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Leaves starting to turn

With the first day of fall quickly approaching, many area residents may be wondering when they’ll see one of the best parts of the season — fall foliage.

Starting next week, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) will be putting out weekly fall foliage reports, so area residents can visit the best places in the state and county to find nature’s color display.

Mark Potter, district forester with DCNR, Rothrock State Forest, talked about which trees are starting to turn and what trees will turn later on in October.

“Typically, early on you’re going to see color change in sassafras, black walnut and blueberry species,” he said. “We’ve been seeing black walnut trees yellow for about a month or so. These are the early species. Then, you’ll start seeing it in the red maples and, lastly, you’ll see changes in the oak species.”

Vibrant colors typically start changing in the northern parts of the county before moving south.

“Typically, in the northern part of the district, you’ll see that color change first, as the color change is occurring from north to south,” said Potter. “The northern part of the state will be further ahead than in the southern part of the state.”

In the county, Potter said on average, the fall foliage is at its peak in the county in the third week of October.

As far as what kind of fall foliage the county should expect, it should be a vibrant one, unless the trees were infected with any fungal issues, like anthracnose.

Potter said it’s not the current weather that necessarily impacts the vibrancy of fall foliage, but the weather the area received in the spring.

“We had pretty good precipitation, which kind of stems back to the heavier rain in the spring,” adding that wet weather may have contributed to the anthracnose that caused early leaf drop in sycamore and red maple trees in the county.

“It’s been a pretty good year overall,” said Potter. “The foliage on most of the tree species is pretty full.”

However, current weather may have an impact, especially if there are storms with wind events that may knock leaves on the trees.

If anyone is interested in learning where the best parts of the state and county are to see fall foliage and when, visit DCNR’s fall foliage page at www.dcnr.pa.gov/Conservation/ForestsAndTrees/FallFoliageReports/Pages/default.aspx.

EBT fans offered opportunity to photograph locomotives

It’s been nearly a decade since East Broad Top Railroad fans have had the opportunity to photograph vintage steam locomotives and other vehicles comprising the EBT roster. But all that will change for select rail photographers when the EBT sponsors several photo-ops on the afternoon and evening of Saturday, Nov. 2, at the railroad headquarters in Rockhill.

According to an announcement released recently by the EBT, narrow gauge steam locomotive No. 17 and the railroad’s gas-electric M-1 unit will be on display for 30 lucky photographers. Two sessions have been announced for Nov. 2, the first one taking place at 1 p.m., followed by a dusk and night photo op.

“I’m happy to report about the first event at the EBT in ages,” explained Lawrence Biemiller, EBT railroad tour guide and publicist. “The Nov. 2 event marks the first EBT photo event in nearly a decade.”

Limited to 30 photographers, the event also includes a dinner break around 4:30 p.m. The cost of the event is $149 per person with dinner to be available at the neighboring Iron Bed & Breakfast at Rockhill for a donation of $15, explained Biemiller who announced Tuesday morning that the event is now sold out.

The stars of the special photo sessions are the Baldwin-built Mikado No. 17 steam locomotive, built in 1918, and the EBT’s gas-electric unit M-1, which was constructed at the EBT railroad shops at Rockhill using plans and components from Brill and Westinghouse.

The M-1, capable of towing a railroad coach or several coal hoppers, was used to transport passengers, the U.S. mail and other items along the original 33-mile EBT right of way between Mount Union and Robertsdale-Wood during the railroad’s common carrier period and after 1960 for various railroad excursion activities between Rockhill and Shirleysburg.

EBT’s No. 17 steam locomotive once pulled narrow gauge consists, including coal shipments from the deep mines at Robertsdale and Wood until March of 1956 when the railroad ceased common carrier operations only to be put back into service for tourist operations in 1960. In 2001, the locomotive made its last run, noted Biemiller.

The two pieces of EBT rolling stock will be on display on the turntable where photographers will have ample positions from which to take photos.

“During the event antique vehicles and costumed crew members will be on hand and lighting experts will help create nighttime shooting opportunities in and around the roundhouse,” added Biemiller. “The EBT will spot other equipment around the yard for the event and some may be moved during the day to provide variety for photographers.”

It was stressed that no rides will be offered on any of the railroad equipment.

The EBT, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964, has been closed since the end of 2011 and is for sale by its longtime owners, the Kovalchick family of Indiana, Pa.

The Kovalchick family, beginning with the late Nick Kovalchick who purchased the railroad in 1956, have preserved the railroad for decades and is presently owned by Joe and Judy Kovalchick.

The EBT was opened to Robertsdale in the fall of 1874 followed by an extension to the deep mines in the Woodvale area in 1891. After 1953, the EBT earned the reputation of being the only remaining narrow gauge railroad east of the Rocky Mountains.

“The railroad has also enjoyed years of support from the volunteers of the Friends of the East Broad Top,” concluded Biemiller.

Ron can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.


Alan Boyer checked the temperature on his pork Friday afternoon in preparation for today’s first-ever BBQ Bonanza at the Huntingdon County Fairgrounds. Vendors and BBQ teams from across the county spent Friday setting for the event that runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. Admission is free and all proceeds from vendor purchases will go towards the Huntingdon County United Way. Activities such as the Touch-a-Truck event and the classic car cruise-in will be held throughout the day. Boyer and his wife, Heather, are the chairs for this year’s United Way Campaign and Alan will be competing with his team at the barbecue cook-off from 5-6 p.m.

Firearms violation results in SCI sentence

A Blairs Mills area man will spend four to eight years in state prison on a firearms violation.

Darrell Fleming, 54, entered a plea Friday morning to one count of felony 2 possession of a firearm when he was barred from using or owning guns due to a prior felony conviction. He was originally scheduled to stand trial Friday on two counts of the possession offense and participated in jury selection Sept. 9.

Fleming’s sentence is effective Dec. 13, 2018, the date he was taken into custody. In addition to incarceration, Huntingdon County President Judge George Zanic ordered Fleming to reimburse the county for the cost of assembling the jury.

Huntingdon County District Attorney David Smith said he’s satisfied with the outcome, noting the sentence falls within guidelines and the defendant likely faces additional penalty for state parole violations.

“This is not going to be a slap on the wrist,” Smith said. “With our sentence and the state parole hit, we believe he’s going to serve a significant amount of time in jail.”

Fleming, represented by attorney Christopher Wencker, is not allowed to possess firearms due to a prior felony 1 robbery conviction and is on state parole through July 2042.

According to the affidavit filed by state police at Huntingdon, a state parole officer stopped by Fleming’s Tell Township home Dec. 13, 2018, for a routine visit and found three rifles in a closet.

When Fleming arrived home, an additional firearm was found in his vehicle, police say.

“We believe we had a solid case,” Smith said.

Smith said he also feels the agreement is appropriate considering what he believes were Fleming’s intentions with the rifles.

“From our perspective, we believe he wanted to hunt and had the firearms for that purpose,” Smith said. “We don’t necessarily believe the firearms were going to be used in robberies or things of that nature.”

Smith said if Fleming had opted to proceed with trial and if jurors found him guilty, he would have been exposed to a maximum sentence of five to 10 years in prison per count, or a total of 10 to 20 years.

Fleming’s robbery conviction date back to 1990 in Franklin County when he was 25 years old. He was sentenced to 63 to 240 months in state prison.

Rebecca can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

Temps for fall will be warm

Though average temperatures for the first day of fall are typically in the upper 60s for highs and in the upper 40s for lows, it will feel more like summer Monday, Sept. 23, the first official day of fall.

Thanks to a warm front moving through the area this weekend, temperatures are expected to be in the upper 70s for highs and the mid- to upper 50s for lows for the first day of fall.

“There’s a pretty broad area of high pressure that’s sitting over the Northeast,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Travis. “As the front moves to the east, winds will turn out of the south, which will transport really warm air from the south central U.S. and rush into the region this weekend.”

Though the first day of fall will be around 10 degrees warmer than normal, the weekend, including today and Sunday, will be even warmer.

“It will be very warm this weekend, even warmer than it will be Monday,” said Travis. “High temperatures will be in the mid-80s Saturday and Sunday, which is unusually warm for this time of year. The humidity will also increase a bit over the weekend. By Sunday, it will be noticeably warm and humid.”

As a front passes through the area, in addition to warmer temperatures, there will be showers in the area Monday.

“As it moves through, it will cool us down a little bit, and the humidity will lower,” said Travis. “But, we should dry out into the middle of next week.”

Temperatures, though cooler, will still be slightly above normal, with highs in the low 70s and lows in the mid-50s through midweek next week.

“It won’t be much cooler, but it will be cooler than what we’ll see this weekend,” said Travis.

Additionally, it looks like it will stay slightly warmer with below-normal precipitation from the end of September into early October, he added.

“Overall, it looks like we’re hearing about no big cool down into early October,” said Travis. “Temperatures are likely to be above normal.”

While it’s been somewhat dry in the area recently, Travis said it’s not to a point where people should be concerned.

“The drought monitor is showing that 10 percent of the state is abnormally dry, but not in drought conditions,” he said. “Some parts of the state are showing that, but nothing in Huntingdon County as of yet.

“While we’re in a dry stretch, over the next couple of weeks, it’s favored to be below normal for rainfall, we may still get a few rounds of rain,” Travis added.

Walking competition promotes health, charity

An upcoming two-week competition promotes health, charity and Mount Union’s new walking trail.

Meadowview Physical Therapy and Solid Rock Wellness Center are sponsoring the Bricktown Heart Walk Challenge which kicks off at 5 a.m. Oct. 1 and wraps up at 3 p.m. Oct. 14. Event proceeds benefit Mount Union-based community organizations.

Adam Shawver, owner and manager at Solid Rock Wellness Center, said he and his fellow organizers welcome the entire community to join in, and hope to turn the Heart Walk into an annual event.

“This is a great opportunity for people to come together. It’s good for their health and it’s a social outlet as well,” Shawver said, adding Heart Walk participants, whether they’re in it to win or to just have fun, are setting a healthy example for the rest of the Mount Union community.

All entry fees for the Heart Walk — $10 per walker — will be donated to one of three local organizations: the Mount Union Ministerium, Mount Union Community Library or the Mount Union Conference of St. Vincent de Paul. Shawver, a member of the ministerium as pastor of Walnut Grove Church of God, said team members are welcome to go above and beyond the entry fee to support the local organizations.

“It’s a great idea and it’s right up my alley,” Charlotte Fields, longtime volunteer with the Friends of the Library, said, adding she’s already signed onto a team.

Teams of four to five walkers will see who can log the most laps around the borough’s Bricktown Unity Trail, which covers 1.65 miles of borough sidewalk. The competition is divided into two age categories: under 60 and over 60.

The two teams (one per division) that accumulate the most laps during the two-week period will have their names placed on a trophy which, in turn, will go on display in the borough office.

In addition to recognizing the teams who collect the most laps, Heart Walk organizers will present the “Biggest Heart” award to the top team in fundraising.

On the final day of competition, starting a 5 p.m. Solid Rock Wellness Center will host a celebration and awards ceremony for all Heart Walk participants.

“There will be many positive outcomes including meeting and greeting residents of the community, conversation, knowing the community, increasing community pride and the spirit of the challenge,” Mount Union Borough Manager Sue Zinobile said. “I would encourage everyone to rise to the spirit of the challenge.”

Applications are available at the Mount Union Borough Officer, 9 W. Market St. or through the borough’s Facebook page and may be returned to the borough office.

The Heart Walk is the first community event to make use of the new Bricktown Unity Trail, which officially opened in June. The walking trail was established through the state Department of Health’s WalkWorks program with assistance from the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission and a team of borough residents who mapped out the route.

Rebecca can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.