Bellefonte , PA 16823
Standing at the edge of Spring Creek, I sipped my plastic cup of wine, watched a duck watching me, and I sighed the sigh of the satisfied dude. Which, if I'm being totally honest, rarely happens anymore. I mean, let's face it: life is rough, you know? Or at least it's bumpy as heck a lot of the time. Rare are the days when I find myself just hanging out with someone I care about, eating good food, and staring at the evening reflecting off a stream as a duck throws me semi-shade.
So when things DO happen to shake down like that, I am the first person to recognize that I am having a time. That I'm lucky.
Or in the case of the night in question: that we are all lucky, indeed.
'Bellefonte Under the Lights'- that much-anticipated outdoor foodie event that went down on September 7th- aimed at bringing locals together to drink and feast communally in ways never probably even attempted in Bellefonte before (except possibly by ducks or trout), was a smashing success. In case you hadn't heard: it sold out quickly. Really quickly. Like hundreds of tickets.
My girlfriend and I were there. We ate polenta and shrimp and Italian chicken that was so magnificent...and this is weird, I know,.... that I went back the next day to see if anyone had dropped theirs in the grass. We drank red wine under the twinkling cafe lights (lights- incidentally- which many want to remain as part of the park's permanent nighttime atmosphere). We sat and watched the band playing to a lively bunch of dancers on the Lamb Street bridge; we talked to strangers, to people we didn't even know, and we laughed with them as the sun set low; and we forgot about our regular lives for a while...which, in all honesty, was kind of perfect.
Behind the scenes is where the real magic happens though, and that's certainly true here. Every local restaurant and caterer and food truck and wine bar and brewer that participated absolutely killed it, if you ask me. They worked incredibly hard to concoct and serve so much delicious food. And in the end, they earned their keep, scoring a beautiful local small business victory in the process.
"Over $10,000 has already been re-distributed to 13 food and beverage vendors," explains Melissa Hombosky, Bellefonte Borough Council Member, local small business owner, and one of the driving forces behind making the evening happen. "Because so many of us either work for or own small businesses, it was really important to the committee that our local vendors were paid fairly for their involvement. A really nice surprise, and one that we were not expecting, was Big Spring Spirits' very generous offer to tear up their check. We will re-invest that money back into the event next year."
"Next year". That's what so many of us were hoping to hear. This HAS to happen again next year, right?
"This was probably the most asked question of the night!," Hombrosky exclaims. "I can give you a scoop. Next year's event will be held on Friday, September 6, 2019. There will be more tickets, tables and vendors. We can't wait to break out those lights again!"
Boom. There you go. You heard it here first.
The folks who created this event, Downtown Bellefonte Inc (DBI), deserve a serious tip of the cap. In so many ways, that crew raised a monument to community on the Bellefonte Historic Waterfront. Not a big old statue or anything, not something that birds can crap on for centuries to come. The monument they raised is a better kind than that because it's the temporary regenerating...hopefully annual kind. Something that rises up, instills awe and happiness, then disappears back into the park ether til the next time around. It's something people can and will look forward to; a night of food and festivities conjured up out of near nothingness, out of the seed of a whimsical idea.
And in the process Downtown Bellefonte, Inc. raised over $4,000, money which they will aim right straight back into the local economy and Bellefonte's cultural heart by planning and executing more events like this.
"One thing I don't think many people realize is that this was a fundraiser for Downtown Bellefonte, Inc," says Melissa Hombosky. "We are a non-profit, designed to help our local business community while preserving and protecting Bellefonte’s historic charm. Basically, we are here to promote our downtown and help our community thrive. About $10 from every ticket will go back into promoting our downtown and community events and we intend to use every last penny doing so."
SPE Credit Union really chipped in as well. By generously sponsoring this event SPE made so much feasible and possible. It was a real show of belief in the power of local community on their part. And it's pretty cool that their own head honcho was in attendance too.
"This event was so much fun!," CEO Mike Meier told me. "What a perfect setting. It was nice to see so many people come together in support of the historic town. It felt like going to a big ‘family picnic. This type of local event is in perfect sync with the credit union philosophy and we’re so glad we could partner with the community to make it happen.”
And Mike Scott, the credit union's VP/CLO, was just as happy. "It was so nice to see the Bellefonte community come together and support such a wonderful event," Scott said. "I’m thrilled SPE could be a part it. Everyone I spoke to from friends to family to people I met for the first time that evening, kept telling me how much fun they had and couldn’t’ wait to go again next year."
So yeah. If you were fortunate enough to be one of the lucky ones who scored tickets before they sold-out, I think you know what I'm saying hear. You were there. You were part of the vibe. You get it. If not, I'm writing this whole thing so you don't miss out next year.
Last thing/ food for thought. There are a slew of brilliant ideas bouncing off of the local creatives lately. Let's just say that next spring and summer could quite possibly be one the coolest in town history. People really trying to make fantastic things unfold here.
It's a good time to live in or around Bellefonte and that's the simple truth. 'Under the Lights' was living proof that we are luckier than we realize sometimes.
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