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Williamsport's Harvest Hoedown is an opportunity to help feed the hungry

October 01, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Hunter Daugherty, of Mercersburg, works on a scarecrow with the help of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Volunteer, Tonya Andrews of Williamsport during the Harvest Hoedown festival held at Byron Memorial Park in Williamsport.
By Chris Tilley/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT, Md. — Mia McCloskey doesn't fit the mold of your stereotypical teenager.

If she did, her rainy Saturday to-do list might include sleeping in, watching television or shopping at the mall.

Instead, the Hagerstown 14-year-old decided to help her mother deliver several bags of canned goods to Byron Memorial Park in Williamsport, where donations were being accepted for the local food bank.

For at least 15 years, Harvest Hoedown has not only served as a fall celebration. It has provided the community with an opportunity to help feed the hungry, said the Rev. Mark Sandell, coordinator of this year's event.

Sponsored by a group of area churches known as the Williamsport Ministerium, the festival is the only major fundraiser for the Williamsport Food Bank, which is housed at Zion Lutheran Church.

"We receive donations throughout the year," Sandell said. "But we don't do any other type of fundraising leading up to this. That's why today is very important to us."

Over the past two years, Sandell said the food bank has seen about a 25 percent increase in the number of people who need help with groceries.

The food bank provides meat, canned goods, dry goods, milk, eggs and butter, he said.

Sandell said the annual festival usually raises between $10,000 and $11,000.

"But proceeds are dependent on attendance," he said. "Typically, the festival draws several thousand people. Today, however, it's raining."

Despite the dreary conditions, Sandell said there had been a good turnout during the morning hours.

"Hopefully, attendance will continue to grow," he said. "We always have hope."

Many of the activities, including scarecrow making and pumpkin painting, were moved under pavilions and most of the craft vendors sat under protective tents.

Martha Shaddock of Williamsport kept dry under an umbrella as she worked her way around the park, carrying several purchases in plastic bags.

"The rain doesn't bother me," she said. "In fact, with the cool temperatures, it actually feels like fall. Sure, it would be nice to have a beautiful sunny day. But it is what it is."

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