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Connellsville set for 9th annual Geranium Festival

| Friday, May 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier
Connellsville is preparing for the 9th annual Geranium Festival on Saturday. The warmer weather allowed for planting around town to dress up the area. Michael Edwards (shown), executive director of Fayette County Cultural Trust, along with Daniel Cocks for the Downtown Connellsville initiative, Casey Sirochman and Sheryl Craven of the Carnegie Free Library of Connellsville planted a variety of flowers in each of the planters located on the lamp posts along Crawford Avenue.

Connellsville Area Garden Club will offer a new service to all attending Saturday's ninth annual Geranium Festival in the city.

“We know that folks often rush home with the geraniums they buy so as not to have to let them sit in a hot car, so we will offer to ‘hold' their flowers that day for as long as they like, as long as they have already paid for them,” said Bev Oppermann, event chairwoman. “Colors are various shades of pink, red, salmon, fuchsia and white. We expect to have more plants with variegated leaves this year. There may be some additional varieties of geraniums as well.”

Price is $2 per plant. All the plants come in 4-inch pots.

“We recommend that if people are buying a variety of colors and a number of plants, to bring their own container for carrying them home. We always have some, but could run out,” she said.

Geranium sales begin at 10 a.m. Some Connellsville Junior High Honor Society students will be available to carry geraniums to people's cars as part of their community service requirement.

The Molinaro Band, in its 100th year, officially opens the festival by parading from Immaculate Conception Church, through downtown and into Lions Square, to continue to perform there.

“We have a Hospitality Committee who serve coffee and doughnuts to all vendors in the morning while they are setting up their booths,” Oppermann said.

The committee includes Nancy Calisti, Andrea Swan, Kaye Merendino and Cathy Firestone. The Garden Club Booth committee includes Nancy Haggerty, Edna Prinkey, Patty Revlosky and Judy Sherwood.

“They will be selling plants, artworks, odds and ends, and helping children plant a flower to take home,” Oppermann said.

“The Connellsville Area Garden Club has a wonderful selection of unique creations for sale at our booth this year,” club President Linda Ruth said. “Some of the items are hanging flowering moss balls, shabby-chic window frames with planters, antique flower potted chairs and herb-planted tea cups with antique spoons. The spoons have the herb name stamped on them. There are colorful, decorated mailboxes holding garden tools, shabby-chic vanity planter chairs — one will be raffled off — old work boots with hens and chicks, and assorted planters. Bring your children to the booth to plant a flower for free.”

“The Pet Parade begins at 11 a.m. for all well-behaved and social pets,” said Johanna Harden, who organizes the event each year. “It will be a fun time with many prizes for the pets. Registration starts at 10:30, a $5 donation benefits Fayette Friends of Animals.

“Please have all pets on a leash,” she added.

The Princess Contest begins at noon at the gazebo in Lions Square. Twelve girls, ages 4 to 6 who have pre-entered, will dress in their finest attire for a chance to be the Geranium Princess of 2013. The winner and the runner-up each receive gift cards and will then ride in Connellsville's Memorial Day Parade on Monday.

“Each of the girls receives a gift bag,” said garden club member Linda Galiardi, who is organizer of this event each year.

Vendors will line both sides of Crawford Avenue, which is closed between Pittsburgh and Arch streets for the festival.

“Many of our crafters are returning, some for the ninth year,” Oppermann said.

New ones this year include: Origami Owl's custom jewelry; The Farmer's Daughter, with table runners, place mats and other kitchen items; Paparazzi Accessories, selling jewelry and hair accessories; Loop to Loupe; and Ruff Creek Crafts, selling wreaths, folk art and jewelry.

“We have photography by Josh Richey. Robert Rocheck is bringing his assorted wood items. Loose Ends will sell sandals and painted/dyed silk items, and a group from Wal-Mart will sell wood, glass and tole-painted items,” Oppermann said, adding that R Shall Art and Angels of Mercy will be there and a Connellsville Girl Scout troupe will have a booth of children's games and activities.

Some regulars at the festival include: Kraft Kreations, Bob Patterson Images, Mary Sulitz, Gary's Country Crafts, Ken Fike's Toys and Treasure, Central Fellowship Church, Furnace Hill Photography, Joy Faith Soaps, Avon, Silpada, Fayette County Cultural Trust, Thirty-One Gifts, Cookie Lee Jewelry, Curves, Lions Club, Jalyn's and Bull of the Woods.

Organizations with food booths are: CAHS Patriots, Falcon Marching Band, Greater Connellsville Chamber of Commerce, Conn-Area Catholic School, Michael Stevick, Otterbein United Methodist Church, St. John Evangelist Church, Angels of Mercy, Domino's Pizza and Payne AME Church.

“Please join us at the Geranium Festival,” CAHS Patriots founder Linda Shearer said. “In addition to our menu of hot dogs, sausage sandwiches, pierogi casserole, cabbage and noodles, to name but a few of our offerings, there will be baked goods, chances on a beautiful patriotic hand-made quilt with the drawing on June 1, three raffle items that will be given away that day, and patriotic items for sale.

“Every cent raised through all fundraising efforts will be used for our deployed troops and our veterans,” she added. “Together we have made a difference and will continue to make a difference. On this Memorial Day weekend and always, we must never forget that the freedoms we enjoy were given to us by those willing to protect and defend freedom.”

“The Payne AME Church will present another ‘Soul Food Day,'” church member Jackie Jones said. “We will sell deep-fried chicken, breast, legs and wings, potato salad, collard greens and baked macaroni and cheese. Drinks will also be sold. We invite everyone to bring their appetites and enjoy our delicious homemade food. Buy individual servings or a complete dinner.”

“New booths include Fay-Penn, Jolinda Wilt candies and a gentleman who takes pictures with cardboard life-size people,” added Susie Coleman, publicity chairwoman for the festival. “You can have your picture taken with the cardboard person.”

Informational and miscellaneous booths include: Jackson-Hewitt, Armstrong, Daily Courier, Trib Total Media, Curves, Wells Chiropractic and Legacy Remodeling.

“I'll be offering complimentary posture analysis, using a software that measures and calculates stress to the spine, based on a person's posture,” said Matthew Wells D.C., a yearly participant at the festival.

Taney Basinger, 9, of Bullskin will perform crowd-pleasing songs at 1 p.m. at Lions Square.

Shelly McCombie will take the gazebo stage from 2-4 p.m. She has been performing for more than 35 years. At the age of 13, she was in a family group called the McRobs. She has participated in a variety of country bands such as The Midnight Ramblers, High Chaparral and Pittsburgh-based band, Gypsy Wind. She started her own band in 1990. She reportedly has shared the stage with several Nashville recording artists, like Martina McBride, Wynonna Judd, Marty Stuart, Waylon Jennings and Toby Keith, and has worked with several Pittsburgh artists such as The Corbin-Hanner Band, Norman Nardini, Larry Lee Jones and jazz musician Joe Negri.

McCombie has performed to standing-room-only crowds at numerous fairs, festivals and country nightspots and is looking forward to the Geranium Festival performance.

“The Garden Club has so many dedicated, hard-working members,” club treasurer Lynda Witt said. “There are so many people in Garden Club who have many talents. I have learned so much from them.

“There are those who are planting and watering and weeding all the time to beautify our community,” she continued. “There are those who devote so much time to planning our yearly Geranium Festival — to organize the entertainment, to offer children the chance to plant a flower, to create the wonderful projects that are so unique that people await their arrival on Saturday morning ... Our members are amazing ... These are good people and I am proud to be a member. We appreciate those who donate to the festival and those who attend the event.”

There is no admission charge to the festival. There will be some umbrella tables and chairs for seating. People are welcome to bring their own chairs to watch the performances at Lions Square, however.

Throughout the day, Mark Holden of No Holden Back will provide music. Winkers the Clown will create free balloon animals for kids and her sidekick “Robin” will be face-painting from 2 to 4 p.m.

Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.

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