Marking autumn: Area fall festivals offer crafts, fun, food for everyone

Come, all you lovers of exotic food, crafts and unbeatable entertainment, it’s your time of year, the season for fall festivals.

With offerings of everything from burgers served on glazed donuts to fried Oreo cookies, you’re sure to find something if you like food that’s a little off the wall. If you like the more traditional flavors, the festivals have something for you, too, with a full serving of pizza and funnel cakes.

The Festival at Lakemont Park will kick things off this weekend, starting Saturday and run until Sunday, said park General Manager Melissa Vyborny.

“It’s just a really nice way to wrap up the summer and start the fall season,” she said. “Even last year when it poured down rain on Saturday, we still had a good many people come out on Sunday.”

About 60 vendors from central Pennsylvania will show their wares at the Lakemont Park festival, which attracts visitors from neighboring states such as Maryland and West Virginia, Vyborny said.

Many people like to stock up on crafts as holiday gifts when they visit, she said. There’s crafts from the British Isles, jewelry, homemade food items and even gifts for your pets.

The festival was sponsored by Altoona First Savings Bank for the past several years, but this year, sponsors include Ansley RV, WTAJ-TV, Blair Companies, We Are Central, W.S. Lee and Sons, Keller Engineers and Warren A. Gingrich Agency.

Performing both days will be Todd Charles, also known as the “The Moogician,” the Ray Owens “One Man Show of Shows” and Altoona chainsaw carver Richard Hamilton, who creates many animals and other figures out of wood. In addition, the amusement park rides will also be open.

“It’s just a lot of fun for the whole family,” Vyborny said.

Later in the month is Ebensburg’s PotatoFest, which celebrates its 22nd year this fall.

Begun because Cambria County is the second largest county in the state that produces the spuds, Ebensburg started out on a modest scale with its fall event, said Danea Koss, borough community development director.

“It’s grown from a very small festival to over 200 vendors,” she said.

Although the county seat festival lasts only one day, it draws a crowd of about 25,000 people from all across Pennsylvania and surrounding states who come to honor the humble vegetable in various forms, from potato candy to potato pizza, she said.

Plus there’s craft vendors, clowns to entertain the kids and even wine tasting at the Dauntless Fire Company site, where 10 wineries from around the region have samples of their wares. Business owners from the downtown area often set up displays outside their stores offering special deals. People can even stroll in the streets because the downtown area is blocked off for the day, Koss said.

The event, which is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 28, is sponsored by the local State Farm office, with Kim Springer as the area agent, the First National Bank of Ebensburg, WTAJ-TV and 96 KEY radio station. One entertainment highlight is the appearance of TV show “The Voice” contestant Casey Weston, a singer who was a finalist on the first season of the show, Koss said.

Back in Blair County, at DelGrosso’s Amusement Park in Tipton, the Harvestfest is slated for Sept. 28 and 29, said the park’s director of marketing, Amy Mearkle. The event includes Civil War re-enactors, a KidsBuck$ game show and a comedy pet show for the kids, craft vendors and of course, plenty of food for everyone.

Sinking Valley Grange will offer its kettle ham and bean soup, while Precious Life will have its cactus taters and crab cakes. The water park won’t be open but the amusement park will, Mearkle said.

The cool, wet summer proved a challenge for amusement parks this year, but the fall festivals will help parks like DelGrosso’s wrap up the season with a big finish, she said.

Harvestfest is sponsored by Kunzler, Pepsi, US Foods, M&T Bank and Pacifico Bakery.