Japanese knotweed is an invasive noxious plant that can compete for territory with the native wild vegetation of the region.
Ironically, Blairsville’s organizers took inspiration from this notorious weed to name a new community event that they hope will become an annual attraction in the city.
Blairsville’s first knotweed festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on August 17, with most activities located at the western end of the borough.
Carol Persichetti from Blairsville is the president of the festival. She is also a member of the board of directors of the Blairsville Community Development Authority (BCDA), which took the lead in planning the new event.
Persichetti is quick to point out that the Knotweed Festival does not replace Blairsville’s Diamond Days Festival, which was held around the same time in August but has not been held for several years.
“It’s not instead,” she said. “It’s just another community event to bring our city together.
The knotweed celebration also aims to showcase Blairsville’s new Riverfront Trail, parallel to the Conemaugh River, as well as recent downtown renovations and upgrades which are now complete at the Bandstand and Diamond Zone of the Streets. West Market and Liberty.
“We wanted to get the people of Blairsville to check out the trail and bandstand, which was painted last year and has new lighting and landscaping,” Persichetti said.
The event came quite quickly. Discussions on the holding of the festival did not begin until last April.
“There was a lot of involvement,” Persichetti said. “I think that should get some people going so they can hang out and have a good time.”
Kiosks of local vendors will line West Market Street, with at least four churches in the Blairsville area represented as well as the fire department and various health agencies. Visitors browsing the stalls will find everything from Guatemalan crafts and handmade soap to raffles, caricatures and health exams.
The Blairsville Area Historical Society, Blairsville Underground Railroad Historical Group and All That Jazz Dance Studio are planning activities.
“We tried to make it a community event where community members were involved and able to make themselves known to the general public and fundraise for themselves,” Persichetti said.
A variety of dishes will be on hand, including a preview of the German holiday that the Lutheran Church in Hebron has planned for its October feast on October 5.
“We have a lot of different types of food, ranging from hot dogs and burgers to homemade lemonade,” Persichetti said.
Other festival fare will include funnel cakes, walking tacos, gyros, frozen gifts, and free bottled water.
Educational events also abound at the Knotweed Festival. Those who wish to learn the basics of canoeing without taking in the water may wish to attend kayaking demonstrations which will be conducted several times a day by Mark Shank at the boat launch just north of the Bairdstown Bridge. Information on do-it-yourself birdhouses will also be available.
Bob Sagely will lead nature walks on the Riverfront Trail that will familiarize participants with local history as well as the tree and plant species found in the area.
The trail will also be the setting for several treasure hunts for children. Young people will look for natural objects such as a smooth stone or a piece of bark.
Walks and scavenger hunts will begin at the Water Street Trailhead, located south of the Bairdstown Bridge.
Rain barrel workshops will demonstrate how to safely use these environmentally friendly water collectors. Five rain barrels will be offered at each of the two planned workshops, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Barrels will also be available for purchase.
The Indiana County Conservation District is hosting the workshops, which highlight how harvesting rainwater that would otherwise end up in storm sewers can help improve water quality.
The Blairsville Underground Railroad Group offers “History at High Noon,” a guided walk that will highlight the city’s events and historic sites. Participants will meet costumed figures from the community’s past, including 19th century individuals who were active in opposing slavery. The tour will start at noon at the S&T Bank on East Market Street.
Registration is underway for an animal parade which will begin at 10 a.m. at the BCDA parking lot. Participants are asked to assemble at 9:45 am Those interested can register at the Blairsville Pharmacy. There is no theme for the parade, but prizes will be awarded in several categories. Animals must be kept on a leash or in a transport cage.
Several artistic activities will take place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. along Market Street, including the creation of fish prints. Artificial fish skins are pressed into ink and then onto muslin fabric to create a wall hanging.
Persichetti said fish prints are an ancient art form. Also known as Gyo Taku, it originated in Japan as a way to record trophy takes before the modern camera.
Local artist Joy Fairbanks, who is also a member of BCDA, said the inclusion of the prints in the festival reflects the fact that fish can now be found in greater abundance in the Conemaugh River.
Rubber fish will be used in the fish tracks, which Fairbanks says is meant to be a “fun activity that kids and adults can get involved in.”
Another unusual art form that will be featured at the festival is rock stacking.
BCDA Executive Director Leann Chaney said stones will be provided for a competition at the BCDA booth to create a decorative stack of stones.
“It’s an art, practiced all over the country – probably around the world,” Chaney said.
The activity is an extension of a recently formed band, Blairsville Rocks.
Fairbanks, who is a member of this group, said they saw many forms of stone piles during their various trips. They are believed to be native to Native Americans as a way of leaving directions or marking a site.
“But now it’s become kind of an art form,” Fairbanks said.
Blairsville Rocks, which also hosted a recent rock painting competition, aims to link art and community. The name is also a play on words that Blairsville is a vibrant place.
“It’s more than rocks – (Blairsville) is still alive, still on top of things,” Fairbanks said. “It indicates that things are happening here.”
Some of the other activities people can find at the Knotweed Festival include a remote control plane demonstration by Ray Elrick, storytelling hours, a barrel battle by the Blairsville Volunteer Fire Department, and face painting.
A duck race raffle is planned by the BCDA. The ducks will be sold for $ 1 each and will be dropped off at the side of the Bairdstown Bridge that evening. The person whose duck crosses the finish line first will win half of the raffle proceeds.
Several bands and musicians will host the bandstand throughout the day – Anthony Frazier, Dark Horse, Jerry B and the Bone Tones and The Devious Angels.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church at 38 W. Campbell St. will host a quilting show and refreshments will be available. The Société historique de la région de Blairsville will be offering tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at its museum at 116 E. Campbell St.
The Blairsville Elks of 60 E. Campbell St. will serve dinner at 5:30 p.m. followed by live music from the Johnny Cash Ole 97 tribute band at 7 p.m. Tickets are $ 25 for the meal and music, $ 5 for the group only.
Most of the day’s events will take place along West Market Street, between Liberty Street and Spring Street near the Diamond.
“We try to keep all events and vendors close to the bandstand,” Persichetti said.
One of the final events of the evening will be the lighting of the bandstand on the Diamond at 7:45 pm The ceremony will feature the new lights that were recently installed thanks to a donation from Rotary Blairsville.
Persichetti noted that the BCDA is still looking for sponsors for the one-day festival.
“These events certainly cost more than you might think,” she said. “This is not a fundraiser for us. It’s just a fun event for the community.
She said BCDA is also accepting donations to help buy flowers planted downtown in streetscape pots and around the bandstand.
“It’s very community driven,” said Chaney. “We just can’t wait for the community to come together to organize the festival and have a great day. ”
“It’s nice to see that so many people want to get involved in enhancing our city,” said Persichetti.
For more information, contact the BCDA at 724-459-8588 or [email protected]
Gina DelFavero is a writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2915 or [email protected]