At SpikesFest, community groups pitch opportunities to get involved

Ben Salinas wows youngsters with his magic tricks during the State College Spikes fest on Saturday, March 7, 2015 in the Multisport Facility.
Ben Salinas wows youngsters with his magic tricks during the State College Spikes fest on Saturday, March 7, 2015 in the Multisport Facility. CDT photo

The persistent noise that greeted the men, women and children inside the Penn State Multi-Sport Facility on Saturday wasn’t coming from the DJ.

It was opportunity knocking.

Booths spread throughout the complex offered visitors the chance join the Boy Scouts, learn how to fly model planes or even sign up to volunteer with the Centre County Youth Service Bureau — but the biggest line by far stretched outside of a red and blue bounce castle.

SpikesFest 2015 blended the frivolous and the fun with a call to action, a celebration of both the minor league baseball team and the community it calls home.

“It’s a way for us to give back to our fans during a time of the year that isn’t filled with baseball,” Scott Walker, general manager of the State College Spikes, said.

Which is not to say that baseball was entirely absent from the day’s proceedings. Inside a mesh batting cage, a young slugger in a slightly oversized batting helmet took practice strokes in between pitches while his peers performed cartwheels down by the DJ and navigated an inflatable obstacle course.

The latter was the favorite of brothers Philip and Daniel Altero. The 4 year-old and 2 year-old were accompanied by their father, Tim Altero, of State College.

“We’re having a blast. It seems pretty age appropriate for all of them,” Altero said.

Fun and games aside, SpikesFest also serves a more practical purpose as host to the Get Active Community Sign Up, opening the floor to organizations that provide community members with the opportunity to get involved while developing new interests or hobbies.

“We find this a very successful recruitment tool,” Ellwood Brem, vice president of the State College RC Airplane/Heli Club, said.

Brem and his team worked several tables full of large-scale remote control airplanes, one of which he constructed himself in the course of a single day. The club attends SpikesFest every year and Brem said that they usually collect half a dozen names of potential newcomers looking to fly the friendly skies.

Those looking for more earthbound activities may have visited Senior District Executive David Blehi and his group of volunteers over at the Boy Scouts of America table. Blehi chatted with parents about the benefits of Scouting while his potential recruits were busy playing with demo cars from the Pinewood Derby, a small car race that the Scouts hold every year.

“We love coming out. It’s a good chance to get in front of the parents and talk about Scouting,” Blehi said.

Alexa Reynolds, outreach counselor at the Youth Service Bureau, took the opportunity to engage with the parents and kids in attendance, passing out information on drug, alcohol and smoking prevention.

“We talk to a lot of kids. We’re just trying to reach out to parents and families,” Reynolds said.