Sense of community flows at Big Spring Festival

For the CDTMay 18, 2014 

Sometimes a personal involvement can blossom into something bigger, and joining one group can lead to being part of a communitywide event, such as the Big Spring Festival in Bellefonte.

Just ask Jane Wilson, who joined the Bellefonte Garden Club a few years ago.

“Every summer, they were holding all of these really wonderful programs,” Wilson said of the club. “I was interested in networking with other gardeners. … I joined this club because there was so much valuable information-sharing and getting into the gardening aspect.”

The company of other gardeners and the rich line of speakers and topics attracted Wilson, and along with the opportunity to learn, she also fit into the club’s plan of giving back to the community.

Some of the club’s community projects include the planting of daffodils around Bellefonte, the planting of flowers in the urns in Talleyrand Park, helping children plant the Bellefonte Community Children’s Garden near the Centre County Library on Saturdays during the summer, and teaching children to plant at events such as the Big Spring Festival.

On Sunday, Wilson was at Talleyrand Park working with children at the festival, helping them remove small petunias from crates, positioning them in cups and filling the cups with soil.

“It helps them get in touch with nature,” Wilson said. “It shows them how to plant flowers when they bring them home from the nursery.”

Wilson and the club’s involvement at the festival were part of a larger community effort to celebrate the environment and the water in and around Bellefonte.

Other community organizations providing activities were the Youth Service Bureau, the Bellefonte Fine Arts Club and the Bellefonte Swim Team. The day’s events included fish stocking, face painting, games, food and musical entertainment.

Community organizations were joined by local businesses and enthusiasts such as Callie Shumway, a pro angler and co-captain of Pink Fishing from Bellefonte, whose sponsors provided free lures for children interested in pursuing fishing.

“When you hook on a really nice fish, it is a feeling you can’t explain,” Shumway said. “There is nothing more exciting.”

The festival also featured the dedication of a historical marker at a house on the corner of Penn and East High streets in honor of James A. “Billboard” Jackson, who was an editor of Billboard magazine and the first blackwriter for the magazine during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.

Jackson, who was born in Bellefonte, went on to become a successful writer, editor and marketing professional and Phi Beta Sigma officer.

Regular activities are planned in Bellefonte by Historic Bellefonte Inc. throughout the year, according to festival organizers.

“The Big Spring Festival is one of a series of events,” said Sheila Stever, event co-chairwoman for Historic Bellefonte, which hosts monthly events.

The borough’s community organizations contribute to make the events possible, Stever said.

It is these sorts of events and the size and beauty of Bellefonte that attracted Johey Verfaille to Bellefonte, who moved there with her husband and daughter last year when her husband became employed at Penn State.

“I really love the architecture and small-town feel,” Verfaille said.

Verfaille’s daughter, Klara Gawlowicz, 6, went through the list of things she had accomplished in the day.

“I fished and played on the playground and planted a flower,” Klara said.

“What else did you do?” Verfaille asked.

“I hugged a zebra,” she said, referring to one of the mascots at the event.

For more information about Historic Bellefonte Inc. events, visit and for more information about the Bellefonte Garden Club, visit


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