PETERSBURG, Huntingdon County — Eight-year-old Milan Rex put all her effort into turning a makeshift crank of a cider press that dates back to the late 1800s.
She switched back and forth between her left and right hands turning the crank as it chopped up apples and then pressed the juice out of the chunks for homemade apple cider.
Her family made the trip from Alexandria, Va., and Ellicott City, Md., for the Penn State women’s volleyball game against Ohio State. They accidentally stumbled upon the 26th annual Fall Harvest Festival at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center.
“I think I like this the best and checking out the different stations,” Milan said.
Next up to crank the shaft was her cousin, Mai-Linh Godschall, 7, whose nose crinkled as she turned the knob with all her might.
It takes about 11 apples to make just two cups of cider, said Penn State senior Cori Steimling, who was monitoring the cider press.
Steimling was dressed as a raccoon as she and other interns, volunteers and staff members celebrated Halloween and educated children and their families about nature.
Justin Raymond was dressed as an owl as he judged costumes. Penn State juniors Kevin McManama and Sarah Rafacz were dressed as a joke tree and singing pumpkin as they serenaded visitors with Halloween carols.
While the festival featured pumpkin carving, face painting, a costume contest, live entertainment, pumpkin bowling and more, the highlight of the day was a children’s Halloween nature hike.
Guides gave a tour of the nature trail every 15 minutes to a group of about 10 people who traveled to five activity stations. The theme of the hike was “Pennsylvania creatures have amazing powers.”
Recreation, park and tourism management students from Penn State gave interactive lessons on animals and plants, and ways the creatures are able to survive in Pennsylvania.
“It’s a way to do fall-themed activities while making it educational,” said festival coordinator Brian Sedgwick. “Our mission is for people to enjoy the woods. The best way we can do that is by getting our guests involved.”
Milan said she enjoyed that the most.
“My favorite was probably walking on the trails,” Milan said.
Money made from the hike goes right back into Shaver’s Creek, Sedgwick said. This year, Sedgwick said, about $4,000 should be raised in two days.
Other kids, like Huntingdon residents Adam Bucynski , 11, and his sister Lauren Bucynski, 7, said they liked learning about the eastern hog-nosed snake the best. That type of snake is a reptile commonly found in Pennsylvania.
In between taking a hike, carving pumpkins and enjoying the fall-like chill in the air Saturday, Adam performed a one-man show for the crowd as he played the banjo, guitar and mandolin.
“We love this,” said Toni Bucynski, his mother. “We’ve come to Shaver’s Creek for a while because they always have so much to do for the kids.”
Sedgwick said that during the course of the weekend, about 1,500 people should be in attendance.
“This event is always one of our best,” Sedgwick said. “We’re getting people out, letting them learn a little bit and enjoy autumn activities.”
The festival will continue from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.