Harvestfest marks end of season

Hot weather benefits DelGrosso’s

Mirror photo by Greg Bock / Ken Loucks drills ribbon-cut potatoes into "Cactus Taters" as Dave Waite (left) works the fryers at DelGrossoás Amusement Parkás 31st annual Harvestfest on Sunday. The weekend marks the end of the parkás summer season and draws big crowds with more than 150 craft and artist booths, various food booths benefiting local nonprofits and a variety of family entertainment.

TIPTON — With sunny skies and summer-like temperatures, thousands of people flocked to Tipton as DelGrosso’s Amusement Park ushered out the season with its annual Harvestfest.

“It’s just a great family atmosphere,” said Carl Crider Jr., the park’s general manager, who said the above-average temperatures led to more families with smaller children taking advantage of their last chance to enjoy the rides, which is sometimes hampered by cooler fall weather.

Guests also got the chance to stroll around the park to check out the more than 150 craft and artists’ booths, taste some great food from local nonprofits and civic organizations and take in a variety of entertainment and performers, Crider said.

“We always try to bring in some really cool family entertainment,” he said.

In its 31st year, Harvestfest is not like any other weekend at DelGrosso’s because it’s the only time admission is charged — the $6 entrance free includes rides — as the park shuts down most of its own concessions and hosts area nonprofits who serve various food items including hot sausage sandwiches, crab cakes, pulled pork, fresh-roasted peanuts, hot cider and open-kettle ham and bean soup.

For many groups like Bellwood’s Excelsior Volunteer Fire Department, it’s one of the biggest fundraisers of the year.

“It’s an intricate part of the organization,” said Joe Whiteford II, a captain with the fire department.

Excelsior teams up with the Bellwood FFA and splits the money they make selling roast beef, pulled pork and bread bowl soups.

“We’ll do between $8,000 and $10,000 in these two days,” said Whiteford, adding that, next to the fire department’s fish fry and May flower sale, Harvestfest is its third-largest fundraising effort. It also takes a lot of volunteers to prepare all that food.

“It’s obviously a lot of hard work,” Whiteford said, pointing out there was a crew of 36 volunteers on Saturday and 32 on Sunday — and that’s just from the fire hall.

About 20 Bellwood FFA students pitched in by working the counter and register, said advisor Matt Weberek.

“Guaranteed, it’s our number-one fundraiser,” he said.

The volunteers with Precious Life, a pregnancy care ministry with locations in Altoona, Bedford and Johnstown, served almost a ton of potatoes over the weekend, along with 400 pounds of wings, 200 pounds of crab cakes and 400 pounds of fish, according to Director Scott Manganella.

With its Cactus Taters — ribbon-cut potato chips cut and fried to order — as well as its french fries, the group served 1,700 pounds of potatoes in what Manganella said is its second-biggest weekend fundraisers.

“This and Bedford’s Fall Foliage are our two best fundraisers,” Manganella said. “The park has always been very accommodating and always treat us like family. You couldn’t ask for better people to work with.”