Category Archives: Uncategorized

Pastor Hargraves: On Beginning a Dialogue

I attended our Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in June and like most years am often surprised by the legislative item that stands out with controversy. This year in my naiveté, I again found myself again caught by surprise. That surprise came when we debated a piece of legislation written to encourage our local United Methodist churches to begin to have conversations about gun violence.

Gun violence conversation is the topic, nothing more. Yet even now, as you read this, you may have already shifted to one side or the other hearing gun rights or gun restrictions. The fact is that the legislation (W.PA United Methodist Church only) is about gun violence and not at all about gun rights or gun restriction. More so, the legislation is about conversations about gun violence. Conversation, which we at Annual Conference didn’t really do well because the debate was heated from my perspective.

I want us to say/read this word slowly: C O N V E R S A T I O N

We, United Methodists, that were at our Annual Conference pretty much looked a lot like the rest of the country when it comes to having a conversation about gun violence. We dug in, planted our heels, staked our claim, pitched out tents on the side we represent and generally speaking did not want to hear one word from those other people (said with an air of disdain). We skipped over “conversation” and went right for the debate and argument. The murmuring happened. The social media happens. The positioning happens. The conversation does NOT happen. Yes, I intentionally changed the tense there. The conversation did not happen and does not happen. Fortunately, the voice of authority, our Bishop, told us what we are voting about, period.

In three of the gospel accounts, this authority tells us “it is said a house torn apart by division will collapse.” (Matt. Mk. Luke) In my house, the understanding is, “if momma ain’t happy, no one is happy.” This doesn’t mean I get my way. This means we work together to build up, work together, maintain so there is no collapse. This requires we converse and not just those that think like us, rather we converse with others, those that do not have the same thoughts and perspective as us. That we have diverse points of view in the conversation.

This means that self-awareness of our position on any sensitive and hot topic be desensitized so that the emotions that drive us to a fight or flight mode do not come in to play. Then a conversation can occur. Why is this a good way? Well, I don’t know about you but I’m not always right, so clearly, I should be in conversation with someone else other than one who thinks just like me.

And conversations don’t have to hurt where gun violence always hurts or worse.  

Isn’t it better to converse than to fight and be divided? Even the winner of a fight walks away with busted knuckles. Talk need not be cheap.

Written by Pastor Dawn Hargraves for Pennsylvania Bridges

The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers: “Appalachian Bluegrass”

JFS-(1)During the 1600s, Irish, Scottish, and English settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, brought with them musical influences from their respective countries, typically played with passion and skill on stringed instruments.

As the New World began to grow and these settlers expanded their borders, stories about their travels, or their rural farming way of life, peppered their lyrics, painting verbal pictures of life in a pre-United States landscape. And with the advent of high technology in the 1900s, viz, records and radio, “mountain music,” as bluegrass was formerly known, could finally debut to a national audience.

However, it wasn’t until 1948 when Kentucky native, Bill Monroe, assembled his Blue Grass Boys that this musical style solidified as a genre. Named after Kentucky’s state motto, the Bluegrass State, Monroe’s bluegrass band formulation of acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and upright bass, would set the standard for generations to come. Though the mid-1940s saw the Dobro introduced into the genre – thanks to The Foggy Mountain Boys, formed by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs – Monroe’s instrumental assemblage most commonly forms the instrumental basis of today’s bluegrass music.

Those seeking traditional “country” inspired music will not be disappointed by the powerful sound and lyrical purity of today’s bluegrass artists. Still, there is one band, The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers, who are redefining just what bluegrass music is by combining both the tradition of writing about their own experiences on the road, and in life, but with more intricate and hard-edged twists on the typical bluegrass playing style.

Gary Antol, 2014 co-founder of The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers, along with Libby Eddy, describes the band’s sound as “Appalachian Bluegrass.” According to Antol, an audience member once said, “You guys sound great, but do you have to be so aggressive?” “Have you ever been to Appalachia?” Antol asked, “You’ll find the people there are pretty aggressive and pretty hard. Guys walked out of coal mines and wrote fiddle tunes, and they were pretty hard guys.”

While two prior releases from the band reflect life and times on the road – Lane Change, 2014, and White Lightning Road, 2016 – it is their new release, Poison River, where the Appalachian Bluegrass sound rings most clear.

Lyrical inspiration for Poison River developed through the band’s extensive cross-country touring schedule, meaning they are in disparate geographic, and cultural, locations on an almost day-to-day basis.

Poison River is “just the experience of playing all the time and fitting in on a cultural level with different people,” Antol said. “Being in Pennsylvania one day, North Carolina another, people are completely different with different views and outlooks on things. It’s made me listen more, and so it’s been a learning experience.”

PoisonRiverCoverWith Poison River, The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers lyrically echo a more global view of life. Antol describes the CD’s overall timber as reflecting a “sadness about the way the world is going. I wrote four (songs), Libby and I co-wrote, our mandolin player co-wrote, and three songs were written by friends we’re covering.”

“It’s a dark but pretty album. On this one, we went for a little more intricacy on the arrangements,” Antol said of the production process. “This one was different and neat because it really was a collaborative effort in how it was arranged. That’s because we had the time this time. I think we got it, actually, and I’m really happy about it.”

Though The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers only formed in 2014, Antol has realized his long-time goal of seeing the Stragglers perform at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Bluegrass Ramble showcase, coming up in Raleigh North Carolina, September 25 – 29, 2018.

“It’s good for a career move, and I only had one goal for the year, and that was to get into that,” Antol enthused, adding “I wanted to make a new record (Poison River) that would get us into that.” However, Antol notes that ego wasn’t part of his motivation; instead, his desire to “reflect all aspects of Americana with original sounding material” was the underlying goal.

The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers are: Gary Antol, guitar and vocals; Libby Eddy, fiddle and vocals; Evan Bell, upright bass; Ray Bruckman, mandolin, fiddle, and vocals; and part-time member Jody Mosser, Dobro.

Step into the world of Appalachian Bluegrass by visiting The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers at jakobsferry.comfacebook.com/Jakobsferrystragglers/; twitter.com/jakobsferry15; and instagram.com/thejakobsferrystragglers/.

Find Poison River, tour information, videos, & more at jakobsferry.com/store

Photo: (from left) Evan Bell, bass; Libby Eddy, fiddle & vocals; Gary Antol, guitar & vocals; Ray Bruckman, mandolin, fiddle, & vocals, & Jody Mosser, Dobro (part-time member)

Photo of The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers by Ed Dewitt. Cover design for Poison River by Chelsea Elliot.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Keep PA Beautiful Calls for Fresh Paint Days Applications

brushes_industrial_196405Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is accepting applications for their 2018 Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania, a program designed to provide community groups with paint and painting supplies enabling them to renew a community structure in need into something beautiful through the application of fresh paint. This event is held in partnership with support from BEHR paint and The Home Depot. Eight grants of up to 20 gallons of exterior paint and a gift card for painting supplies will be awarded to tax-exempt groups within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Groups will have 30 days to complete their projects, September 1 through 30.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful will select the eight winning projects from among applications submitted. Selected grantees must meet the following requirements to be considered – only one building per application, proof of liability insurance, signed permission to paint from the building owner and two before photos of the intended project. Selected grantees must also agree to select a color from the Behr paint line and provide a final report with during and after photos.

Applications must be received by July 31, 2018 and grants will be awarded early-August. For more information or to download the application click here keeppabeautiful.org/grants-awards/fresh-paint-days. Questions can be answered by Michelle Dunn, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Program Coordinator, at 877-772-3673 ext. 113 or mdunn@keeppabeautiful.org. The Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania grant is available to any tax-exempt group within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Private property owners or individual applicants cannot apply.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s mission is empowering Pennsylvanians to make our communities clean and beautiful. Since 1990, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful and its volunteers have removed over 133 million pounds of litter from Pennsylvania’s roadways, greenways, parks, forests, and waterways. To learn more about Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, visit keeppabeautiful.org.

Mental Health Spotlight: Spotlight on Suicide Prevention

mental-health

Wednesday night was a pretty special night for me. After decades of fandom, I finally saw Peter Frampton. Frampton Comes Alive was one of the first albums that I ever owned, and I listened to it to the point of chiseling grooves into the old 33 RPM. For those younger readers, before digital everything, record players kept our teen years occupied.

Music has always been a safe place for me with my illness in addition to one of my passions. I’ve never given up my love for playing acoustic guitar, albeit rather poorly. Midway through the concert, an amazing thing happened. Mr. Frampton spoke briefly about his instrumental Grammy winning album, “Fingerprints,” more specifically one track, Black Hole Sun.

Any fans of Chris Cornell, Audioslave and/or Soundgarden know who he is, his body of work and untimely suicide. Although when it comes to suicide, is there any such thing as a timely one? It seems more and more entertainment figures have succumbed to this terrible fate from whatever mental health diseases they endure.

It’s difficult imaging why those who are incredibly successful choose this end. They seem to be on top of the world, no financial worries, apparent storybook lives. Perhaps that is the best way to understand this disease called “mental illness.” One in five have it and when it comes to suicide, there is no rhyme or reason, it is the final action. The decision center of the mind is broken. It’s not more complicated than that. These people we look up to, admire and emulate may have the perfect lives to the casual onlooker, which we all are, but inside they are fighting a very difficult struggle. The frequency of this issue has become so severe, a national light has been cast on it. By the time this article goes to print, the time will have passed on a Town Hall Meeting, moderated by Anderson Cooper on suicide on CNN. I am sure that the broadcast can be streamed by the time you read this, and/or a transcript will be available. I will update you in the next issue with any applicable links related to this important program.

I’ve never been enough of a fanboy to place anyone in the public eye on any higher pedestal than anyone else. Sure, I enjoyed the Frampton concert, but if I were to meet him, I’d prefer discussing normal stuff but I don’t know him at all so where would I begin? Conversely, we are surrounded by heroes every day who never get their credit, pay or live that same illusory storybook life. Odds are you know one, have them in your family or talk to them on a consistent basis. If the same fate were to befall them, would it have the same impact as a celebrity you’ve never met?

The reason I ask this is that we all have the opportunity to connect with those who struggle in our friend circle, families and community. Our companionship can make all of the difference when those afflicted hit the wall where that decision-making process is no longer functional. For those who are the one in five who deal with a mental illness, identify a friend or family member who accepts you through the stigma. It may even be a person you know from group therapy. Explain to that person how it feels when you are slipping, the signs that you are having a bad day and may require a little help. Ensure they have emergency numbers like the one below this article in the event you may require help.

We are our own advocates and must proactively take care of ourselves, but some days we need a little help from our friends, as the Beatles remind us. It’s not a backslide, nor are you a failure if help becomes necessary. This is the nature of the illnesses we all suffer. Think about it, if you are a diabetic, have you asked a friend or family member to help with insulin injections or medications in the case of emergency? I would even go so far as creating a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) with realistic expectations and review with that one or two people you have chosen as a wellness partner. Also, prep a mental health first aid kit with things that are uplifting. They might include photographs, memories, or – in my case – music, anything that makes you feel better and grounds you in the here and now.

Remember, you are more important than anyone you may look up to in the entertainment field. You are unique, loved and irreplaceable. Treat yourself this way.

NEED HELP? IN THE U.S., CALL 1-800-273-8255 FOR THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE.*Mental Health Spotlight is an opinion based column. Any resources mentioned are provided for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgment of a health care or mental health care professional.

Mental Health Spotlight is Written by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges

“Summer at the State” offers high quality theater experiences

Promos-007-(1)Summer theatre programs have been just the fix theatre lovers need in the lull between the usual fall – spring touring show season. And with Peter Pan opening in mid July, and The Music Man opening soon afterwards at the State Theatre Center for the Arts at 37 E Main Street in Uniontown, PA, summer theatre goers are in store for high quality family entertainment that won’t break the bank.

Starting in 2014, the State Theatre has been hosting summer shows featuring local talent and top-notch music, lighting, and stage production, though it wasn’t always this way.

Founding producer of “Summer at the Theatre” and production stage manager, Kristen Tunney, explains “Before we started, the State Theatre Center for the Arts had previously self-produced a few summer musicals, but there had been several years when the theatre was ‘dark’ all summer. We wanted to change that and get the local theatrical community back on stage.”

Since the success of “Hairspray” in the summer of 2014, Summer at the State has grown to two shows, fostered in large part by director/choreographer, John Wagner III, Kristen Tunney, board member and production manager Toby Maykuth, and “amazing support from Executive Director, Erica Miller and the State Theatre staff,” said Tunney. Additionally, all summer shows feature live music performed by the best local musicians, with music director Lisa Harrier keeping everything in tune and in time.

Toby Maykuth, Production manager for the Summer at the State shows, has also been involved since the beginning, both as performer and as a board member of the Greater Uniontown Heritage Consortium, which owns and operates the State Theatre. Maykuth functions as the liaison between the Board and the productions.

Promos-002“For me, the opportunity to provide quality community theater experiences to local performers has been the greatest aspect of working with the Summer at the State program. Uniontown was once a very culturally rich community with several theaters and many performing arts organizations, so to see some of that glory return to the area, especially at the State Theatre which is personally special, has been a great joy.”

“It’s a great way to do a musical,” said State Theatre Executive Director, Erica Miller. “We produce these pretty highly, and bring in a lot of high tech lighting equipment and professional lighting and scenic designers. The shows are very well done and it’s great to give people a chance to see how talented our local performers are. But, it’s also a chance to see a great show at a low cost.” At only $15 per adult and $10 for children 12 and under, it’s a great way for families to enjoy a quality show – or two.

Cast members hail from localities ranging across Pittsburgh to Morgantown, and all around the local area, Tunney said, continuing, “Work with the casts is going really well…(and) we rehearse both shows simultaneously, starting in May.” A total of 72 cast members round out the shows, with about 16 of them performing in both productions.

Greensburg actress and dance instructor, Breanna Deutsch, landed her dream role as Peter Pan for this year’s production, and should fit the bill perfectly. “As an actor, she approaches every moment of the show with such a fierce joy and enthusiasm – exactly what you want for Peter Pan…we’re so excited by what she’s brought to the role already. Peter Pan’s protagonist, Wendy Darling, will be played by recent Cal-U theatre graduate, Kayla Grimm.

Other members of the Peter Pan cast, as outlined by Tunney, include: Adam Drabish, a rising junior at Albert Gallatin High School as John Darling; Ian Grodz, entering the second grade, as Michael Darling; Tiger Lily will be played by Delaney Harvey, a rising junior at Brownsville Area High School (Delaney was in the 2015 production of Mary Poppins); and Toby Maykuth, taking on the role of Captain Hook.

Filling in the cast for The Music Man, “we have Brian Eisiminger playing Harold Hill. Brian works in the musical theatre department at CALU and lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Emily Hamilla, a Seton Hill grad with a degree in musical theatre, plays Marian Paroo, and Rachael Szabo will be playing her mother. The quartet includes Bill Dreucci, Will Dixon, Rylan Jenkins-Snaith and Jim Champlin. Brennen Malia plays Tommy Djilas, and Mairead Roddy, a current student at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, plays Zaneeta,” Tunney said.

While some cast members regularly perform throughout the area, others – from children to adults – are performing for the first time at Summer at the State, Tunney said. “This range of experiences and our rehearsal process bonds our casts as they all work together to tell the story of the show.”

What this means for audiences is first-rate production quality in shows the entire family can enjoy. “People would be surprised at the high quality of the shows we produce every summer,” Miller said. “They’re incredibly well done and I encourage everybody to come and see them.”

Peter Pan runs July 13 and 14, at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on July 15 at 2 p.m., while The Music Man runs July 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on July 29 at 2 p.m.

Visit statetheatre.info to buy your tickets now. Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/StateTheatreUniontown

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer & Photos by Kelly Tunney for Pennsylvania Bridges

Oliver the Office Cat fundraising for Fayette Friends of Animals

Who's that cat?!? It's Oliver the Office Cat, and he's celebrating his birthday!

Who’s that cat?!? It’s Oliver the Office Cat, and he’s celebrating his birthday!

From feral porch kitten to office therapy cat, that is the life of Oliver. The large orange tomcat was adopted as a tiny kitten in 2015 by attorney Lisa Buday and now rules her office. Oliver is visited by college students and locals who keep an eye out for him hanging out in the window of the office at 200 Third Street in California.

Attorney Buday notes, “He seems to know when clients are upset and truly comforts them. I have had more than one client pet him while telling me their stories of injuries or loss. I also have seen more than one man babytalk to him. He really is the character of the office.”   

Oliver has always been one to try to help the animal community. At Christmas, when he hit 500 friends on his Facebook page Oliver the Office Cat, a $500 donation was made in his name to Fayette Friends of Animals. For his birthday, July 27, attorney Buday is accepting donations for Fayette Friends of Animals at her office throughout the month of July. You can call the office at 724-938-1355 to arrange drop offs or stop by.

Oliver hates filing. After a busy day of being the official "Office Cat" of Attorney Buday, he needs a nap!

Oliver hates filing. After a busy day of being the official “Office Cat” of Attorney Buday, he needs a nap.

Bring what you can to the Office of Lisa J. Buday, 200 Third Street, California or to the Fayette Friends location. View their wish list from fayettefriendsofanimals.net. You can also donate to them online at their website. Tell them that Oliver sent you!

Birthday cake and refreshments will be served at the office of Lisa Buday on July 26 from 2 to 4 p.m. Please feel free to stop and visit.

Also, don’t forget to “like” Oliver the Office Cat on Facebook.

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.

FMI: bloombrew.weebly.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

“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 greatgatsbygala.brownpapertickets.com.

Story by Christine Haines for Pennsylvania Bridges