John Boogert: Central Pennsylvania offers a taste of heaven

I spent three hours in heaven on Wednesday with 40 new friends.

The setting was the New Hope Lutheran Church in Spring Mills, a heavenly place on a glorious spring day in central Pennsylvania.

I was there at the invitation of Bob Watson, who is president of the Centre County Association of School Retirees.

Bob had invited me to be the guest speaker at the chapter’s annual spring meeting and luncheon. I jumped at the chance, figuring a gathering of retired educators was sure to include a CDT reader or two.

More like 40.

A half-hour meet and greet preceded an incredible turkey dinner prepared and served by church members. We then adjourned to the church sanctuary, where I hoped my presentation would be able to compete with the aftereffects of the tryptophan.

After promising the educators a session of no longer than 30 minutes or so, we spent more than an hour discussing my vision for the CDT — what we’ve been up to, and what lies ahead.

I thanked them for their many years of service and reflected on the many amazing teachers I’d admired and learned from over the years.

At some point during our Q&A session, I asked how many in the group were CDT subscribers.

From what I could see, everyone in that church sanctuary, as God is my witness, raised their hand.


Exploring Centre County

Wednesday’s outing secured its place among the hundreds of incredible experiences I’ve had since arriving in Centre County in late August. My mission? To become one of you as quickly as humanly possible.

Within 24 hours of my arrival I was smack dab in the middle of the Grange Fair. Not long after, I attended my first home game at Beaver Stadium, and later in the fall took my wife, Laurie, to the double-overtime Ohio State game, where we discovered that Penn Staters tailgate like nobody else on the planet.

We’ve enjoyed the beauty of nature and corny humor on a voyage through Penn’s Cave, toured the historic Centre Furnace Mansion, taken in the splendor of Spring Creek, sampled more than our share of ice cream at Berkey Creamery and Meyer Dairy, devoured bag after bag of produce and other goods from Amish farmers markets, checked out many awesome restaurants and simply enjoyed the happy life in and around Happy Valley.

I’ve toured CPI and Innovation Park, taken several dozen trips to University Park, visited many schools and libraries, helped deliver Meals on Wheels, driven through spectacular farm country, and much more.

But mainly I’ve been meeting as many of you as I can, and I look forward to meeting the rest of you.

We have some exciting improvements in the works, which I’ll detail in future columns. Thanks for your feedback, and please keep it coming. Together we can make an even better CDT.

Awards season

Speaking of heaven, I’m blessed to work with an amazing and talented staff. I absolutely love going to work each day, which is a blessing in itself.

I wanted to share some good news about some well-deserved recognition our staff has received in recent weeks.

The CDT has won five Keystone Press Awards for last year’s work. David Kubarek won first place for page design and Chris Rosenblum won first place for feature story and feature beat reporting. Nabil Mark received an honorable mention for news photos and Abby Drey received an honorable mention for a sports photo.

Chris Rosenblum also won first place in the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors contest in column writing.