State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Hey John King, CNN and the World: Here’s Who We Are…

by on November 12, 2020 5:00 AM

Opening disclaimer: This column is NOT about politics, so feel free to breathe and read on.

Last Wednesday, as election results were reported ever so slowly, the eyes of the country and the world turned to Pennsylvania via CNN’s John King and his magic wall. And right there in the middle of the state, an island unto itself, was a lone blue county standing out dramatically in a sea of red. 

Many other Pennsylvania counties were labeled with cities like Scranton, Erie or Allentown, so viewers at home had a name to place with a county. But not here. So on various social media platforms people all over the world were asking “He,y what’s that blue county in the middle of Pennsylvania?” 

It is Centre County and since you asked you should know that we like to tell people who We Are on a regular basis.

WE ARE perhaps most notably home to Penn State University, one of the world’s leading academic research institutions booking $1 billion worth of research last year. You may also have heard of our athletic teams, the Penn State Nittany Lions. We’ve competed at championship levels in women’s and men’s sports for decades. World-famous artists come to our campus facilities to perform, and across the decades, presidents and international figures have come here to speak.

But WE ARE so much more than Penn State.

WE ARE anchored by State College, a vibrant college town from which so much of what drives this county comes. Living here is like finding the fountain of youth where 48,000 residents will always be between the ages of 18 and 22. Their energy pulses through the entire community. 

WE ARE home to the birthplace of Memorial Day in Boalsburg one of many quaint small hamlets nestled at the base of our Appalachian hills. We are home to large dairy farms and fields and orchards raising corn, apples, peaches and much more. Penn State itself produces the best ice cream and counts among the alumni from its ice cream short course two men from Vermont you might have heard of: Ben and Jerry.

WE ARE home to valleys and hills that hold so much natural wonder. Walk in our slice of Penn’s Woods and you may see deer, bear, elk, beaver, bobcats, coyotes, bald eagles, golden eagles, blue heron, mallards and so much more. Some even claim they’ve seen a mountain (Nittany) lion or two.

WE ARE home to world class limestone trout streams that attract fly-fishing enthusiasts from all corners of the globe. There are plenty of places for you to find your Fisherman’s Paradise, which is an actual place near Bellefonte. And speaking of Bellefonte, this charming town was home to five Pennsylvania governors, one governor of Kansas and one governor of California. And right downtown you can wade into Spring Creek and fish.

WE ARE home to great people too. Among them, Joe Humphreys an extraordinary man who has been a vital part of this community for over 90 years. He’s saved streams and springs and is without a doubt one of the great fly-fishers ever to cast a line. Even now he can teach the clumsiest of people to cast a fly line and maybe even catch a fish (this writer is exhibit A). You can catch his documentary “Live The Stream” on Amazon Prime. 

And since we’re talking films, we look good on camera. Movies like “Unstoppable” starring Denzel Washington as well the glider scenes in the “Thomas Crown Affair” were shot in Centre County. 

WE ARE home to the Rothrock State Forest and state parks with beaches and lakes to swim, kayak, canoe or water ski. There are miles and miles of mountain biking trails and hiking trails that will lead you to breathtaking views.

WE ARE home to great hunting and we take that very seriously. How seriously? Each year the first day of deer season is a day off for our schools.

WE ARE home to the world’s preeminent action sports training center at Woodward Camp. And speaking of action sports, we’re home to BMX world champion Jamie Bestwick from the U.K. He’s only won over a dozen world titles and gold medals at the Summer X games.

Want less extreme sports?

WE ARE a world leader for golf. Penn State’s PGA-certified golf management program produces course managers around the world, including one at some course in Georgia where they play a little tournament called The Masters. And the next time you’re putting on a bentgrass green anywhere in the world it is overwhelmingly likely that the grass was from seed developed at Penn State’s turfgrass program. So come bring your clubs and play fantastic golf courses including the Penn State course where Arnold Palmer won the state championship in high school. 

WE ARE home to towns like Philipsburg, a gateway to Black Moshannon State Park. Drive out to Penns Valley and towns like Centre Hall, Spring Mills or Millheim where you’ll find a scenic rural setting, Amish buggies, welcoming smiles and good meals. And just past Centre Hall you’ll find Penn’s Cave, an all-water cavern at the headwaters of Penn’s Creek. Just downstream in the town of Coburn you can wade into the waters to test your skills against some of wiliest trout to be found anywhere. And I haven’t even touched on other Centre County places like Howard, Hublersburg, Pleasant Gap and Milesburg. 

WE ARE home to brewers, distillers, and restaurants so good you can be sure that you’ll never go hungry here.

In winter we don’t slow down either. You can ski, snowmobile and ice skate too. We even have a town named Snow Shoe. And if you want to talk about the weather, WE ARE the top meteorology school in the country at Penn State, which decades ago sparked a little start-up company AccuWeather, now a world leader in forecasting headquartered in Ferguson Township.

All this (and more) is here in that county John King passed over for 100 hours straight last week. So now you and everyone else know who WE ARE. Come on out John and bring your friends. From Manhattan we’re just a short jaunt on I-80. 

WE ARE always happy to show you around.

State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at
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