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Chilly breeze and sunny skies perfect for Winter fest

Jackson Girimonti, 7, enjoys a cloud of cotton candy during the Saxonburg Winter Festival on Main Street on Saturday, Feb. 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (2/24/2024)

SAXONBURG — While fingers and toes may have cramped a little from the frosty February temperatures, the overall weather could not have been more perfect Saturday for the third annual Saxonburg Winter Festival.

Nancy Alberth of Little Shops of Saxonburg, which hosts the event, said last year, 18 vendors signed up for the festival.

“This year, we had 52,” she said.

The tempting aromas of hot sausage, wood-fire pizza, and other delectable fare wafted through the event, which was held from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Main Street from Isabella to Rebecca streets.

Many sweet treats also were available, including fudge, Dairy Queen dilly bars, Greek pastries and cookies on the patio outside Saxonburg Coffee & Tea, and even snow cones for those unbothered by the midwinter nip in the air.

Booths sold a wide variety of items, from handmade jewelry to home décor to honey, candles and dog treats.

New this year, Alberth said, were the two bands that performed in front of the South Butler Community Library, Center Stage and Uptown Classics.

Several rock enthusiasts tapped their chilly toes to the beat of the classic rock tunes being ably banged out by Center Stage during the first half of the Winter Festival.

Also new was Sip’s Mobile Bar, which is a cocktail truck, and Alberth said three area breweries drew pints for thirsty festivalgoers.

A booth selling contemporary baby and toddler clothing was another new booth this year that proved popular with the people.

“I just think it’s a great community event,” Alberth said. “People like to socialize and get out in the winter.”

Agreeing with that supposition were Mason McGinnis and Kaylei Roccia, both of Buffalo Township, who brought their mixed-breed dogs, Nico and Ariya.

“We go to the Mingle on Mains in the summer, so we thought we might as well go to a winter event,” said McGinnis.

Roccia said she is glad to see the festivals and events coming back in Saxonburg after being waylaid by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s really great,” she said of the Winter Festival. “People who didn’t come should try it out next year.”

Shauna Bianucci, of Center Township, brought her 18-month-old son, Kade, to get some nice, warm pizza at the festival. She also planned to take him to see the animals at the J & J Farms Animal Sanctuary.

“I like to get my son out of the house and it’s nice to get the community together in the winter,” Bianucci said.

Jesse Blake, co-owner of J & J Farms Animal Sanctuary in Clinton Township, brought a turkey named B.B. who calmly walked around on a leash, Hank the duck, Raven the colorful d’uccle chicken, and Hawkeye, a blind chicken who lost his eyes in a raccoon attack.

All the animals can be petted and handled.

“They adore the attention,” he said.

He brought the feathered rescues to the Winter Festival to raise awareness of not only his animal sanctuary, but of rescuing animals in general.

“I hope people walk away with knowledge and the joy of rescuing animals,” Blake said.

The sanctuary is home to more than 100 animals, from chickens to horses.

Barb Simpson, of Buffalo Township, sipped an amber beer as she walked the festival.

“It’s a nice day to get out in midwinter and have the opportunity to support the town and its businesses,” she said.

She noshed on a savory hot sausage sandwich slathered in peppers and onions by the Saxonburg Rotary Club.

“It brings the community together,” she said of the Winter Festival.

Ethan Cervone, 6, spotted the Middlesex Township Police Department’s cruiser as soon as he arrived at the festival with his grandma.

Ethan seemingly clambered into the driver’s seat for a bit of grown-up make believe, but he had a different answer when asked why he liked the police cruiser.

“Because the seat is warm,” he said.

Ethan, who aspires to be a teacher when he grows up, planned to share a pizza with his grandma when he was through with the cruiser.

Middlesex K9 officer Mark Heider brought the department’s 3-year-old German shepherd, Bolt, to the Winter Festival, where the dog received innumerable pets and scratches from those in attendance.

Heider said he takes Bolt to about six events per year. He always appreciates it when those approaching the dog ask if they can pet him.

“It’s good for everyone to see and interact with the dog and not fear him,” Heider said of his reasoning for bringing Bolt to festivals.

Alberth deemed the 2024 Saxonburg Winter Festival a rousing success.

“The turnout is overwhelming,” she said. “We are super excited to see every business prospering, the local artisans as well as the shops in Saxonburg.”

Jackson Girimonti, 7, eats cotton candy during the Saxonburg Winter Festival on Main Street on Saturday, Feb. 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (2/24/2024)
Quinn Girimonti, 3, pets a baby goat during the Saxonburg Winter Festival on Main Street on Saturday, Feb. 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (2/24/2024)
Quinn Girimonti, 3, pets a baby goat during the Saxonburg Winter Festival on Main Street on Saturday, Feb. 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (2/24/2024)
Quinn Girimonti, 3, and Jackson Girimonti, 7, pet goats during the Saxonburg Winter Festival on Main Street on Saturday, Feb. 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (2/24/2024)
Sam Byerly, 4, "drives" a Saxonburg Police Department cruiser on display during the Saxonburg Winter Festival on Main Street on Saturday, Feb. 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (2/24/2024)
Sam Byerly, 4, "drives" a Saxonburg Police Car on display during the Saxonburg Winter Festival on Main Street on Saturday, Feb. 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (2/24/2024)
Akira Raushan, 3, (seated) and Avika Raushan, 7, play with their cotton candy during the Saxonburg Winter Festival on Main Street on Saturday, Feb. 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (2/24/2024)
Quinn Girimonti, 3, and her mom, Ashley Girimonti, pet a calf during the Saxonburg Winter Festival on Main Street on Saturday, Feb. 24. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle (2/24/2024)

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