ZELIENOPLE — The Country Fall Festival on Saturday and Sunday was a taste of hometown hospitality for some and a newly discovered escape for others.
The 28th edition of the festival along Main Street, at the Four Corners Park and at the Zelienople Municipal Airport offered a full complement of family entertainment, ranging from children's pony rides and games to live music, historic education and antiques.
Any event with chainsaw art carving and a petting zoo within 50 feet of each other, though, likely is shooting for a diverse crowd.
Katy Dressler of Cranberry Township brought her 1-month-old son, Alex, to enjoy the expansive, but quaint, festival.
“It's nice to do stuff in a small town like this. Cranberry is just so big,” she said.
The pair represented some of the hundreds of festival guests who took a spin on the horse-drawn trolley rides provided by Friendship Hill Equine Services.
Jenny Fath of New Waterford, Ohio, returned to where she grew up to enjoy the event for the first time with her son, Aiden, 2, and her mother, Kathy Potemra of Ellwood City.
“We've done this for many years,” Potemra said. “It's a good family festival.”
Fath said her favorite part of the festival is the vendors' food, but her family made a full circuit of the children's attractions.
“(Aiden) really liked the horse-and-carriage ride and we visited the kids' booths, duck pond and bouncy house,” she said.
Thousands of people visited the event during the weekend, parking blocks away or on obscure back streets if they had to.
“I thought I was going to have to draw myself a map for how far away we ended up parking,” joked Farrah Smith of Pittsburgh, who browsed crafts and art Saturday afternoon with her sister.
“We wanted to come up and just experience it again. It's neat, (Zelienople has) the hardware shop with trains in the window, like your storybook small town then, just down the street, there's yoga.”
Musical entertainers dotted the Four Corners Park area, various spots on the sidewalk and, occasionally, strolled down a side street throughout the weekend, though festival guests could catch updates on their favorite sports teams from the blaring radios of traffic sluggishly moving through downtown Zelienople each day.
Connor Dern of Lancaster Township, dressed in University of Pittsburgh attire, skipped watching the Panthers' Saturday football game to bring his daughter Kym, 5, to the festival.
“(Kym) really wanted to do the pony ride and shop for pumpkins and Halloween stuff with her dad,” Dern said.
“I figured, if Pitt loses, I'll be happier I didn't get a chance to watch it. If they win, it will be a perfect end to a great day.”
The Panthers lost to the now 6-0 Louisville Cardinals, 45-35.
The Independent Mountain Men of Pennsylvania and the 101st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry provided historic encampments each day of the festival, as did American Indian historic recreationist “Ghost-In-The Head,” as a 1750 to 1800 Huron.
Tanya Speicher of Fombell, along with her son Drew, 11, and daughter Alexa, 7, did not even make it to most of the food or craft vendors before her arms were full of souvenirs and prizes, making a drop-off trip to the car necessary.
“I grew up in Zelienople, so I'm always coming here for (every event),” she said. “It just seems like this is a time of year when everybody comes out of their house and you get to see everyone.”