“We’re back!” That’s how Happy Valley Adventure Bureau President and CEO Fritz Smith described his feelings about recent announcements and events occurring in Centre County. The same scenario is playing out across the state and most of the country. With the number of people fully vaccinated for COVID-19 on the rise, and new cases of the virus drastically declining, people are feeling a renewed confidence in getting out and about.
As a result, mask mandates are being lifted, many businesses – especially restaurants and hotels – are bustling again, and perhaps most importantly here in Centre County, Penn State Athletics announced it will be at full capacity this fall. If residents of this area ever had doubts about the economic impact of Penn State sports, the past 16 months should put those to rest. Penn State Sports Camps are in full swing and with the next Penn State summer session about to start, the campus and downtown will be springing back to life.
“We’re opening up,” Smith said. “The Bellefonte Cruise happened [Saturday], which was their first in person event in almost a year and a half. Area hotels are doing well on weekends again especially with amateur sports events being hosted in the area. The town of Millheim is hosting The Millheim Walkfest of Art and Music on July 9-11 and the Grange Fair is officially back.”
Yes indeed, Happy Valley is coming back to life. Happy Valley Restaurant Week in State College began on Monday and continues until Saturday. This Thursday is another “Bark in the Park” with the State College Spikes and it was announced that this year the Central PA 4th Fest is partnering with the Spikes for the annual fireworks show on the Fourth of July. Philipsburg’s Wagon Wheel Music Park, Lemont’s Village Green and Bellefonte’s Friday in the ‘Fonte Summer Series are a few available options for music lovers this summer. All you have to do is visit the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau site to learn of new ways to enjoy Centre County or to remind yourself of great places and activities like Penn’s Cave and the Central Pennsylvania Tasting Trail.
This is the time to encourage your friends and family to visit Centre County. Planning a family reunion? Do it here. Need a great wedding venue? We’ve got them. Looking for a place to host a sporting competition? Check us out. Just looking for a short getaway? You may not have to go as far as you think.
In fact, a few weeks ago, I joined a few of my Coffee Club buddies and got away for a relaxing weekend at Seven Mountains Campground and Cabins. There was a friendly couple from Allentown staying in the next cabin over. We struck up a conversation and they asked where we were from. “State College,” my friend Ron Banerjee sheepishly responded. The husband chuckled and said, “No, really, where are you from?” When we all repeated “State College,” everyone had a good laugh. Sometimes you don’t think of getting away right here in Happy Valley!
Recently, I joined my good friend and fishing coach Ken Bachman to spend a relaxing afternoon kayaking on Colyer Lake, catching fish and enjoying the tranquility of our surroundings. We saw former Penn State football assistant coach and fellow columnist Jay Paterno and one of his kids out kayaking as well. There are plenty of other great places to enjoy local water activities including Whipple Dam, Fisherman’s Paradise, Bald Eagle Lake, Black Moshannon Lake, Spruce Creek, Poe Lake, Sayers Lake and Spring Creek.
Are you a golfer? There are a number of great options for experienced golfers, beginners and kids. The public can play at Toftrees Resort, Skytop Mountain, Mountain View, Penn State Blue or White courses, the Philipsburg Elks Lodge & Country Club and Nittany Country Club in Mingoville. There are mini golf courses such as Happy Valley Mini Golf and Tussey Mountain Mini-Golf (and driving range) and a lot of new disc golf courses throughout the county as well.
It’s time to re-engage in all the splendor of Centre County. Those of us who call Happy Valley home have been cooped up long enough without enjoying many of the sights and sounds of our beautiful central Pennsylvania locale. Yes, we’re back, and it’s time for summer picnics, family reunions, and celebrations.
This past weekend our youngest son, Ryan, hit a milestone birthday and his older siblings threw a surprise 21st birthday party for him. It was so much fun getting together with their friends, many of whom we have known since our daycare days. It didn’t even faze my wife and I that we were the oldest folks at the gathering by far. It was cathartic to catch up with friends, play outdoor games, and even to dance a little. Judging by the smiles on the people who gathered to celebrate “Bubb-A-Palooza,” it was a hit. The next day we enjoyed a subdued, but fun Father’s Day round of golf at the Penn State Blue Course. Getting to golf with my kids is one of my favorite things to do.
So, whether it’s visiting Centre County historic sites, wineries, pubs, restaurants, sporting events, cultural events, or outdoor venues, spread the word to family, friends, and business associates about all that there is to do in our area. Spread the word about hidden gems like The Rolling Rails Lodge in Port Matilda, Nittany Valley Sports Centre near University Park Airport, The We Are Inn in Philipsburg, Big Spring Spirits or Axemann Brewery in Bellefonte, 814 Cider Works in State College, or your own personal favorites.
Our local businesses depend on us to spread the word about visiting our county. We’re back! Spread the word.