‘We the people’ showcase: LHHV sponsors first Cambria County Arts and Heritage Festival

For years, the Laurel Highlands Historical Village (LHHV), a nonprofit organization based in Johnstown, has been talking about holding an event that will showcase the diversity of Cambria County, and on Sept. 15 and 16 the idea will be brought to life at Duman Lake County Park. The Cambria County Arts and Heritage Festival features two days of performers, historical speakers, bands and more. The group has been working diligently to create, what executive director Ronald Shawley is calling a “We the people” showcase.

“Years ago we talked about unifying Cambria County and preserving our heritage,” Shawley said. “There’s more to Cambria County than steel mills and coal mines.”

Shawley explained that there is logging, farming, and even Native American heritage in the county that citizens may not know about, but the festival will be a way for people in dozens of different groups to learn about each other. Throughout the weekend that knowledge will be passed on to visitors of the event.

“We want to showcase the county in a better light,” Shawley said.

What he wants to see happen with this event is for more residents of the county to appreciate what is here, rather than take it for granted. Shawley said he knows people who have paid “big money to come here” and participate in activities, but residents rarely venture out to enjoy what’s practically in their backyard.

The Laurel Highlands Historical Village wanted to put Duman Lake County Park on display as well because a lot of county residents don’t know it exists, let alone where it’s at, said Shawley.

Invitations were sent out to state and county agencies, nonprofit organizations, veteran groups and some Catholic schools are getting involved as well to help make the event a success.

The heritage festival will kick off at 10 a.m. Sept. 15 at the main field entrance, with a ceremony to honor veterans. The master of ceremonies will be former Cambria County commissioner and veteran Doug Lengenfelder. The Cambria Heights High School Bagpipes and Drum line and Conemaugh Valley High School Band will provide music for the ceremony.

After the opening ceremony, the day will give visitors a chance to walk around the park, and listen to live entertainment and speakers, all while exploring the different craft and food vendors. The grounds will be open until 6 p.m.

On Sunday Sept. 16, the day will begin at 9 a.m. with a church service, and a slew of activities will progress from there until 6 p.m.

According to Shawley, one of the big draws to the event will be the paranormal. Stan Gordan, an unidentified flying object and Bigfoot researcher and author, will speak Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. His presentation is called “Strange Encounters of Pennsylvania.”

“We’ve had a lot of people asking about it,” said Shawley about Gordon’s presentation.

Throughout the weekend, children will also have something to look forward to with train and hay rides and other activities.

The two-day event will be a walk through the county’s past and, hopefully, show where it’s going, said Shawley.

Although the event is one week away, Shawley is still accepting volunteers and vendors.

Tickets for the festival are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and veterans and free for children 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased at www.altoonatickets.com. The money raised at the entrance will be used to help fund projects for veterans.

For more information visit Cambria County Arts and Heritage Festival on Facebook.

If you go

What: Cambria County Arts and Heritage Festival

Where: Duman Lake County Park, 157 County Park Rd., Ebensburg

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 15 and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 16

Tickets: $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and veterans and free for children 12 years of age and under