Waterfront Bellefonte, Pennsylvania 16823
Close your eyes and humor me for a sec, okay?
I mean, just picture this. You're down along Spring Creek by the old Gamble Mill. The weather is perfect like only a September evening could ever dream up. The sun is setting all reddish in the west, the air is barely cool in the best possible way. There's massive communal tables running down the middle of the river walk, bistro lights twinkling in the growing dusk.
People are smiling. There's a buzz in the air. You catch a whiff of something insanely good.
What was that?!?!
You and yours move over to get a glass of wine at a tent. You think maybe you'll have a beer instead. Decisions, decisions.
Spring Creek is gurgling, her whispers at the fading day.
You take a sip of dry red wine and you feel the warmth lift you as you realize you're standing in a place you have passed by a million times before but never ever truly saw until now.
A crow calls from a tree over in Krauss Park and you smile.
OMG. You smell garlic potatoes. Or was that some kind of steak grilling?
Have I died and gone to heaven?!?!
You actually just hollered that out loud (and I mean loud). And now your partner is gasping at you, but everyone else seems chill about it. They get it. You're all living in a fairy tale.
For a little while at least.
Friday, September 7th, 2018. 'Bellefonte Under the Lights'.
This is going to be one of the best events of the year in this town, end of story. $40 a person is more than the cost of a movie and a bucket of popcorn… but just barely. You know I'm right, too. And trust me: forty bucks is going to seem like chump change when it's all said and done. The folks at Downtown Bellefonte Inc. (DBI) are swiftly becoming the masterminds at pulling off fresh hip events and ideas all in the name of community. They believe in Bellefonte. They want her to grow and prosper but without selling out. Do you want to have magical nights of outdoor dining under twinkling bistro lights right on the banks of one of the most lovely streams in all of Pennsylvania or do you want a box store parking lot paved over the very spot where you used to throw night crawlers at trout when you were knee-high to a stalk of summer corn, my friend?
The people involved with Downtown Bellefonte Inc. know what's up, trust me. The folks at SPE Federal Credit Union see exactly what I'm talking about. That's why they've come on board as the official sponsor of 'Bellefonte Under the Lights'. With decades of community involvement under their belts, SPE really believes in what they're seeing in Bellefonte lately.
"Bellefonte epitomizes the great, hometown feel of small town, rural Pennsylvania. There is so much history and charm to enjoy and the people truly care about each other and their community. It is the type of place most of us desire to live and raise families. Too many of these places are disappearing due to urban sprawl and we are supportive of the efforts to preserve this for future generations to enjoy," says SPE's CEO, Michael Meier.
"SPE has been a part of the community for 40 years and we're very grateful to the people in the communities we serve," added Christa Hosterman, Marketing Manager. "So we’re absolutely thrilled to be able to partner with Downtown Bellefonte Inc. for this one-of-a-kind event."
This one-of--kind event just might be DBI's breakout move too. After this one, chances are that nothing will ever be the same. That may seem a little grandiose but who cares? You gotta aim high. You have to dream of 200 people eating dinner together in the twilight at a super long table out in the middle of town.
And then you have to make it happen.
And then nothing is ever the same again. The sky is the limit. The town is boundless.
The other day I connected with Downtown Bellefonte Inc team member, Melissa Hombosky, in order to get a better idea of what 'Bellefonte Under the Lights' was really all about. She's cool. Her spirit is infectious. I could tell right away that her and her cohorts have been working their butts off for a really long time to make this night a true reality. Nothing legendary is ever easy, you know? But that's the sense I get about the drive behind 'Bellefonte Under the Lights'. This isn't just another day in the park. This is a vibrant, kind-of-crazy idea that took hold amongst a group of Bellefonters (Bellefutians?) who really want to make things happen around here.
Here's my complete interview with Melissa, then. In it, I think you really sense where her and Downtown Bellefonte Inc. are coming from, this collective idea of Bellefonte moving towards incredibly bright days.
So listen/last thing: try to buy some tickets for this special night. These are the kind of events that change a town forever. I'm dead serious.
Then maybe look for me down there, okay?
I'll be the wildly handsome dude in black sipping red wine and staring at a fat rainbow trout sipping caddis flies off the surface of a sun-kissed evening stream.
Wide-smiling like heck.
So bring it.
Bellefonte.com: Who dreamed up this whole lovely 'Bellefonte Under the Lights' idea? What would you say inspired it?
Melissa Hombosky (Downtown Bellefonte Inc.): Bellefonte Under the Lights is a mash-up of several ideas thrown around during a First Sunday planning meeting. I really love the idea of a food truck festival in downtown Bellefonte. Lori Fisher, from the Bellefonte Art Museum, loved the communal dinner they did last summer at Bella Vino Wine Bar. Mark Dello Stritto really wants to hold an Italian festival-like dinner in the downtown. Our event is rooted in this idea of a communal dining experience - outside with great food - while supporting local vendors. A lot of my committee really loved Gilmore Girls, and this would fit right in there.
This event serves as a fundraiser for Downtown Bellefonte Inc., with the idea that any money raised will go right back into the downtown to produce and promote future events and our businesses. It’s all about fostering a positive vibe in our community.
BFT.COM: $40 a ticket is remarkably affordable compared to so many dining out options these days. Can you tell us everything that a ticket gets you?
MH: The ticket price includes a passport of sorts and those dining will be able to choose their own culinary adventure. Each course (appetizer, main course and dessert) will have 3-4 vendors from which to choose. A drink ticket is included for one our our libation purveyors (Good Intent Cider, Bella Vino Winery, Big Spring Spirits and Robin Hood) or iced tea from Cool Beans. If you want to purchase an extra course or drink — or take something home with you — the opportunity will be available. The menu was chosen to include vegetarian options, although we can not promise to follow any other dietary or allergy guidelines/requests.
I think the ticket price is an incredible value when you look at the menu and the quality of the vendors participating. Our idea is to take you on a tour of Bellefonte-area restaurants and caterers and see what they’ve been cooking up.
BFT.COM: How will the evening actually unfold in terms of attendees getting drinks and food? Is it a total sit-down affair or no?
MH: We are really excited about our communal dining table spanning 100-150’ starting near the Gamble Mill and moving towards the High St Bridge. Bistro lights will be strung across the walk, above the tables, and dinner will take place just before sunset. There will be some light background music, but we really want people to hear the rushing water of Spring Creek and chat with others at their table.
The event is slated to start at 5:30 with a cocktail hour, dinner to start around 6:30, and the night concluding around 8:30. With 200 people expected, I think we'll be flexible and go with the flow. You will get a wristband at the door and can come and go as you please.
I want people to feel free to enjoy the space. Join a table or bring a blanket and sit on the grass. Lamb St. bridge will be blocked off for the night with tables and lights. We plan on lighting up Krauss Park with bistro lights so people can walk through the park safely. We have a few other ideas to make the night magical. It’s really going to be gorgeous.
BFT.COM: Is the night family-friendly… or should Mom and Dad get a baby sitter?
MH: This event is planned with just mom and dad in mind, but families are invited. Because this is our first year, and we didn’t want to stress out the vendors with too many requests, the tickets are one price point. If your kids are adventurous eaters and want to try a bit of everything, bring them along.
BFT.COM: The Bellefonte area has quite an array of dining establishments and places to grab a drink, each of them unique in their own way. How's the response been from the culinary community about this event? Has everyone you contacted been eager to get involved?
MH: I think the response has been fantastic and so many businesses - not just dining and libations - have been really supportive. The restaurants and caterers have been fantastic to work with and I think they’ve each put forth a great menu. The winery/distillery/cidery/brewery have been excellent and on board from day one. If you live here, it will come as no surprise that we have all these gems in Bellefonte.
Our downtown businesses community is very supportive of each other and they are just as excited as we are about this event! We hope to be able to include them in some way.
I think it’s important to mention that all of our partners will be getting paid. They are not doing this for free, and we wouldn’t ask that. I don’t know that they are making a TON of money or even breaking even, but just a portion of that $40 is coming back to us. Being a small business owner myself, I realize the burden that we were asking of them and wanted them to at least cover costs. And they have been so cool about everything.
BFT.COM: It seems as if Downtown Bellefonte Inc really has their collective heart set on finding fresh… (dare I even say 'hip') ideas for bringing new types of events to town. If this one is a hit, do you foresee more cool things like this happening around here? Anything you can mention yet?
MH: It’s been so great to see all these really fun ideas spring to life over the past year and the response has been inspiring. It’s been a lot of work, but what a year! And not just by DBI, but everyone in Bellefonte, including our borough council who have been really supportive.
What I want our community to know is that if you have an idea for something new and outside the box, reach out and let’s chat about it. Maybe DBI isn’t the partner but we can connect you with someone who is. Let’s keep the positive momentum rolling and bring everyone to the table.
We have a few ideas kicking around for First Sunday. I’m excited to see the this year’s exhibits at the Bellefonte’s Art Museum. I’m sure we will have the Bellefonte Shopping Scavenger hunt again during Victorian Christmas. This event and Chalk the Walk are taking up a lot of bandwidth, but we will start dreaming once they are finished up.
BFT.COM: Okay… I am absolutely positive the weather is going to be gorgeous on the night of 'Bellefonte Under the Lights'. However, speaking hypothetically, if a cloud did burst right when the dinner bell was ringing, what's the backup plan?
MH: I am 100% sure we will have the absolutely perfect weather on that Friday night. The rain date is Friday, Sept 14 but, knock on wood, we won’t need it. It will be perfect!
'Bellefonte Under the Lights'
Friday, September 7th, at 5:30pm
Tickets go on sale Friday, July 6th at 10:00 am
** Link to purchase tickets will be announced on this page, and on Downtown Bellefonte Inc.'s website along with Facebook & Instagram.
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