Downtown & Talleyrand Park Bellefonte, PA 16823
By Serge Bielanko
Done with hayrides?
I hear you. They're great and all, but it's time for some serious downtown autumn partying, I think. And this weekend Bellefonte has it ALL going on. This is one of the best weekends of the year if you love all things autumn. I hear they may even have a National Guard helicopter do a Pumpkin Spice flyover where they shake out 55lb sacks of jacked-up nutmeg all over the town! It'll be the most Fall thing that has ever happened anywhere! Hope you're not allergic.
Okay. I made that up.
But still, this weekend looks amazing for celebrating autumn here in Bellefonte.
Let me try and show you what I mean.
Bellefonte Community Halloween Parade (Downtown, Saturday, Oct. 26th, 11:30am)
Time again for endless local ghosts and ghouls to conjure up that once-a-year gall. Time again for the living dead to slip down out of their musty attics, down into these streets we call home. Unfettered by the invisible chains that bind them perpetually to eternal chain-rattling and door-slamming in the scattered dark spaces above the well-lit parlors and kitchens and bedrooms of the homes that embrace them, they have been waiting for so long. And now, they will be liberated.
That's right, people.
The Ghosts of Bellefonte are coming for you.
And so -quite possibly- is the Incredible Hulk.
Because this Saturday, October 26th, at 11:30am in the bright light of day, the annual Bellefonte Community Halloween Parade will begin it's slow creep through the lanes of downtown. And you can be sure that each and every Zombie, Werewolf, and Pokémon who've spent the last 364 days lurking just beyond the 4th wall will be showing themselves at long last! And how glorious it will be. Especially for those of us with a real taste for the darker macabre side of life
Or for those of us who have had to shell out like almost a hundred bucks for an inflatable T-Rex costume from Amazon for our little 4-year-old dinosaur lover.
Registration for the parade is open to ANYONE and EVERYONE with a costume though, so don't think this is just a kid thing. Halloween is, by it's very nature, all-inclusive, you know? And what a perfect time of the year to just let your self-conscious guard down for a minute or two and dress up like the Darth Vader you truly are underneath all of this human mumbo jumbo act you put on day in and day out.
So get your costume ready and go to Bellefonte Elementary School, 100 W Linn St, at 11am this Saturday to sign up. There you'll be assigned a number. Why? Because there are some incredible PRIZES to be had for the best costumes, that's why! And with categories for Best Family, Most Original, Funniest, Scariest, Best Group, and even Best Pet, there are a lot of chances to win big. And perhaps best of all, after the parade kids can go trick-or-treating at all of the downtown small businesses with a pumpkin in their window until 4pm.
So join the ghosts of Bellefonte as they storm the town in the light of day.
Talleyrand Fall Festival (Talleyrand Park, Saturday, Oct. 26th, 11am-4pm)
Recent years have seen the Talleyrand Fall Festival grow and grow in popularity and its no wonder. I mean, let's face it. People are going Squirrel Nuts for everything Fall anymore. Even the dollar stores will sell you a long strand of fake blazing plastic maple leaves made in urban China to help satisfy your yearly primal urges to reconnect with the harvest season. Even though the only thing most of us really 'harvest' anymore is an overpriced steroidy pumpkin that hurts your back in the Weis parking lot.
All that aside, this Talleyrand Fall Fest is special. It's a gathering of locals and visitors in that gem of a park where summer has split and soon snow will be flying. It's a last chance, in a way, to stand out in the fresh crisp day, take a deep draught of cool air, shove a brownie into your pie hole, and watch your kid get their face painted like a Civil War skeleton.
In other words: it's darn near perfect.
This year, the festival is being brought to us for the very first time by the folks of the Bellefonte Sunrise Rotary Club who've been working super hard to make sure everything is set. Some of the listed activities so far include face painting, creating pipe cleaner spiders, pumpkin decorating, a corn dig, and every parent's favorite: creating slime! Nothing like a wad of homemade slime underneath your piggies when you hit the kitchen floor in your cold bare feet on Sunday morning, am I right?!
Fear not, overgrown adolescents. There'e more to this event than candy corn and jack-o-lanterns. This year, the powers that be have summoned up something grand and wonderful for the 21+ crowd. That's right. Can you say Adult Beverage Court!?!? Oh yeah! Robin Hood Brewing and Big Spring Spirits will be among the local creators of Positive Poison that will be on hand to serve up a pint or glass to responsible (but thirsty) grown-ups out basking in that autumn glow. Toss in all the excellent food that will be available for purchase, plus an amazing array of vendors and craftspeople plying their sort-of-harvested wears, and this will be- as always- a very fine way to toast the fact that we made it through yet another summer.
And winter is coming.
Fall Foliage/ Halloween Train Rides (Fri-Sun, Oct 25-27) GET TICKETS HERE
Of course, no weekend celebrating the majesty of Fall in Bellefonte would even be CLOSE to complete without the presence of the legendary Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society (BHRS). And once again this year, we are lucky to have them and their wonderful train rides. Look, if you don't know what I'm talking about, I'm gonna forgive you just this once. Maybe you just moved here from Wyoming? Or maybe you just woke up from a ten year coma...in which case: "Welcome back to the craziest years in American History! You're gonna wish you could fall back asleep!"
That said, you've arrived just in time to catch an old train to the proverbial middle of nowhere, and it's high time you do. See, the BHRS is an extremely dedicated group of dreamweavers if you ask me. That may seem a little far-fetched or romanticized, but hear me out. What these folks do on an annual basis with their Fall Foliage/Halloween and Christmas Train rides is nothing short of medicinal, if you ask me. At least mentally speaking. Because- as a rider of MANY of these train trips this past decade (go back and read that one)- I know firsthand how soulful and mysteriously ethereal these rides can actually be. I'm serious.
And yeah, fact is: sometimes you have to face facts: your toddler has to have a pee and your on an old train somewhere in the Pleasant Gap wilds and the kid is decked out in nine pounds of Spiderman costume and he's wiggling like a worm about to explode into a supernova, but hey: that's parenting for you, right? The flip side of trying your luck on a little train trek with your kids is the magic. And it's that magic that makes it all worthwhile, I think.
The BHRS restore and preserve old beautiful train cars for just that reason. They- collectively and individually- understand. They get why old trains matter. They get why slow-rolling down the tracks in a World War II era relic is nothing short of transformational. If not forever, then at least for the hour or two you're out there riding along, looking out at the changing leaves, at the farmers out in their fields, at the mountains of home staring down at you with sleepy eyes, like tired giants ready for a long winter's nap.
Is that hokey?
Of course it is! But I don't care because this is MY article and I am here to get you to get yourself down to Bellefonte Station in Talleyrand Park this weekend to ride a train.
It's an experience you will thank me for later. (Don't worry: you don't have to talk to me directly. I have an Amazon Wish List!)
I want you to ride the trains because they're incredibly special and old and charming and unique and peaceful. I want you to take your kids on a ride because it's Halloween and neither of you will ever forget the day they dressed up in their costume and climbed up aboard those steps into an antique yesteryear plopped right down into today. All gleaming wood and smooth steel, the aesthetics alone are dreamy and surreal.
And in case you didn't know this: kids LOVE trains. Always have, always will. That goes for overgrown kids like you too, ya big baby. By supporting these folks and their painstaking work to breathe life into old trains so we can RIDE them down the tracks one more time, you are supporting American History. You are helping your kids understand something they probably would never understand looking up at a train in a museum. Heck, it's likely the most Patriotic thing you'll do this year, buddy. And I mean that. Think about it. For real. American trains helped build this country. End of story.
In my never-ending effort to sing my train song loud and clear to you and your neighbor, I reached out to Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society President, Dan Durachko.
Why are these train rides so magic? Am I dreaming or are they as good as I think they are?
"There are a number of things that make our rides great," Durachko says. "One, the Bellefonte Train Station and period architecture provides an amazingly beautiful backdrop rich in history and tradition. Two, nestled in a cozy geographical location the vintage station is surrounded by breathtaking foliage blanketing the surrounding mountainsides during our Fall Foliage season. Three, the people of central Pennsylvania are peerless in terms of hospitality. Four, Bellefonte continues to bolster its many venues for shopping and dining. Five, we’re centrally located in the great state of Pennsylvania making it an easy destination for all.'
Okay, okay, that's a solid response that covers a lot of bases. But c'mon. What is it about trains? Why do you think they have this limitless power to make riders feel happy?
"I think...," continues Durachko," I think there’s just this sense of nostalgia that is inescapable and felt at some level by young and old alike."
I think you're probably right.
Or else they're magic trains...which is my guess.
So, the BHRS puts on two of the most popular events in the area each and every year. How much work goes into all this behind the scenes? And who's responsible for making it all happen?
"Planning typically begins at least one year prior to any event," Durachko says. "Our 2020 calendar is already being discussed. We do get off-the-cuff requests for some of our runs with “speeders” or “track cars” – small rail cars easily transported on a trailer behind a car or truck – but those are much more logistically simple and so may be planned on shorter notice. We continue to grow our fleet of these rail cars. There’s quite a lot to do for our big events in the form of safety planning, personnel recruiting, decorations, publicity and advertising, entertainment, etc. We manage to get this done with an incredibly small group of dedicated BHRS volunteers and in conjunction with input from a host of other organizations in and around Bellefonte including but not limited to the Joint Rail Authority, North Shore Railroad, Penn Valley Railroad, Nittany and Bald Eagle Railroad, the Bellefonte Chamber of Commerce, Historical Bellefonte, Inc., and the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau to name but a few."
The Christmas Trains are wildly popular and sell out every single year within hours. When do tix go on sale for this year's Christmas Train rides?
November 1st at 8AM online at BHRR.org.
This weekend is really important to the life of the idea, to the future of being able to keep these trains running, keep enabling people to take a little journey back into the past. Why?
"Patronage of our Fall Foliage weekend is vital to the keeping BHRS healthy and thriving," reflects Durachko. "Come on out and take a train ride so we can continue to provide this service well into the future. We also hope to expand our capacity for the incredibly popular Santa trains and your support will go a long way to making that happen. BHRS will soon see the return of our Budd RDC-1 car #9167 and hopes to resume operations with it in 2020. We hope to add 9167 to the Santa train so more people can enjoy that weekend since it always sells out."
Go ride these trains this weekend.
Take your kids.
Parade with the ghosts.
Eat some fatty food out there in the park.
Paint a pumpkin.
Then ride out into the countryside, the clatter of the tracks, your kids staring out the window, and let it all wash over you one more time.
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