Sunday, December 9, 2012

Weekend Features, Xmas Events - 12/9/2012

Santa rolls in aboard a Fayette Central Railroad train along with conductor Henry Sobota of Armburst during the Christmas in the Park event at Dunbar Playground, Saturday afternoon.
Jerry Yealey, 7, of Vanderbilt plays a game of holiday ringtoss during the Christmas in the Park event at Dunbar Playground, Saturday afternoon.
Jadyn Tesauro, 3, of Vanderbilt succeeds in tossing a ball through the holiday wreath during the Christmas in the Park event at Dunbar Playground, Saturday afternoon.
Ashley Minerd, 11, of Lemont Furnace is assisted aboard a Fayette Central Railroad trail during the Christmas in the Park event at Dunbar Playground, Saturday afternoon.
Davey Black, 3, of South Connellsville receives a gift of Candy from Santa at the South Connellsville Christmas event Saturday night.
Mackenzie Haky, 3, of Connellsville is introduced to Olive the Reindeer at the South Connellsville Christmas event Saturday night.
Katie Sutton, 16, Smithfield serenades visitors to the Fairchance Christmas Event with "Canon in D" on the harp at the Fairchance Volunteer Fire Department, Saturday evening.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Weekend Features - 12/02/2012

Carson Luick, 2, of Uniontown meets Judge Santa during the Magic and Mistletoe event at the Fayette County Courthouse in Uniontown, Saturday night.
Alivia Andria, 4, of Brownsville decorates a cookie during the Magic and Mistletoe event at the Fayette County Courthouse in Uniontown, Saturday night. The cookie decorating was sponsored by the Fayette County Career and Technical Institute.
Ashton Klink (left), 9 and Caleb Smith, 6, both of Uniontown make the most of Saturday's warm weather by playing four square at Areford Park in South Union Township. Klink managed to score several points despite having never played the game before.
Bill Kruper (left) and his friend Frank Vaslavsky, both of Uniontown, make the most of Monday afternoon's sunshine as they engage in a friendly game of tennis with their friends at Areford Park in South Union Township, Monday afternoon.
Ramaree Murray, 2, of Uniontown and his mother Marissa take advantage of Saturday's warm weather by playing on the seesaw at Hutchinson Park in South Union Township.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Weekend Features - 11/18/2012

Joey Pugliesi, 8, of Hopwood expresses his wish for an iPod to Santa at Hopwood's annual Light Up Night, Friday evening.
Maddox McAllister, 5, and his mother Shannon of Uniontown make bird feeders out of pine cones, peanut butter and birdseed at Hopwood's annual Light Up Night, Friday evening.
Jacob Johnston, 16, of Uniontown intercepts a pass from his friends at Hutchinson Park, Friday afternoon. Johnston is a sophomore at Laurel Highlands Area High School where he plays Defensive End for the Mustangs.
Morgan Curstead of Uniontown and her daughter Jorja Martin, 6, ride bikes along the trails at Eberly Park in North Union Township, Sunday afternoon. Morgan and Jorja, along with their family, gathered at the park for a picnic under the warm sunshine of the day.
Mike Bucknak (center), 18, of Uniontown leaps for two points against his friends Trevor Spiker (left) and Cody Willczynski at Eberly Park in North Union Township, Sunday afternoon. Buchnak is a senior at Laurel Highlands High School where he plays baseball for the Mustangs.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Weekend Features - 10/28/2012

Latrelle Polk, 6, of Uniontown practices his batting with his stepfather Jamie Ray at Bailey Park in Uniontown, Monday afternoon. Polk just finished his first season with the R.W. Clark Indians and is looking forward to a second.
Kaydence Mehls (left), 7, of Hopwood and her friend Madison Reynolds, 6, of Fairchance work together to scale the jungle gym at Hutchinson Park in South Union Township, Monday afternoon.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Weekend Features - 10/14/2012

Anthony Ransome of Uniontown, a senior linebacker for Laurel Highlands Area High School varsity football, carries his brother Dakota, 5, on his back as he traverses the jungle gym Sunday afternoon at Eberly Park in North Union Township. Ransome plans to spend as much time with his brother as possible since he plans to attend Penn State University next fall to pursue a nursing degree.
Chris Swaney (middle) of New Salem builds a sandcastle with his sons Logan (left), 3, and Hunter Lindsey, 8, Sunday afternoon at Areford Park in South Union Township. Swaney and his boys were out taking advantage of the warm weather that was sweeping through the area on Sunday.
Mya Murray, 10, of Uniontown sinks a free throw Sunday afternoon at Hutchinson Park in South Union Township. Murray has been playing for the Uniontown YMCA League as well as the Penn State Church League for the past three years.
Brandon McDowell, 12, of Hopwood reels in his line Sunday afternoon at Hutchinson Sportsman's Club in South Union Township. McDowell has been fishing since his father taught him when he was three years old.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weekend Features - 10/7/2012

Kim and David Silvio play fetch in the newly fallen autumn leaves with their basset hound bulldog Mugsy Saturday afternoon at Ohiopyle State Park. Kim and David are avid campers and have been up to Ohiopyle nearly six times so far this year.
Adam Palya (left) and Rich Show practice their archery in Palya's Hopwood backyard. Both have been hunters since they were children and have been bow hunting for nearly two years.
Rhonda Gournic of Mt. Pleasant plays fetch with her golden retriever Emma in the Youghiogheny River Saturday afternoon at Ohiopyle State Park. Gournic says that during the summer months Emmais capable of swimming nearly all the way across the river.
Horses graze under the autumn foliage Sunday afternoon in a field on Kentuck Road in Stewart Township.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fright Farm, Behind-the-Scenes - 10/4/2012

A grotesque figure greets visitors to Fright Farm in Smithfield, Pa.
Take one creepy old farmhouse, toss in a few dozen ghouls and monsters, then mix with a healthy sprinkling of spooky music and lighting and you end up with a deliciously frightful night on your plate with a side of excitement.

2012 marks the 23rd annual Fright Farm, a haunted attraction in Smithfield that has been named one of the best in the country. Founded in 1990 by the Rich family who owns the property, Fright Farm was born from a wild idea the family came up with one evening after surveying the stone farmhouse.

“Our architecture is amazing,” said Michael Rich, one of the founders and general managers of Fright Farm. “Our towers, our stone structures and the entire house look like a big old mansion... it just has this creep to it.”

The event consists of a haunted hayride, a maze and the mansion itself. Every year has a unique theme. This year’s theme, “Farmageddon,” is reminiscent of a cursed apocalypse.

Rich explained each theme relies on his and his brothers Tom and Mark’s combined creativity. Tom and Mark also serve as general managers for the event.

Construction of the event begins in the summer months with June marking the beginning of this year’s haunt. A crew of around 10 people begin by tearing down the haunts and themes from the previous year and continue to erect new walls and create new spooks. The attraction’s farm location is an advantage as it allows for extensive landscaping for exterior scenes. An on-site nursery provides materials for elaborate cemetery and cornfield scenes.

“From there it just keeps building,” Rich said. “I think by this past week before we opened we had probably about 30 people on it.”

Over 100 different scenes must be torn down and rebuilt each year throughout the three haunted areas. Rich describes it as building a movie set and doing their absolute best to create the most immersive scenarios by stimulating as many senses as possible.

“We always say ‘when the show starts it’s just like you’re walking through a movie.’” Rich said. “When people start the tour... they go through all of the different scenes and because of all the different effects and sounds they kind of get lost in the atmosphere.”

Rich says that he takes a considerable amount of inspiration from famous movie figures, particularly the work of Alfred Hitchcock who used three aspects of fear in his movies: Suspense, shock and horror.

“I always say that there’s a fourth [aspect]: Humor. When you walk through this you take an emotional trip. You want to feel happy. You want to feel scared. It’s like a good movie which takes you all over the place emotionally,” Rich said.

Ray Thomas is transformed into "The Doctor" by Rich Geisinger 
for the 23rd annual Fright Farm in Smithfield, Pa
Staffing for the haunts begin nearly two months prior to opening.

“We interview probably about 500 to 600 people for about 100 acting spots,” Rich said. “We train them, we have acting coaches [and] our makeup [and costumes are all] professional because we want to deliver real live horror here.”

Casting for the event is done by Rich’s daughter Allison who analyzes all the talents of the actors and casts them in the specific roles based on their skill sets and qualities.

Some roles require high amounts of energy or abilities to memorize lines while other roles call for someone who can be silent and mysterious. Rich recalls an actress in the early 1990s whose entire role was to lie in an open casket and open her eyes when visitors leaned in close to examine her.

“We try and create all of our own characters while still giving each one a specific flavor, so sometimes quiet is better,” Rich said.

Once the casting for the night is complete, the actors head inside to get into costume and makeup. Westley Loukota, head of the costume department says that actors begin arriving 2-3 hours prior to opening so that they have enough time to get into costume and makeup since they only have about 8 makeup artists for the hundred or so actors.

Marge Smith is a first-year actress at Fright Farm and is cast in the role of “The Salty Pig” butcher who chases away anyone who tries to steal the meat that she processes. Smith says that she uses the time spent in the makeup chair to get into character.

“I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my scene and how to handle to props in order to give the customer the best possible experience when they come through the house,” Smith said.

Rich went on to describe the training that goes into each role. Acting coaches and choreographers are on-site to direct new actors in the basics of the role to ensure that they know the concept of the role and know all their lines.

“It’s whole a process of getting here, getting cast, getting trained, getting into costume and then when the curtain comes up we’re ready,” said Rich. “Everybody’s in place once it gets dark, the music is playing and all you see is a big movie set.”

Fright Farm runs Wednesday through Sunday up through the first week of November. For prices or more information, go online to

Fright Farm - Smithfield, PA from Joel Brewton on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weekend Features - 9/16/2012

Valerie Thistlethwaite feeds her tuxedo cat Hanna at her Brownsville home Sunday afternoon. Thistlethwaite is a finalist in the Purina Cat Chow Real Stories Project which is a national contest that seeks out the best people/pet combinations. Thistlethwait became a finalist in the "What My Cat Means to Me" category with her short essay dedicated to her late cat Misty who passed away earlier this year. Before her passing, Misty adopted Hanna as her own and Thistlethwaite discovered that cats can mourn as well since Hanna did just that after Misty was out to sleep. The essay ends with "My Misty- I Love You!"

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekend Features - 9/9/2012

Ava Fisher, 3, of Uniontown is taught the art of hanging upside-down by her grandmother Pat Ozanich at Areford Park in South Union Township, Sunday afternoon. Ozanich and her husband were at the park spending time with their granddaughters before heading home together for the evening Steelers game.
Alexander Edwards, 4, and Kaylee Wilburn, 8, of Uniontown scale the jungle gym together at Areford Park in South Union Township, Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mount St. Macrina Annual Pilgrimage - 9/1/2012

Bishop John Kudric (left to right), Archbishop William Skurla, Bishop Gerald Dino and Bishop John Pazak lead the Pilgrims in a parastas at Mount Saint Macrina in North Union Township, Saturday evening. The parastas is an Orthodox memorial service to honor the departed.
Mother Theodora of Burton, OH is welcomed to the pilgrimage by Cathy Crawford of Luthersburg, Pa Saturday afternoon. Theodora was a sister at Mount Macrina for 13 years before transferring to Christ the Bridegroom Monestary in Burton.
David Bratnick (left), 16, of Cleveland, OH compares journal notes with his life long friend Dan Loya, 18, during the teen pilgrimage, Saturday afternoon. Bratnicks says that the journals are an activity encouraged by the leaders of the pilgrimage to document their journey through their faith.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Weekend Features, Fayette Italian Heritage Festival - 8/26/2012

Mary Ferro (middle) of Pittsburgh teaches festival attendees including Fran Gigliotti (left) of Greensburg, Maria Pasquini of Washington County and Gianna Bella Maria Dzimiera, 5, of Monessen to dance the Tarantella at the Fayette Italian Heritage Festival in Dunbar Township, Sunday afternoon. Ferro continues her family tradition of teaching Italian dancing in honor of her late parents.
Kendra Moore (top) of Connellsville and her best friend Keithette Quarnick of Uniontown partner up for the grape-stomping competition at at the Fayette County Italian Festival in Dunbar Township, Saturday afternoon. Quarnick is the sister of Walt Vinoski, the owner of Greendance Winery who was supplying the prize of a case of their award-winning wine.
Sara Konopa, 6, of Uniontown enjoys the fun and excitement of the Carousel at the Fayette County Italian Festival in Dunbar Township, Saturday afternoon. Konopa spent the day with her dad at the festival as her mother volunteered as a vendor.
Josh Hoffman of Pittsburgh swallows a large amount of pasta at the Italian Heritage Festival spaghetti eating contest in Dunbar Township, Saturday evening. Hoffman was the first of eight contestants to consume six pounds of spaghetti and subsequently won a collection of gift cards to various Italian restaurants.
Francine Sampson, owner of Mom Maruca's Pizza Shop in Uniontown, chops fresh-grown basil for her homemade bruschetta at the Fayette Italian Heritage Festival in Dunbar Township, Saturday evening.
Dance partners Michelle Hartosh of Uniontown and Earl Marker of Farmington dance together at the indoor arena at the Fayette Italian Heritage Festival in Dunbar Township, Sunday afternoon. Hartosh and Marker have been dance partners for seven years.
Aidan Burnworth, 8, and his grandfather Don Burnworth of Uniontown double team Nathaniel Valente, 10, of Brownsville on the bumper car ride at the Fayette Italian Heritage Festival in Dunbar Township, Saturday evening.
Howard Mincone, juggler and physical comic, juggles five balls at once at the Fayette Italian Heritage Festival in Dunbar Township, Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Weekend Features - 8/19/2012

Chloe Nicklow, 7, of Normalville enjoys a front-row ride aboard the American Flyer kiddie coaster at the Bullskin Township Fair, Friday evening.  Nicklow had ridden the coaster several times that evening and was noticeably eager to continue riding.
Makayla Fekety (left), 12, and her friend Maddie Swank, 12, both of Ruffsdale, make the most of their time at the Bullskin Township Fair by enjoying the dizzying effects of one of the rides at the fair, Friday evening. Fekety and Swank come to the fair every year to enjoy the festivities and tractor pull competition.
E.J. Lowery of Uniontown (left) and State Representative Tim Mahoney cut the ribbon for the new Miracle League Field in Uniontown, Sunday afternoon. Lowery, along with his parents and late grandfather, founded the Challenger Little League in 1993 which grew into the Miracle League over the years.
Damian Smith, 3, of Uniontown hits the ball off the tee at new Miracle League Field in Uniontown, Sunday afternoon. This is Smith's first year with the Miracle League following a recommendation from his early intervention group so that he would be able to experience sports play and interaction with kids his own age.