The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 5, 2011

‘Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer’

David Knepper

— “I never expected to see the day when girls would get sunburned in the places they now do.”

– Will Rogers

Regardless of what the calendar may indicate, that summer officially begins on June 21, this season of the year is a welcomed guest that can come early and stay as long as it wishes, after such a interminably long winter and wetter-than-usual spring. 

Undeniably, its presence is greeted with much anticipation, for summer has finally returned to us like some dear old friend. When it departs “across the equator,” as inevitably it must, summer will leave behind many cherished memories that will last a lifetime. 

The early signs of summer’s arrival are everywhere: Neat rows of parked school buses marking the end of another school year; cavalcades of bikers “rockin’ down our highways” “catchin’ the sun”; the return of West Coast’s favorite sons, the Beach Boys, singing on satellite radio about California girls and cars; and that distinctive smell of a soothing summer rain striking the hot summer pavement.

This summer would be a great opportunity to explore our region’s many outstanding heritage destinations. During the bicentennial celebration of Cambria County in 2003, the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau organized several bus tours within the county.

Perhaps the CVB could repeat its success in 2011 by organizing a pilot tour program later this summer.

Hopefully, the program could be replicated in other, neighboring counties by their own CVBs. 

“See the Allegheny Region first” seems like a great summer experience that would have you saying: “I never knew this region had so much to offer.”

Summer is the perfect time to reconnect with the outdoors by stepping out into nature, even if it is from the convenience of one’s back porch.

Not a week goes by that I don’t give a friend a call to hear his reaction to what is in the Trib that day. Recently, as he was making a point, he asked if I had ever observed the technique that a robin uses to hunt for worms.

My opinions were placed on hold as he conveyed his theory that it must have something to do with the bird’s keen sense of sound. With its head cocked to one side, this robin listened to the worm’s movement as it wiggled to the surface. That simple encounter served to teach us a lesson in humility:

That if you are going to gather worms for fishing, it’s best to seek the help of a robin.

Attending family reunions and church picnics rank at the top of our summer schedule – if for no other reason than to savor the great food since there is no restaurant that can beat the price or the menu.

I hope to meet the candidates running in the general election as they wend their way around the county this summer. Knowing what their positions are on the issues if elected to a school board or municipal or county position is important to me, and it should be for every voter.

No other place that I know has more community pride than here in the Alleghenies region. One such example is the Forest Hills Community Band, made up mostly of former high school band members who continue to “blow their own horn(s).” 

Incidentally, the band’s last performance of the season will be held at 7 tonight at South Fork First United Methodist Church.

It’s somewhat mind-boggling to think about the many summer community events that are held in this region:

Festivals, music, arts and crafts, parades, jubilees, Thunder in the Valley, AAABA –  the list of things to do right here in the Alleghenies just never seems to end.

Packing my bags and making reservations this summer to go anywhere but here in the Alleghenies has never crossed my mind. For one thing, I don’t know how to use a GPS device. And for another, my car likes to stop at every gas station.

With so much to do right in my own back yard, so to speak, why would I want to go anywhere else this summer?

David A. Knepper is president of Allegheny Development Group LLC and is currently the executive director of the Forest Hills Regional Alliance. He holds a doctorate in educational administration from Penn State. His column appears the first Sunday of each month.

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