The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 30, 2013

Laurels and barbs

— Laurel: It’s no accident that the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra does many things right. Its continued success, even during tough economic times, can be traced, in part, to talented individuals, strong leadership, insightful planning and dedicated supporters. Wooing and grooming the next generation of symphony-goers makes so much sense, and that’s exactly what the orchestra was doing on Tuesday morning. Mostly fifth-graders from 20 area schools were treated to a free Young People’s Concert at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center in Richland Township. A great idea and a wonderful opportunity for the pupils.

Laurel: The symphony folks aren’t the only ones priming their audiences. A top-notch lineup was unveiled this week for the annual AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival, to be staged Aug. 2-4 at Johnstown’s Festival Park. “(Grammy-nominated) Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and Robert Randolph & the Family Band are tremendous headliners. It’s going to be a great year for the festival,” said Todd Wagner, festival chairman. It always is. Added Glenn Wilson, Ameri-Serv president and CEO, “We’re always looking for ways to enrich our community to help it prosper.” We applaud AmeriServ and the many other sponsors, volunteers, and certainly producer Johnstown Area Heritage Association. Three-day packages and passes are now on sale at www.flood- Our feet are tapping already.

Barb: The latest County Health Rankings report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute brought news our region didn’t want to hear. Cambria County remained one of the least healthy in Pennsylvania while Somerset County fell into the middle of the pack in the new findings. Cambria ranked 62nd and has been nearly stagnant since 2010, the first report year. Somerset slipped from 22nd place last year to 35th this year. Factors included individual healthy behavior markers such as obesity and smoking, as well as social and economic factors such as education, violent crime, health care access, family support, education and unemployment. Efforts to improve our numbers haven’t been good enough, obviously.

Laurel: The Fish and Boat Commission is listening to what sportsmen are saying. Bowing to public pressure, the panel has dropped plans to close two trout hatcheries – one in Centre County and the other in Potter County – that produce 750,000 fish a year. Rep. Gary Haluska of Patton, Democratic chairman of the House game and fisheries committee, had criticized the planned closings, not only because they would have reduced the number of trout available for fishing enthusiasts, but also because the state had recently spent millions in grant funds fixing up the Bellefonte hatchery. The decision leaves the agency with two years to formulate a new plan to generate $2 million a year. One idea involves raising license fees. If sportsmen have any input to offer, now is the time.

Laurel: The Taunia Oechslin Girls Night Out has grown into one of Johnstown’s top events, attracting 750 women each year. But anyone still pondering attending this year’s get-together, April 23 at Pasquerilla Conference Center, can forget it. It’s sold out. The night out  began as a small “pay it forward” project by Oechslin, a breast cancer fighter who has since succumbed to the disease. Her idea was to educate women about breast cancer, for them to understand the value of early detection and to receive proper treatment. The financial goal each year is to bring in $40,000. Proceeds go to the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center. Sponsorships, auction items and monetary donations are still being accepted. Meghan Stahl-Skinner is chairwoman. She has plenty of help, including from Gina Wian and Kim Riek. Heartwarming indeed.

Barb: We’re not sure what 40-year-old Arcangelo Bianco Jr. was thinking, but there is no question that what he allegedly did left a black eye for every person who hunts. Bianco was charged this week with reckless endangerment and hunting law violations for allegedly shooting across a highway to kill a 10-point buck he spotted while in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Blairsville in November. A wildlife conservation officer said Bianco fired several shots from the parking lot, then retrieved the deer from the side of the highway opposite the store. The officer said the buck was one of the nicest taken in Indiana County in recent years. Does that explain anything?

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Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
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