Sep 30, 2023

The Church Of The Holy Potato

Black Creek United Methodist Church Restaurant
Bloomsburg Fair (2023)
This empty building on the Fairgrounds near the Grandstand Building may not be obvious to folks who are visiting the Bloomsburg Fair for the first time this year, but it's very noticeable to the people who go every year.

September 24, 2019

This building was once the home of a restaurant on the Fairgrounds that was operated by the Black Creek United Methodist Church from Sugarloaf, PA.  They've been serving up baked potatoes and other good things to eat and drink every year at the Bloomsburg Fair since 1953.  They're not the only church that has a food stand at the Fair.  In fact, there are quite a few, but this one stood out for a few reasons.

The setup inside this building was simple, but charming... just a counter where you could order your food and a few rows of tables with plenty of seating to sit and enjoy your meal.  It was a place where you could go to stay dry from the rain, or to take shade in years that were especially hot and sunny.  I refer to it as a restaurant because being here felt like something more than being at a food stand.
September 24, 2019

When we go to the Fair, I tend to look for foods that are either strange or unusual, or the kind of thing that I wouldn't think to make for myself at home.  None of the things on their menu really fit into that category, but I still found myself coming back here quite a few times over the years.  I remember eating here with my grandparents when I was a kid, and a few times throughout my adult life.  The most recent time I can be sure of is when we stopped here for a bite to eat before the Cheap Trick concert at the 2019 Bloomsburg Fair.  I had a baked potato topped with buffalo chicken that night, and I remember that it was very tasty.

September 27, 2022
September 23, 2014

Even if you've never eaten here before, the giant baked potato sign next to the church steeple on top of the building was pretty tough to miss.  When I came here with my grandparents as a kid, I called it The Church Of The Holy Potato because... well... from a child's perspective, that's sort of what it looked like.

The place was most definitely run by a church, but there was no potato worship going on in here.  Just a good and honest meal served up for a fair price, with the proceeds going towards the church outreach program who help people who are in need.
September 25, 2023

This was taped to the window on the building this year.  For the first time in 70 years, the giant baked potato will not be looking down on folks at the Bloomsburg Fair.  If they have a reason why they've decided not to participate, I am not aware of it, but the wording they used doesn't leave a lot of room to hope that they're just taking a year off.  This seems final, and it's a bummer.  So, there's nothing left to do but to say thank you for making me smile every time I saw your stand, and for god only knows how many potatoes you must have served up to folks since 1953.

Sep 29, 2023

The Word Of The Day Is Expiation

My second to last Tunnel Vision Tuesday of the season was what I believe to be the greatest horror movie of the 21st century so far; the Frank Darabont adaptation of a 1980 Stephen King novella of the same name: The Mist.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

The Mist premiered in theaters on November 21st 2007, so it is on the more recent side of films on the calendar this season at the Mahoning.  I didn't go to see it in theaters during its original run, and I think that might have been because I was mistaking it for the 2005 remake of The Fog, which I heard was terrible.  I finally watched it for the first time just a few years ago after I heard it mentioned in a WhatCulture video.  I can't say for sure which one, but thankfully, they didn't spoil the ending.

This scene gets to me every time I watch this movie.  This is Melissa McBride, who is best known as Carol from The Walking Dead.  Her character doesn't have a name in The Mist, but she's one of the shoppers who are in the store when the mist envelops the store.  At this point in the story, the characters are not aware that there are monsters out there.  They just have a vague sense of danger; that this cloud could be toxic, or that there's "something out there in the mist".  Everyone, including Ms. McBride's character, is afraid to leave the store, but she is insistent that she has to go because her two very young children are home alone and she needs to get back to them.  However, she doesn't want to go alone and she asks the crowd if someone will go with her.  At one point, she pleads with tears in her eyes asking "won't somebody here see a lady home?".  When no one offers to do so, even when she asks individual people in the store directly, she tells them all to go to hell and walks out the front door and into the mist to head for home.

I've thought about this scene a lot since I first saw this movie and I can confidently say that I would have helped her home, and it's not because I'm some kind of fearless overconfident badass.  In fact, it's just the opposite.  The idea of being trapped in a grocery store with a bunch of random strangers who are out of their mind with fear is far more terrifying to me than helping one person walk home through the unknown.  I don't believe in monsters, and the concerns about the air being toxic wouldn't have stopped me either.  Hell, I drove to Philly and back a few months ago through toxic air conditions from the Canadian Wildfires, and that was just to see a ballgame that ended up being cancelled anyway.  The only two things that would have given me a reason to hesitate offering to help is the fear that I'd either fall and break my neck without being able to see where I was going, or that a car driving through the mist would run me over, but if I looked up and saw this lady crying, I would have said "screw it" and grab a couple of mops from the store to act as walking sticks before marching out the door to help her get home to her kids.

Now, if I knew there were monsters from another dimension out there, I'd be singing a different tune, but the people in the store didn't know that at this point in the story, so I'd either have gotten her home safely or become monster food... probably after falling and breaking my neck and getting run over by a car.  I'm clumsy even in full visibility, so... yeah.  Still better than being trapped with Mrs. Carmody.

Not only would I rank this as the greatest horror movie of the 21st century, but I'd also say that this movie has one of the greatest endings of all time, of any film from any era or genre.  I'm not going to spoil it here just in case somebody who hasn't seen this movie stumbled across my post and is inspired to watch it for the first time.  If this is you, prepare yourself... that's all I'm going to say.

The second movie that I got to see on the lot this week was at a Patreon screening last night.  The hints that were given in the weeks leading up to this show had me thinking that could be The Legend Of Boggy Creek, but the movie that we watched ended up being even more dull than Boggy Creek, and that's quite an accomplishment.

I mean no disrespect to folks out there who enjoy this sort of thing, but if given the choice between watching a fake documentary about a bunch of random guys searching through the woods for Bigfoot or spending an equal amount of time doing particularly unpleasant household chores, I'd pick the chores without a moment's hesitation.  The time would feel like it's going by faster and I could at least listen to some music.

Sep 28, 2023

Sam and Oscar

Safari Sam and Oscar The Awesome Ostrich
Bloomsburg Fair (2023)
If you to go the Bloomsburg Fair this year, you're likely to come across this very cool dude.  I'm not exactly sure how this costume is put together, but it's amazing!  The ostrich moves his head around, coos, makes kissing sounds, and will say "cheese" when you take his picture.

Sep 27, 2023

Bloomsburg Fair Food: 2023

Bloomsburg Fair
Bloomsburg, PA (2023)
We visited the Fair three times this year, so we had the opportunity to try a lot of different things.  Some of what we had to eat and drink were old favorites while others were things that we were trying for the first time.

Friday, September 22nd

Our first stop for food on Friday was Crabby John's Seafood.  This is a place that I first discovered in 2019 when I had their Soft Shell Crab Sandwich.  This sandwich has accidentally become an every-other-year tradition for me.  The Fair was cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020, but I had one again in 2021.  We had already eaten by the time that we found this stand last season, so I didn't get to have one then.

If this trajectory holds, I'll have another one in 2025, but there's a chance that I break tradition and have one again next year because it's exactly the kind of thing that I look for at the Fair.  It's not too expensive, not something I'd make to eat at home, and not something that's found in most restaurants that we go to throughout the year, but very tasty.  The only thing it has going against it is that it's not very filling, but when you're at a place like the Bloomsburg Fair with so many different good things to eat, that can be considered another positive.

We had a few other things at Crabby John's Seafood this year.  Angie had a bowl of Mac & Cheese with Lobster, Crab & Shrimp, and the two of us shared an order of deep fried chunks of shark meat that they call Shark Bites.  I'm pretty sure that this was my first time trying shark, and while it wasn't bad, I think these are going to be a one time thing for me.

Our next stop was the Seiver's Smokehouse Grill stand for chicken on a stick.  I had one with teriyaki sauce and my wife had one without sauce and with just the base seasonings that they use when grilling the chicken.  It was very tasty and I think that this has become my wife's favorite food stand at the Fair because she had another one on Monday.  I'd recommend getting it without the sauce, not because it's bad, but because I think it masks the flavor of the grilled chicken.

We also had Peach Lemonade and Strawberry Lemonade from Seiver's.  They were both good, but I don't think I'd get them again.  Even with the novelty cup, $12 for a non-alcoholic drink is pretty steep.

These slices of Chocolate Covered Pumpkin Caramel Cheesecake on a Stick are from Klinger's Fresh Fruit.  They had all kinds of good fruit, both with and without chocolate, and I'm sure all of them were good, but it would be pretty hard to find a dessert that tastes better than this!

My wife and I have gone to the Bloomsburg Fair together every September for the past 17 years except for 2011 when it was cancelled due to flooding and in 2020 when it was cancelled due to the pandemic.  In each of those years, we've made it a point to get two Apple Cider Floats from The Apple Cart and then bring them back to the tables near the fountain to enjoy them and listen to the water.  It's a peaceful experience that I cherish and look forward to every year.

In my opinion, these Apple Cider Floats are the best value on the fairgrounds.  They were $2.50 when we first started getting them back in 2006.  They've gone up by a dollar, but when you consider how much everything else has gone up in price since then, $3.50 a very reasonable price to pay for a tasty and refreshing dessert.  If there's anything else at the Fair that's this good for less than five dollars, I am not aware of it.

Mr. Sticky's Cinnamon Buns make an excellent breakfast, so we always make this stand one of our last stops before heading home.  We must not the only ones who think so because there's always a massive line at the end of the day.  I took a photo of the stand earlier in the day because it's just about the only time that I'd be able to get the whole thing in frame without folks blocking the view.

You can order a cinnamon bun or a walnut sticky bun, both of which come either plain or with a side of either cream cheese or peanut butter icing.  I got a cinnamon bun with peanut butter icing, and it was absolutely delicious!  I don't think I could eat something this sweet every day, but as a once-a-year treat, it's outstanding!

The other stand where we stop at the end of the day is the Down Home Homemade Rice Pudding stand.  You can order your rice pudding in a bowl, parfait, waffle cone, in a sundae with whipped cream and a cherry, or in a plastic container to take home and enjoy later.  My dad always used to get it in a cone and eat it there, but Angie and I like to get the container to take home and have it later.

There are quite a few different flavors, including original rice pudding (with sugar and sugar-free), tapioca, chocolate, raisin, banana, pumpkin, coconut, and blueberry.  In the past, I've had the original, the pumpkin, the banana cream and the blueberry cream.  I got the coconut cream one this year and while I haven't opened it up yet, I'm sure that it'll be as delicious as everything else I've had there.

One last thing that we brought home was a box of fudge from Michael Mootz Candies.  We got some S'mores and Peanut Butter Fudge on Friday night and liked it so much that we picked up some Pumpkin Pie and Cookies & Cream Fudge on Sunday.  Speaking of which...

Sunday, September 24th

It rained all day and all night on Sunday, so we stuck to the buildings and the vendors that had nearby seating with a roof.  One of the first stops that we made was Bason's in the Keystone Agricultural Building for a cup of coffee.  We both had their Pumpkin Muffin coffee which was incredible, especially on a cold and rainy day.

We had grilled beef and cheddar sandwiches topped with onions, mushrooms and barbecue sauce at Lora's for dinner on Sunday.  Most years, we pick up two of these to bring home when we're about to leave because they reheat very well, but they have a lot of covered seating and the rain was falling pretty hard, so we decided that we'd eat them on the fairgrounds this year.  They were delicious, as always.

I made a mental note of this stand on Friday when we walked past it after we snuggled with the baby goats.  I was pretty full at the time and decided that I'd have to try these crab fries the next time we were here.  The stand is on the main thoroughfare so there isn't any seating, but there's a large covered seating area in front of the restroom building right next to where this stand was located, so it ended up being a pretty convenient place to grab a bite to eat in the storm.

I've had crab fries many times in the past, but those were just regular french fries topped with Old Bay seasoning.  These ones were covered with melted cheese and then topped with lump crab meat and Old Bay seasoning.  I like crab meat a lot, but I don't think I'd get these again.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, but the flavors just didn't go together, at least for me.  I think I prefer my crab fries with just the Old Bay seasoning.

We tend to head into the exhibition buildings while it's still light out and then work our way through them while the sun is setting.  After that, we usually grab a bite to eat and maybe one or two things to take home and then head out.  However, I was pretty disappointed to see that most of the stands were closing up shop on Sunday night at 7:30 after we had gotten through all of the buildings.  I'd estimate that by quarter to eight at night, maybe one out of every ten shops was still open... including the ones that were inside of the buildings.

I realize that it was raining, but I think that's still a pretty terrible way to treat the customers who did show up despite the rain.  I'm going to remember this, and it's definitely going to inspire me to re-think whether or not I'd bother going to the Bloomsburg Fair on a rainy day in the future.

One of the few stands that did remain open for business was The Poppy Press Coffee Company who were selling sweet and savory crepes.  I haven't had crepes since I was a freshman in high school.  I remember that my dad, his girlfriend and I made them at home when I was living in Palm Beach Gardens and I thought they were very tasty.  Angie ordered the Caprese and I had the Buffalo Chicken.  They were served on paper plates which were wrapped in a cone shape before being covered with tinfoil to prevent them from leaking.  It made them very easy to eat with a fork while we were walking, but it doesn't make for an especially good photo, so these pictures do not at all do justice to them.  We both enjoyed them and thanked the folks who were running the place for staying open in the rain.

Monday, September 25th

I saw a sign advertising Pickle Cotton Candy at this Popcorn Company stand on Friday.  We passed by it a few times that day and on Sunday, and the sign caught my eye every time.  When I saw it again on Monday, I decided that I'd probably regret not trying it.  I really didn't need a bag this big, but it's the only size that they come in.  It's not bad... definitely tastes like a dill pickle, but not overpowering.  It'd probably be pretty good on the Killer Kotton Kandy Kokoon Burgers next time there's a screening of Killer Klowns From Outer Space at the Mahoning.

This falls into the same category as the Pickle Cotton Candy.  We passed by this Packer's food stand with a sign that advertised Mexican Street Corn Pizza on Sunday, but we had already eaten.  It's a slice of pizza topped with buttered sweet corn, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, drizzled mayo and Tajin seasoning.  It wasn't bad, but it didn't really taste too much like Mexican Street Corn to me.  It's something I might try again if I see it on the menu at another pizza place, but I don't think I'd get it from here again.

There is a window in the wall between the box office to buy show tickets and the rear entrance of the grandstand building that has been selling freshly cut french fries for as long as I can remember.  My grandfather used to stop here to buy a tray of fries when I was a kid, and we'd stand off to the side and eat them, so I thought it'd be a nice thing to do on our last day at the Fair this year.

Last, but not least, we had sandwiches from two of the May's Bar-BQ stands.  They serve very simple, but very delicious sandwiches which are stuffed to overflowing with either pork, ham, or chicken.  They'll ask if you want relish on it when you order, and if you're not totally opposed to the idea, I highly recommend that you say yes.

They're usually one of the stands that stay open after concerts get out after 10 pm when most of the rest of the Fair has closed up for the night.  After seeing so many things close down before 8:00 on Sunday, I wasn't sure if that would be the case this year, so I got a chicken sandwich before the concert.  Thankfully, the rain held off and the May's stand on the main thoroughfare was open after we got out of the show on Monday, so I had a hot ham sandwich as we left the Fair for the last time this season.

Despite the fact that I'm a little grouchy that so many stands closed up early on Sunday night, I really love this place.  There are so many good things to eat and drink that you almost can't help but to find something that you'll enjoy.

Sep 26, 2023

The Night The Fog Rolled In

Hersheypark Arena - September 26, 1998
My dad had been cleaning his house out last summer to try to get rid of some clutter when he found this ticket stub to a pre-season hockey game between the Flyers and the Penguins in the back of his desk drawer.  It's from a game that he and I went to 25 years ago when I was 18 years old.  When he gave it to me, I had trouble remembering that I had ever been to a Flyers game with my pop, but the memories came flooding back to me as soon as he said "it was the game with all of the fog".

Sunday News - Lancaster, PA  (September 27, 1998)

This is one of those situations where a picture doesn't tell a thousand words.  The ice was covered with fog to the point where you could hardly tell that a game was being played at all.  The article that was published alongside this photo does a much better job than either the photo or my memory could do.

Sunday News - Lancaster, PA  (September 27, 1998)

An article written by Kevin Freeman for the Lancaster Sunday News explained the cause of the situation.  Hershepark Arena was built in 1936 without air conditioning.  As a result, the warm air on the ice caused so much fog that the game had to be stopped 19 times so the players could skate around in a circle to try to clear the fog.

Apparently, this game has become somewhat infamous.  I came across a transcript from a speech given by NHL play-by-play commentator Mike Emrick in 2011 to commemorate the 75th birthday of Hersheypark Arena.  He spoke about the fact that the machinery that was used to make the ice was worked by a 102 year old man named Milt Garland, who was recognized at the Prime Time Awards held in November 1997 as the oldest working person in the world.  One of the challenges he faced was the condition of the ice in September during preseason games.  The game that Dad and I went to on September 26th, 1998 was specifically called out due to the fog and thin ice risking the safety of the players.  According to Mr. Emrick, there was discussion after the second period about whether or not they should end the game early, but they decided to keep playing so that they wouldn't have to issue refunds to the 7,000+ fans in attendance.

Lebanon Daily News - Lebanon, PA  (September 27, 1998)
Sunday News - Lancaster, PA  (September 27, 1998)

Unless there is some other game that I'm forgetting, this was the first NHL game that I had ever been to.... but who knows.  Maybe my dad will find another ticket stub from a game that we went to that I've forgotten about.