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'Dum dum' golf, total eclipse, spring things

Plus, let the daylight savings begin.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

March 8, 2024
Inside this edition: Best pub, culinary curiosity, paper sale, daylight saving, weird week, and PA things to do this spring. Thanks for checking in.
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A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

Penn State University started under which of the following names?

A. Farmers' High School
B. Happy Valley University
C. Agricultural Academy
D. Centre County College

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)

Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One pub worth pinning: St. Patrick's Day is coming, and the Travel Channel has named McGillin's Old Ale House in Center City Philadelphia the best Irish bar in all the land. It's been around for 160 years.

» One curiosity worth exploring: Why does the Lehigh Valley put tomato sauce on its cheesesteaks? Daily Meal says the practice started in Allentown — but the idea may have come from New York.

» One paper worth watching: Megan Schreiber-Carter reports Elk County's 130-year-old, independently owned Johnsonburg Press newspaper will run its final issue this spring — unless it finds a buyer.

» One person worth blaming: You know daylight saving time starts Sunday, meaning the clocks spring forward and we all lose an hour of sleep. But did you know the "Father of DST" was from Pittsburgh?

» Two tales, one city: Speaking of Pittsburgh ... while the city mourned the loss of a beloved and NSFW architectural feature last week, it celebrated the end of a reviled parking spot — prematurely, it seems.

🗞️ ARE YOU NEWSY? Prove it with this week's Great PA News Quiz: Gov’t land grabs, Trump ruling, derailed trains, and election games.
The top stories published by Spotlight PA this week.
» Experts predict more PA election lawsuits in 2024

» PA farmers question price of gov't land grabs

» How luck decides name order on PA ballots

» Counties embrace e-pollbooks. Are they secure?

» PA opioid trust plans more secret meetings
Cherry blossom trees covered in white and pink blooms.
Philly's Cherry Blossom Festival peaks April 13–14. (Flickr / chrisinphilly5448)

The groundhog got me good this year. On the heels of Punxsutawney Phil’s early spring prediction, I quickly put away my winter shovels and salt.

He seemed so confident. 

Then, days later, half a foot of snow fell from the sky.

But meteorological spring has officially sprung now, and I’m feeling restless. As I plan some warmer-weather outings, I thought I’d share a few finds here. Let me know what’s on your list. And happy spring.

Rare prairie

See a rare, 20-acre prairie full of wildflowers at a one-of-a-kind Pennsylvania ecosystem near Slippery Rock. It’s called the Jennings Environmental Education Center. Visit details here

For eastern flower fans, the Philadelphia Flower Show runs through Sunday. The city's annual Cherry Blossom Festival peaks April 13-14 with Sakura Weekend happenings in Fairmount Park.

'Dum dum' golf

Hit the links at Mercer County's Buhl Park Golf Course — ”the only free public golf course in America.” It’s also known as the "dum dum" course for all the beginners and unskilled golfers, like myself, who have played there through the years. I’m considering a helmet. Visit details

Total eclipse 

Some of the best views of next month’s total solar eclipse will be here in Pennsylvania. Erie is in the path of totality, and it will be a primeval, even hair-raising experience there — unless, of course, it’s cloudy. Hotels are filling up. Tourism officials offer these tips for travelers.

Do a science

You’re outside. The birds are outside. Why not record your sightings for science and the Third Pennsylvania Bird Atlas? All you need is a Cornell University-made app to get started. Delco’s Tyler Arboretum is hosting “atlasing” bird walks starting this month. Visit details.

For the hardy 

It won’t necessarily be warm, but state officials are doing a whitewater release from Lake Nockamixon into Tohickon Creek in Bucks County March 16 - 17 and inviting experienced rafters to ride. Class IV (read: very intense) rapids can be achieved. You can also walk and watch.

For the less hardy

Catch a movie at “the largest and most authentic 50s-style drive-in" left in the U.S. Carbon County's Mahoning Drive-In opens April 26 with The Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on 35mm. Visit details.

‘Wonders of wood’

There are two Pennsylvania towns on my 2024 bucket list: much-hyped New Hope and the equally hyped Jim Thorpe.

In New Hope, Bucks County, I’m eyeing a tour of late Japanese-American furniture designer George Nakashima’s stunning family compound full of handmade wooden coffee tables shaped like pools of water, as the New York Times Style Magazine described it. Visit details.

'Switzerland of America'

In Jim Thorpe, I’m just trying to experience the picturesque town — which Travel + Leisure calls “the perfect alpine escape” — in full bloom without a car. It gets crowded, seriously, though I imagine fall is worse.

The good news? There’s a Jim Thorpe-bound train from Pittston with pickups in Penobscot and White Haven starting April 6.

Go mudding

Auction-style mud sales — aka Amish Sotheby’s — are a “surreal” rite of spring in central Pennsylvania, drawing people from as far away as Canada and New England to bid on crafts, antiques, ornate quilts, farm equipment, and more. Find Lancaster County’s schedule here.

To the moon tree

I will be headed to north-central Pennsylvania to see family and have two Potter County destinations on my list. The first is Headwaters Mountain, the site of the only triple continental divide east of the Mississippi River, where three ocean-destined waterways begin their long journeys.

The second is the Coudersport moon tree, a sycamore grown with seeds that made it to the moon and back on Apollo 14 before being planted. 

Colin Deppen, newsletter editor

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A quote from a Pennsylvanian that we found interesting this week.

"They’re part of the store. It’s like part of setting up."

Rodney Richardson, executive chef at Hymie’s deli in Montgomery County, on a group of regulars known as the R.O.M.E.Os (Retired Old Men Eating Out)

Our favorite reader-submitted photo of the week.
A scene from the immersive Otherworld Philadelphia experience, via @lora_explores. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
An abstract art installation bathed in red and orange light.
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

The correct answer is "A. Farmers' High School." 

According to the university, Penn State was founded in 1855 as an agricultural college with the power to grant baccalaureate degrees. But because many farmers distrusted the esoterica of college curricula, the founders named it Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania instead.

Thanks for reading. We'll see you back here next week.

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