the next 24 – 48 hours.”

Triple B Farms offers seasonal tours which focus on various growing season stages. In the spring it’s planting and growing, while in the fall it’s harvesting and storing crops. It’s the summer season, however, when visitors not only learn how bees pollinate crops and fruit, but they can view bees hard at work at a real hive built with Plexiglass.

No southwest Pennsylvania cookout would be complete without fresh corn, and Triple B Farms is known to have the sweetest around. Starting in July and through September is the best time to get corn on the cob, and Beinlich offers an important cooking tip: “Don’t overcook your corn. 2 – 3 minutes in boiling water is all you need because it’s already so sweet that, if you cook it longer, you’re cooking the tenderness and sweetness right out of it.”

Beinlich advises checking the web site ahead of time for updated crop picking availability. “I realize we’re a destination, so it makes sense to call ahead so you’re not disappointed when you get here.” However, Triple B Farms is always stocked with fresh food even when picking season isn’t in full swing.

Visit Triple B Farms at triplebfarms.com/ to learn more about upcoming events and festivals, growing season, picking seasons, and much more. Or, call ahead to check picking availability at 724-258-3557.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges