Blair County

Members of the Pride Alliance at Penn State held a display that says "PRIDE" during the Pride parade in Altoona. The group planned the event, a first in Blair County.
Min Xian / WPSU

Altoona saw its first Pride parade Friday, coinciding with National Coming Out Day.

 

Forty-four organizations, including Penn State Altoona student groups and sports teams, local businesses and support groups from across Central Pennsylvania, marched for a quarter mile in downtown Altoona. Some groups fashioned vehicles into floats while others walked and danced, holding signs of rainbows and supportive messages. Hundreds of spectators cheered along the parade. 

Kristine Allen / WPSU

Last fall, Altoona Community Theatre lost their long-time executive director to a sudden illness. Their new theatre season begins September 19-22, with a production of Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers,” at Altoona’s Mishler Theatre. It’s an emotional time for the theatre group, as they remember an old friend, and welcome a new leader.

Steve Helsel was, for decades, the first and only executive director of Altoona Community Theatre, also known as “ACT.”  Members of the theatre speak of him as a leader, a whirlwind of creativity, and a good friend to everyone.

U.S.G.S

A minor earthquake hit Central Pennsylvania Wednesday night. The U.S. Geological Survey reports the quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.4, struck at around 8:31 p.m. The epicenter was located in Juniata county, Pa., about 11 miles south/southwest of Mifflintown. Reports of mild shaking came in to the U.S.G.S website from Altoona to Lancaster, and from State College to Hagerstown, Md.

New Pa. Court Ruling May Help Older Clergy Abuse Claims Proceed

Jun 12, 2019
Mark Levy / Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania court has ruled that an evolving legal landscape means a woman can pursue her lawsuit claiming officials in the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese worked to conceal her alleged molestation by a priest.
A three-judge Superior Court panel Tuesday reinstated Renee Rice's lawsuit alleging the diocese and two bishops illegally tried to cover it up to protect their reputations and that of the parish priest she claims abused her.

Corl Street Elementary, in State College, is receiving extensive renovations, all done with safety in mind.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

This story originally aired on March 21, 2019.

Martha Sherman has two kids at Mount Nittany Elementary School in State College. On a recent morning when she was dropping them off, office staff wouldn’t let her go beyond the front office. She wanted to walk her son Zane to his kindergarten class, but his school, like many others, has a safety policy that says parents can’t do that.

Tiffany Myers reads a children's book out loud to a class of about 20 fifth graders. She said the idea is to teach the basics of mental wellbeing just like other school subjects.
Min Xian / WPSU

 

This story originally aired on March 19, 2019.  

On a recent school day at Mount Nittany Elementary School in State College, Tiffany Myers read a children's book out loud to a class of about 20 fifth graders.

“The story we’re going to read today is called, ‘Red: A Crayon’s Story.’ Just right off the bat, what are you noticing about this crayon that make it different than what you might expect?” Myers, a school counselor, asked.

Erin Murphy.
Erin Murphy

Erin Murphy, an English professor at Penn State Altoona, won the Brick Road Poetry Prize for her most recent poetry collection, “Assisted Living.” The poems in this collection explore the aging and caretaking processes, as well as what “assisted living” looks like throughout the lifespan.

WPSU’s Adison Godfrey talked with Murphy about the book.

Two men testing out voting machine
Anne Danahy / WPSU

Zane Swanger tapped on the screen of a voting machine to make his elections choices, including a write-in candidate, before printing out his ballot.

“OK, so it won’t even let me vote for overvotes, so good.”

Swanger was testing out one of the new voting systems that Pennsylvanians could be using in elections starting next year. He's the director of elections in Mifflin County, and that was third time he’s seen the equipment.

PennDOT recently released a report reviewing car crashes in Pennsylvania for 2017.

According to the report, 128,188 total reportable traffic crashes occurred last year, which resulted in the deaths of 1,137 people and injuries of 80,612 more.

Midterm voter turnout increased up statewide in Pennsylvania from 43 percent in 2014 to 58 percent this year.
Emily Previti / Keystone Crossroads

Voter turnout was up in every county in Pennsylvania this year compared to the last midterm election in 2014.

Statewide, it jumped from 43 percent in 2014 to 58 percent, according to our analysis of Department of State data.

Preliminary ballot counts suggested as much, but the state only just released data this week making it official.

Judy Ward and Emily Best
Anne Danahy / WPSU

Job training, the opioid epidemic and taxes were some of the topics covered during a forum this week for the candidates for the state Senate, 30th district.

The candidates were Republican Judy Ward and Democrat Emily Best. And the hosts were the Blair County Tea Party and the liberal Indivisible Blair County — organizations at opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Indivisible President Aaron Wagner said that type of forum means politicians have to speak to people with a broad range of opinions.

Shirley Pechter, who performed at age 8 with the ensemble that later became the Altoona Symphony, looks at the orchestra's 90th anniversary program.
Teresa Cheung / Altoona Symphony

This Saturday, the Altoona Symphony Orchestra will officially open its 90th anniversary season with a concert at the Mishler Theatre in Altoona.

And there is a woman who was there at the start back in 1928. Shirley Pechter, now 97 years old, was part of the Altoona Symphony at the very beginning, when it was just a small group of musicians. Pechter spoke with WPSU's Story Corps in Altoona in 2013. 

"Russell Gerhart was the violin maestro in Altoona," Pechter said.  "And he started what he called an ensemble, which was a group of six of his students."

The Blair County Courthouse sits on Allegheny Street in Hollidaysburg, PA. Private funding for the District Attorney Office and local law enforcement has put immense pressure on the county's public defenders.
Min Xian / Keystone Crossroads

Michael Fiore, 56, remembered, growing up, he never had to worry about drugs in his neighborhood or the violence that they sometimes inflict. He said, back then, his community in Blair County, home to Altoona and Hollidaysburg, was safe.

But as he got older, with the rise of the opioid crisis, he saw things change. 

Road closed sign
Kelly Tunney / WPSU

Dozens of roads are closed across southwestern and northcentral Pennsylvania due to heavy rainfall and flooding. The state Department of Transportation said more closures may be expected on Tuesday.

In five counties in the southwestern part of the state, the closures impacted roads including U.S. 22, which connects Blair and Huntingdon Counties. But PennDOT press officer Tara Callahan-Henry said the majority of the roads closed are not major arteries.

Although low turnout is generally expected for midterm primary elections, more voters in Blair County were motivated to go to the polls on Tuesday’s primary in Pennsylvania because of how competitive some races are.
Min Xian / WPSU

 

Although low turnout is generally expected for midterm primary elections, more voters were motivated to go to the polls during Tuesday’s primary in Pennsylvania because of how competitive some races are. 

By 11 a.m. on Tuesday, 120 ballots were cast at Mount Nittany United Methodist Church in Lemont. Judge of Elections Laurel Zydney said she expected low turnout for this midterm primary, because people may not want to have a party affiliation and there’s a lack of contested races. 

Political candidates in a row
Anne Danahy / WPSU

Republican candidates trying to win their party’s nomination for the U.S. House, 13th district, fielded questions Monday night. The 13th district stretches across southcentral Pennsylvania, including Blair and Huntingdon counties.

The forum by Blair County Republicans drew a full house to the American Legion in Hollidaysburg.

States’ rights, smaller government and experience getting results were some of the themes covered during the forum.

An Altoona community project, StART Here, aims to support and promote local art. Residents participated in painting a mural as part of the event.
Min Xian / WPSU

ArtsAltoona, a local organization hosted a community event, StART Here, on Saturday, aiming to support and promote local art. Event organ­­izers say they want to use art to encourage growth in the community.

Pamela Snyder Etters, the creator of a 35-foot-wide community mural on the North 4th Street, was busy climbing on and off a mechanic lift to draw the outline of the mural as well as directing volunteers to hand out burshes and paint.

John Eichelberger
Photo provided

Eight candidates are running in the Republican primary in the 13th Congressional district, one of Pennsylvania’s seats in the U.S. House. One of those candidates is John Eichelberger. WPSU’s Anne Danahy talked with Eichelberger about why he thinks he’s the best choice for the job.

WPSU invited all candidates in competitive races for U.S. House seats in the 12th, 13th and 15th Congressional districts for interviews. The primary is May 15.