Area has some hot fun in summertime

Sean Sauro, Staff Writer

Students who are attending summer classes or who live in the Johnstown area may be looking for ways to stay busy during summer months.

Though the number of students and campus events decrease during this time, Greater Johnstown Convention and Visitors Bureau Special Events Coordinator Karen Soliday said there are many ways students can have fun and stay busy.

She said many festivals and musical gatherings take place in the summer.

The Polkafest—a festival celebrating traditional Czech, Polish and Slovenian music—is to be held May 31- June 2 at the St. Mary’s Church pavilion along Power Street in Johnstown’s Cambria City area.

“It’s all outdoors,” Soliday said, “and it’s all free. You just need to bring money for food and drinks.”

In addition to the traditional music offered at Polkafest, The Flood City Music Festival is to be held August 2 – 4 at People’s Natural Gas Park, according to Johnstown Heritage Association Marketing Director Shelley Johansson.

This festival, featuring performing artists with both local and national acclaim, has included performances from well-known musicians such as Dr. John and Greg Allman.

Johansson said, this year, Robert Randle and the Family Band are to headline the three-day festival series.

While musical performances seem to be popular, Soliday said there are many events for those who are not interested in music.

She said the Band of Brothers Shakespeare Company performs a play each year along the Stackhouse Park hiking trail.

“You have to hike down in, and there is a natural amphitheater,” Soliday said. “The stage is on one side of a creek, and the audience sits on the side.”

Soliday said accommodations can be made for disabled interested in attending. This year’s performances of “The Twelfth Night” are to be held July 11 – 13 and 17- 20, according to the Band of Brothers’ website.

Johnstown also hosts the annual All-American Amateur Baseball Association tournament.

“It’s held at the Point Stadium and at other fields around the area,” Soliday said. “Over the years, there have been quite a few players who have played here and have gone on to have professional careers.”

For history enthusiasts, Soliday said there are several area museums that might pique interest, including two flood museums and the Heritage Discovery Center—which is to provide the experience of an immigrant settling in the Johnstown area.

For those interested in getting out to enjoy nature, Coal Tubing owner Chad Gontkovich said his business was set up to provide an outdoors experience.

“I love the area and I wanted to come and get others involved,” he said, adding that employees offer guided hikes, river tubing and whitewater rafting and kayaking.

“The Stonycreek is our primary river, but we do use different rivers if the water is too high or too low.

“Basically, we use the entire Johnstown area watershed.”

Gontkovich said there are levels of guided tours to accommodate those with different levels of interest.

“We have different durations for our hikes,” he said. “Some of them last only 45 minutes to an hour, others last half the day and we sometimes have 15-mile overnighters.

“Some of the hikes are even within city limits. People just don’t know about them. Basically, you just call us up and tell us what you’re interested in.”

Soliday said the combination of city-based and nature-based attractions allow those spending the summer in Johnstown to find pursuis to fit their interest.

“There’s a lot to do here.”