Fort Ligonier Days draws crowds for the parade, crafts, food, history
Keith Hall lives in Wexford and his family is from the Derry area. But its heart belongs to Ligonier – at least during the latter town’s annual Fort Ligonier Days festival.
Hall marked a prominent spot along the route of Saturday’s festival parade. He wore a green and purple kilt, depicting the tartan pattern of his Scottish clan, as he sat with his family on the sidewalk outside Ligonier’s central Diamond intersection.
“We go out every year,” he said of the event which marks the anniversary of the successful defense by British forces of Fort Ligonier against an attack by French enemies and their Amerindian allies on October 12, 1758. .
“We’ve been doing this for about 30 years,” he said. “We welcome the whole family. This year we have rented a house for about 10 or 12 members of our family.
Hall’s decision to wear clan-inspired clothing is in keeping with the historic theme of the festival. But, before the parade began, some spectators may have mistaken him for a participant in the procession heading west on Main Street.
“My family thinks I’m crazy, but I’m going ahead and doing it anyway,” he said of his kilt, matching waistcoat and bow tie.
During the festival, period reenactments were to feature living history exhibits and stage a mock battle at the site of the reconstructed fort.
Hall is among many Fort Ligonier Days fans who were happy to return to the three-day festival, which continues on Sunday, after pandemic restrictions prompted a scaled-down virtual version last year.
Also included in this number are Shannon Galet of Penn Township, her husband, Bob, and their three sons, aged 8 months to 6 years.
“We’re coming for the children’s parade,” said Shannon Galet. “They love it.”
“I just followed and picked up the things they drop,” said her aunt, Aimee Markilinski, also of Penn Township.
The family planned to visit a few of the festival’s many food stalls, for corn and corn dogs.
A light drizzle stopped just in time for the parade. It was the first parade as a spectator for 17-month-old Melody Pischke, who was in attendance with her mother, Kori Pischke, and aunt, Casey Bevan, all from Unity.
“She’s very excited for the show,” Pischke said of her daughter.
“Usually every year we’re here at one time or another,” Bevan said. “It’s like a high school reunion for us. Lots of friends are coming back.
The sisters graduated from Ligonier Valley High School in 2006 and 2003, respectively. Before checking out the craft stalls, they headed a little further east, for a rainy hike on Laurel Mountain.
A new addition to this year’s festival was a space where visitors could taste and purchase libations made by distilleries and breweries in the area.
Windber’s Kristy Ellis was sold on a peanut butter vodka donated by Disobedient Spirits of Homer City.
“It’s different, I like it,” she said of the new vendors offering beer and spirits.
The grand marshal of the parade was Golden Retriever Daniel, a show dog from the Ligonier area who recently retired after winning the titles of Best Purebred Dog and Best Sporting Dog at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show 2020 .
One of the more unusual units on the parade was a 28-foot-long rocket car, combining a vehicle frame with that of an oscillating rocket merry-go-round. A
The traditional highlight of the parade was an appearance by the 1927 former American LaFrance Cosmopolitan engine from the Ligonier Fire Department. “We sold it at one point and then bought it back and restored it,” said Phil Fleming, the department’s security officer. He noted that it was the first firefighting device of this type in the Ligonier valley.
Another familiar parade participant was the Fort Allen Antique Farm Equipment Association, based in Scottdale. The group, which has around 200 members on its list, joined the procession with a few tractors, pulling a chariot where a blacksmith was working.
Along West Main Street, the club displayed an 1888 shingle mill as well as stone mills for grinding buckwheat flour, which it offered for sale, as well as corn flour. The return to Ligonier followed two other recent events in the area – the Stahlstown Flax Scutching Festival and the Delmont Apple ‘n Arts Festival – where Fort Allen machines have become a regular feature.
“Our only goal is to preserve this old farm equipment and educate the public on how our grandfathers and their fathers before them nurtured the nation as it grew,” Member Mac said. Steel of New Alexandria.