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

Community Center provides summer employment…and fun

35819517_2187269384621481_5Summer employment is a traditional and constructive way for high school students to earn spending money, begin saving for college, a car, or even to buy basic, everyday necessities.

However, landing that first job can be difficult without prior employment experience to attract gainful work. Fortunately, through the auspices of Southwest Training Services, Inc., four local high school students have found rewarding work, and fun experiences, at the Daisytown Community Center at 3 Main Street, Daisytown, PA.

Maddie Hite, Faith Keene, Dru Miller, and Savanna Owens round out the summer student staff at the center, which provides local youth a “safe and happy educational environment,” according to their mission statement.

With a 32.5 hour work week and generous hourly wage, the four are gaining valuable work experience while garnering several healthy paychecks through Southwest Training Services, Inc.

During the course of helping to prepare and serve food, clean tables, and interact with kids at the center, Hite, Keene, Miller, and Owens universally agree that their time at the center has honed both a sense of responsibility and the ability to work well with others – valuable traits which will benefit them during future employment.

While responsibilities are important to fulfill, they are not exclusive of edifying and fun experiences through the center. According to Sonya Miller, Executive Director of Daisytown Community Center, the students and center’s youth enjoy a back to school bash, an annual Christmas party, a trip to Lavender Farm, a fall bonfire, and an annual coat drive, along with Halloween parties and a Christmas play.

The Daisytown Community Center joins with the Lemoyne Center in Washington, PA in order to receive better rates and amenities during outings and field trips, said center board member, Tammy Hite.

In addition to providing employment opportunities to local high school students, the Daisytown Community Center provides a fun place for local youth to spend time, be mentored or tutored, receive a personal escort back home, and even have lunch.

Food is also provided for youth and the elderly alike, though demand has been on the rise. “It’s really blown up in the last two years. Because we have a lot of families who are food insecure, we are making sure they are eating. We’ve been teaming up with food banks and stores, and the kids will be able to take food home,” Hite said.

Helping hands

Support for the center is “is either through donation or grants,” Hite said, while crediting West Pike Run Township Supervisor Rick Molish, in particular, and the township in general, for “a tremendous job of donating money and time…The supervisors of West Pike Run Township have helped during bonfires, (with) maintenance of the building, and help provide activities which are safe for our children.”

Additional summer help is provided by Cindy Tyler and Joyce Ellis, who coordinate activities along with Darra Owens, Sherri Watkins, Juanita Tyler, and Earnest Tyler, to name “just a few of the folks” who generously help at the center.

Additional funds and volunteer time have also been kindly provided by the Lions Club, while the Daisytown Athletic Club “has been our largest donor throughout the year for our center to keep our doors open for operation” Miller said, adding special thanks to 91 year old twins, Arlene Miller and Florence Green, who work “all year round to help as well.”

36678943_2209202822428137_6Helping the community – a family affair

Willie Tyler, Sr., Miller’s father, also had a caring eye for Daisytown area youth and saw an opportunity for a new community center in the old water company building. Miller explains, “The center is our old water company building and my father purchased it for $1 from the owner as it was being donated. It was a struggle – he worked daily on the building with little help, along with a local family named the McFann family, that donated all the plumbing to help get us open.” Without their foresight and efforts in the beginning, Miller said “we would not be as far as we are now.”

Be sure to friend the Daisytown Community Center at facebook.com/DaisytownCommunityCenter/, check out the Lemoyne Community Center at lemoynecommunitycenter.org, and visit Southwest Training Services at swtraining.org to learn more about their helpful services.

Area high school students who seek summer employment should talk to their school’s guidance counselor for more information.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Ada’s Blessings helps those battling congenital heart defects

Baby Ada

Baby Ada

According to the American Heart Association, congenital heart defects (CHD) – abnormal development of the heart and/or its vessels before birth – range from a repairable small hole in the heart through life-limiting, incomplete heart formation. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 25% of the 40,000 babies per year born with CHD require surgery, while citing CHD as “a leading cause of birth defect-associated infant illness and death.”

What facts and figures cannot show is the isolation parents experience from living in a hospital as their little one slowly succumbs to their heart defect, nor the despair at not being able to comfort that child because of ongoing medical procedures.

Compounding parental grief when their child passes is a pervasive feeling of being forgotten, with no apparent place to reach out for support or comfort with others of similar experience.

Fredericktown residents Roxanne Sweany and husband, Jordan, lived these experiences, and more, as they cared for their daughter, Ada, who was born with a CHD. Though Ada fought hard, was greatly loved, and received the best of care, she passed on in March of 2017 at the age of only nine months after a valiant seven month battle with her CHD.

During their time caring for Ada at Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh, the Sweanys were buoyed by the generosity of caring individuals and entities, as Roxanne explained “We lived seven months in the hospital. Other non-profits would come in and give gifts, and that helped a lot. You’re trapped in the hospital all the time and these strangers come and give you gifts, sometimes for children, others for parents…My husband commuted every day, and the gas cards people gave really helped. We felt we wanted to give back, too.”

From these dispiritining times, Roxanne Sweany created Ada’s Blessings to honor Ada because “that’s where my heart is.” Ada’s Blessings, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, takes in donations of toys, money, and many other needed items to help support children, parents, and siblings in their battle with CHD.

The organization also provides education about CHD while offering welcoming resources to those who feel isolated in their struggle with the aftermath of a lost battle. “There is this whole community of CHD parents who have lost their babies, and we want to let them know they’re not forgotten,” Sweany said.

With fall and summer being slow times for charitable donations, Sweany “wanted to do something when the need was, not when everyone else was giving.” To counter the downturn in donations, Ada’s Blessings sponsors Ada’s Birthday Party at Childrens Hospital. “We get a list from the cardiac unit for each age group, and what the kids’ likes and needs are. We put that out on Facebook and people send money so I can go get those things, or people donate (toys and other items) as well.” Siblings are also able to pick out a toy of their own, or receive one picked by their parents, as “they may feel like they’re on the back burner, so we make it a point to feel like they’re involved because they get to pick a present as well.”

Roxanne, Jordan, & Ada Sweany

Roxanne, Jordan, & Ada Sweany

Another summer event, and its biggest fundraiser, is Ada’s Blessings Bike Run. The fundraiser kicks off Saturday, August 11 at 10 a.m. at Tradesmen’s Inn, 1769 E National Pike, Scenery Hill, PA. Registration is $20 per driver and $15 per passenger. At noon, Sweany said “kickstands are up. It’s about a 100 mile ride and stops at four or five bars and restaurants along the way. We’ll have a Chinese auction at the end, a D.J., and food catered by Tradesmen’s Inn.” Ada’s Blessings Bike Run also provides “blockers front and rear, and at certain intersections” to keep participants safe while riding for a good cause.

Ada’s Blessings not only helps others, but helps its founders cope in as positive way as possible. “It’s actually helped me get through my grief, and when I’m having a bad day I go to work on something for Ada’s Blessings,” Sweany said. Though there are days that hit her hard, Sweany notes that “it does feel good to get a whole cart of toys to give” and not worry about the expense. Funds and donations are welcomed by Ada’s Blessings all year long. Gift cards to be given to those in need, and checks made to Ada’s Blessings may be sent to Roxanne Sweany, 8 Crawford Road, Fredericktown, PA 15333. Tax receipts are available upon request.

Join the Ada’s Blessings Group on Facebook at: facebook.com/groups/222929584862157/about/

Editor’s Note: Baby Ada, pictured top left with her parents, is also pictured on our cover. Thanks so much to Roxanne and Jordan Sweany for sharing these special photos of beautiful Ada with us.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer 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.

Thoughts from our Editor: Land of the Free

stars_stripes_296498As I write this, July is fast approaching, and my Facebook feed is filled with photos of friends on vacation. Some are sunbathing on beaches, while others are dancing in the rain at music festivals. While I certainly don’t begrudge them their fun, I must admit their photos of frolicking out of doors are vivid reminders to me that I’ve been stuck indoors, working on this edition, for what’s starting to seem like an eternity.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love what I do, so much so that I hardly even consider it work. But when deadlines loom and I’m forced indoors for an extended period, I get a little stir crazy, and the urge to roam is intense.

I love to travel, and I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had the opportunity to travel widely. From the banks of the Mississippi River, where I spent my formative years, to the Monongahela Valley region I now call home, I’ve made numerous stops along the way. I’ve witnessed the plunging rapids of Niagara Falls, hiked beneath the towering trees of the Redwood Forest, and swam in the Gulf of Mexico, just to name a few of the experiences I’ve had touring this marvelous land.

While I’ve not traveled all 50 states, I’ve come close to visiting most of them, and as an American, my heart swells with pride to know I live in such a beautiful and diverse country.

At this time of year, as we prepare to celebrate our independence on the Fourth of July, I think it’s appropriate for all Americans to reflect on the ideals that truly make this country great. Ideals like freedom of expression spring to mind, without which I wouldn’t be penning this column or – for that matter – putting out a monthly publication.

Because I so cherish that freedom, I admire others who also express themselves, whether it be through the written word, song and dance, or some other medium. More often than not, the results of those expressions mirror the magnificence of America itself. This edition is inspired by these expressions, and by the people who exercise their freedom to have a voice, whether it be in their local communities or on the world stage.

Until next month,

Carla E. Anderton

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

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.