Book Brainstorming

Hanging out at Jack Rabbit's Trading Post on Route 66 in Joseph City, Arizona (photo by David Zajdel)

Hanging out at Jack Rabbit’s Trading Post on Route 66 in Joseph City, Arizona (photo by David Zajdel)

Hello friends and happy fall! I can’t believe we are on the cusp of a new season. Where did all of the time go? It was a very busy summer for me between writing projects, musical gigs and traveling… and I’m still behind in everything I wanted to accomplish! I’ve also been lax in blogging, but you can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as I do post there more regularly. Check out some pictures I’ve snapped from my wanderings, including a recent trip to Arizona that included some adventures along Route 66.  I’m still freelancing for the Latrobe Bulletin (almost 11 years!) so feel free to browse the articles I’ve written about Ligonier happenings and local government as I continue to post them here on my website.  Also, I’ll once again be promoting Ligonier Valley Vignettes at the annual Fort Ligonier Days during the weekend of October 10-12 at the Ligonier Sweet Shop, so please stop by to say hello!

One major thing I am currently working on is developing a proposal for a second local history book with The History Press. I’ve brainstormed some ideas with my editor and I’ve already received some great suggestions from friends. What do you think would make an engaging and informative read about history in Pennsylvania, whether it’s focused in Ligonier, Pittsburgh, Westmoreland County, western Pennsylvania or statewide? I’m interested in hearing what local history topics readers want to learn about that may not have been covered before. What history fascinates you? Let me know in the comments or send me an email through my contact page. Thanks!

 

Huzzah! “Ligonier Valley Vignettes” Hits Fort Days!

Photo by Jennifer Sopko

Photo by Jennifer Sopko

Compared to the madness that descended upon the valley during the annual Fort Ligonier Days festival this past weekend, Ligonier sure looked like a ghost town when I drove up to cover back-to-back meetings in the township on Tuesday night.

Despite the rain on Friday, I had a fantastic time promoting Ligonier Valley Vignettes all weekend at the 54th annual Fort Ligonier Days, which took place October 11-13, 2013.  It was a long and tiring weekend, but such a worthwhile experience.

The three-day event, which was first held in 1960, commemorates the Battle of Fort Ligonier (also known as the Battle of Loyalhanna), which occurred on October 12, 1758. The French and their Indian allies attacked the Post at Loyalhanna on this date, in retaliation for an earlier reconnaissance mission gone awry, but the fort was successfully defended. In fact, the garrison, which was later renamed Fort Ligonier, was never taken by the enemy during its eight years of active service (1758-1766). After the battle, in November, the Forbes Campaign continued the final 50 miles towards what’s now Pittsburgh to take usurp control of the Forks of the Ohio from the French during the French and Indian War.  The French fled, leaving the charred ruins of Fort Duquesne for the British to claim and build a new fort upon: Fort Pitt. The rest, as they say, is history.

I can’t thank Cokie and Richard Lindsey enough for hosting me at the Ligonier Sweet Shop, where I signed books and helped to sell candy, chocolate and various other goodies and souvenirs. Without Cokie’s support I don’t think I would have had the success that I had at Fort Ligonier Days. The sweet shop sold a good number of books and I got to meet and talk with some really nice people who stopped by to check out Ligonier Valley Vignettes. I really appreciated everyone’s hospitality and I’m looking forward to future events there!

One of the cool things about talking to the people that took the time to stop and chat with me was that I learned about everyone’s personal connection to Ligonier. I learned from one gentleman, John Pollock, that his grandfather, John Svitlik, was identified as one of the coal miners in the picture of Old Colony mine and coke works that appears on the cover of my book. Doug Leichliter told me about his grandfather, Lee Riley, who was originally affiliated with the Connellsville Coal and Coke Company, but later got involved at the Fort Palmer works, thanks to his brother, Otto Gay.  Riley was also a member of the iron and coal police. Leichliter also mentioned that his great-uncle, Craig Graham, was a stone mason who primarily worked with field stone to create structures like barn bridges, fences and retaining walls and was responsible for some of the stonework at Idlewild Park. I also talked to a woman about the Marker Dairy Farm in Ligonier, which I think she and her husband (I think their names were Libby and Harry Marker) sold to the Western PA Conservancy about seven years ago. The farm had been in the Marker family since the 1700s!

Thank you also to my friends and family who came to visit me over the weekend!  My little sister Michele and her husband Derrick stopped by my table on Sunday, as did my friends Ashley and Steve. Tina and Rick, who completely immersed themselves in the festival for three days, came to entertain and feed me. Janet and Linda from the Ligonier Valley Library visited with some information on the library’s dinosaur for a feature I was working on (I was multi-tasking as usual!). Bob Stutzman from the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association brought his copy of my book for me to sign (I’ll be returning the favor once his new book is released early next year). Thanks for your support!

As a reward for fighting the Fort Ligonier Days traffic (both vehicle and foot) to visit me, I took Dave to Fort Ligonier to watch an artillery demonstration and battle reenactment and also see George Washington’s handwritten Remarks in person. I think the history behind the festival often gets lost in the maze of food, craft booths and entertainment that absorbs the town and people forget what they are there to celebrate. (Hello? There’s a reason why Fort Days is held around October 12 every year!). I felt it was important that we honor the history of Ligonier by visiting the fort and participating in some of the events they had over the weekend. I also wanted to introduce Dave to a few of my friends at the fort.  He really enjoyed seeing the fort for the first time (and watching the guns and cannons explode!) and we plan to return when there’s not a million people around.

I sold and signed books, followed a two-hour parade, ate not-so-healthy food, watched (and heard!) cannons explode, spent time with people I love, danced, saw beautiful fireworks and celebrated history.  Plus, I took off work on Friday. All-in-all, not a bad weekend! Here’s a collage of pictures from my Fort Ligonier Days weekend:

October Events for “Ligonier Valley Vignettes”

Ligonier Valley VignettesHappy Fall! Between promoting Ligonier Valley Vignettes, traveling to Bedford, PA along the Lincoln Highway, vacationing in various national parks in southwestern Utah, and my usual extracurricular activities, it was quite a busy summer!  I expect the upcoming fall season to be just as busy, but I hope to continue promoting my book, work on some feature articles and brainstorm some ideas for a possible second book. Before all of that, I have a couple of big  events planned for the month of October!

Fort Ligonier Days: October 11-13

First up is the annual Fort Ligonier Days – Ligonier’s annual three-day festival that commemorates the Battle of Fort Ligonier (or Battle of Loyalhanna), which occurred on October 12, 1758. The French and their Indian allies attacked the Post at Loyalhanna on this date, but the fort was successfully defended and the Forbes Campaign continued on to chase the French from Fort Duquesne and take control of the Forks of the Ohio during the French and Indian War.

I will be signing copies of Ligonier Valley Vignettes at the Ligonier Sweet Shop right on the Diamond all three days of the event:

Friday, October 11 from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 12 from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 pm.
Sunday, October 13 from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

I’ll be taking breaks throughout the day to watch the parade, check out artillery demonstrations at Fort Ligonier and sampling goodies from the yummy food booths around town, so look for me fighting the crowds around town! You can check out the Fort Ligonier Days itinerary by clicking here and the events scheduled at Fort Ligonier here.

Ligonier Valley Library: October 29 at 7:00 p.m.

Later on in the month, I will be giving a slide presentation at the Ligonier Valley Library related to Ligonier Valley Vignettes on Tuesday, October 29 at 7:00 p.m.  I will be selling and signing books afterwards. The library and its wonderful staff have been great friends to me over the past decade, ever since I started working in the Ligonier area, and I am happy to spend a nice evening with them! This event is one of many hosted by the library’s Pennsylvania Room throughout the year – you can find out more information here.

Keep updated on the places Ligonier Valley Vignettes will be this fall and winter by checking out my Author Events page!