Category: Local News

Kittanning Festivities Welcome Holiday Season

Percussionists in the Kittanning Senior High marching band welcome Santa Claus (atop the Kittanning Hose Company #1 aerial truck) along Market Street with cymbals Friday night before he went inside NexTier Bank to meet with anxious children.

by Jonathan Weaver

Nearly four hours of Christmas cheer descended onto Market Street in Downtown Kittanning Friday during the annual Light-Up event.

Thousands of local, regional and out-of-state people waited for Santa Claus’ arrival during the holiday parade – led by the Kittanning Senior High marching band performing “Jingle Bell Jam” – before scarfing up free gifts, cookies and bargains in heated businesses.

Robyn Lasher of Kittanning was one of the first in line outside NexTier Bank to see Santa Claus with her two children, 11-year-old Colista and nine-year-old Terry, and nieces, seven-year-old Jaylee and five-year-old Bobbi, from East Brady.

Each of the kids called out either wanting an iPhone or iPod for Christmas, with one addition of wanting “a nice warm blanket” because of the below-freezing temperatures Friday evening.

Lasher said the group waiting in line for an hour, even before the parade started.

“(We) want to get it done so we can go and enjoy the rest of the festivities,” Lasher said “We’ve tried to make it a tradition for them to come down and see Santa every year”

Lieutenant Jason Imhoff was preparing to serve hot chocolate, coffee and cookies with children from the Friday night teen group at the Salvation Army emergency trailer as Lasher and the group waited. The teens and more church families were also part of the non-profit’s parade float.

In a word, he expected “a lot” of cold event-goers, or at least as many as during the 2013 event. This is his third holiday season stationed in Kittanning with wife – and fellow lieutenant – Amber.

“Looking forward to a good turn out,” Lieutenant Jason said.

A few blocks further down the street in NexTier Plaza, the Armstrong County Tourist Bureau thermometer noted temperatures in the mid-20’s and counted down until the annual pumpkin pie eating contest-coordinated by Lisa and Darren Stolitza, with support from local business owners.

Nearly two dozen contestants had a minute to eat as much pie as they could, without use of their hands, for a possible $100 prize. Pies did not weigh the same and varied at slightly more than two pounds each.

Fourth-grade West Hills Intermediate Teachers Veronica Szybka and Susan Close weighed the pies in the Armstrong County Tourist Bureau office before checking out the other activities, sales and giveaways. Good friends of the Stolitzas, the teachers agreed last year to weigh and record results.

They said their students may be future pie-eaters – or even judges since the students learn measurement

20 brave souls took a shot at the annual pumpkin pie eating contest, but local man Lance Black won for the fourth time.

Lance Black, a lifelong resident of Kittanning, won the contest for the fourth time in five years. He missed the event last year because of working in Blawnox.

“You just got to try to keep eating while trying to breathe in between – it’s tough,” Black said.

Usually Black donates the winnings back to Downtown Kittanning, Inc., but since organizers didn’t allow him to Friday, he was going to put it into food at the event to “wash that pumpkin down.”

“I don’t even like pumpkin,” Black said.

Judges said Black ate about a pound of pie within the time limit.

The contestants included Kittanning Borough Council President Randy Cloak and his 10-year-old daughter, Emma

Randy, however, said the pair did “horrible,” with Emma estimating she ate an ounce-worth of pie.

“It’s all through my hair,” Emma said.

Emma convinced her father to be part of it and both enjoyed the experience.

Ford City Junior High 8th Grader Alaina Brice of Ford City also convinced Butch Cravener involved to enter.

“My face was covered in pie!” Brice said.

Lisa’s father, Jack Norton of Kittanning, competed in his third pie-eating contest and also enjoyed it, despite not being pleased with his result.

“It was still good eatin`,” Norton said. Wife, Mitzi, joked that judges should allow contestants to eat the rest of their pie.

Local families might now Norton since for eight years, he has been throwing out golf balls he and his friends found at Cabin Greens Golf Course in Freeport to children at the Worthington-West Franklin Firemen’s Carnival parade, in the Ford City SummerFest parade and during the Kittanning Halloween parade. He “chickened out” of the Light-Up parade because of the cold.

The contest was even attempted by an out-of-state visitor – who also was not a fan of the festive dessert.

Renee Marquart, a school teacher in Maryland – who is a family friend of the Stolitzas that flew in for the weekend – said her town of Mechanicsville has a tree-lighting celebration each year, but nothing near Light-Up Kittanning Night.

“It was delicious – delicious with a capitol ‘D’! I never even cooked a pumpkin pie, let alone eaten one – but it was wonderful. Very, very fun,”

Marquart also ate pie as a child, but decided at an early age she didn’t like the dessert. The contest made her change her mind going forward.

Choral Director Monica Stango led a group of about 45 Kittanning Junior and Senior High students on the NexTier Bank stage after the annual pumpkin pie eating contest.

Kittanning Junior High and Senior High Chorus Director Monica Stango had about 45 seventh-12th grade students on the main stage singing Christmas carols. The group didn’t have much time to prepare because of the Armstrong County Chorus festival earlier in the week, but she was happy with students’ efforts.

“They were excited to do this and I thought they did a nice job,” Stango said. “It was cold, but we did our best with the conditions.

Stango has directed at Kittanning for three years, after transferring after Elderton High closed in 2011.

Market Street’s “Alter Ink” was named the 2014 window decorating contest winner.

‘Alter Ink’ Business Owner Gretchen Snyder shows off the winning trophy and window display at her Market Street business with the helpers that assisted her.

Owner Gretchen Snyder of Kittanning – also a Northwood Realty agent – said the laser tattoo removal shop on Market Street of two years said a group of about a half-dozen children helped with the ideas behind their winning window.

“It was a group effort over a couple days,” Snyder said. “We love downtown – being here to promote local business like it used to be (is what it’s all about).”

Friend and Neighbor Matt Heymers lent Snyder the use of his train set and his grandmother’s rocking chair. Snyder also found old toy blocks in the shop walls

The evening ended with a 15-minute fireworks show, set off over the Allegheny River and John P. Murtha Amphitheatre by Glory on High Fireworks.

Those still downtown for the fireworks also heard Christmas songs outside the 700 Shop – being played by Kittanning 9th Grader Tiffany McElroy flutist. She was one of about four musicians who played

“We got to pick all the music we played tonight,” McElroy said. “We needed something traditional Christmas, but I wanted to add something fun Christmas so that’s why I did “Frozen” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”

“I always wanted to be in Light-Up Night – since I was really, really little. I hope we do this again next year with the new school – I really loved this.”

Local State Farm Agent Andrew Laddusaw is a member of the Downtown Kittanning, Inc. board of directors, and was already getting ready for next year’s event by selling raffle tickets.

There are now almost four full weeks until the Christmas holiday.

“We do the 50/50’s as a fundraiser just to put money in the pot for next year’s Light-Up,” Laddusaw said. “It costs a lot of money to bring in all the different things we bring in – the dog sleds, sleigh rides, etc. Not all of it’s free. All the local businesses do free stuff, but the rest, we have to pay for.”

“There seems to be more (donors) than last year, so that’s positive. When the year before was cancelled, I think that effected (2013), but it seems we might be back to normal.”



Cellular Provider Preparing for Holiday Crunch

“Wireless Zone” in Hilltop Plaza is prepping its staff with training on Verizon Wireless’ new devices and more hours will be available Friday and Christmas Eve for the holiday rush of customers.

by Jonathan Weaver

A telecommunications and Internet provider that has a branch location in East Franklin Township will have extended hours Friday.

Black Friday and Christmas Eve, the store will be opening at 7AM (rather than not opening until 9AM). Friday, the store will also stay open until 9PM.

Manager Kim Litteck of Manorville (a 1988 graduate of Ford City High) is a business sales consultant and manager at the Hilltop Plaza location, and has been associated with the company for 12 years.

“Black Friday, we’re usually not too busy because people go to WalMart early in the morning and then head to the malls,” Litteck said. “But, after Black Friday, we’re busy – mostly in the evenings.”

The location is closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

“We can do pretty-much everything a corporate store can do,” Litteck said. “If you want to charge things to an account, you have to do that at a corporate store. We’re also not allowed to manage business accounts over 100 lines, like a hospital.”

The location’s five full-time sales representatives are also preparing for questions about the newest devices.

“Sometimes we have to travel to corporate in Cranberry to do the training, some of them are done here on the computer,” Litteck said. “Every few months, new phones come out – the technology is constantly growing and changing.

“And there are always new products they are launching. The big draw this year is going to be the launch of the new iPhone 6 and 6 plus that came out a couple weeks ago,” Litteck added. “You can’t get them in the stores right now, but they should be here for Christmas – you can pre-order them, but they are shipping sporadically to the stores.”

The managers added that tablets are a sought-after stocking stuffer since it is only $10 to add to the calling plan.

Bargains and possibly Christmas promotional bundles will also be available in the final four weeks before Santa Claus arrives. Customers will receive a text message, phone call or e-mail alert from Verizon Wireless concerning holiday sales sporadically.

The business remains busy – despite supermarket Foodland closing, an AT&T location moving in nearby and being steps away from the local WalMart Supercenter, averaging 300 activations per month while also providing wireless account analysis.

There is also a service where phones can be purchased after Black Friday, but not activated until Christmas morning.

The Hilltop Plaza location is about a half-hour drive time from the closest store in Pittsburgh Mills, Natrona Heights or Leechburg, Litteck said.

The franchise is one of 13 “Wireless Zone” locations privately-owned by Joe and Ralph Desimone