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What started out as a one-day gathering of local residents in Hammond's Grove picnic area in Path Valley has become a four-day event with all kinds of activities and great food.

The annual Path Valley Homecoming and Reunion has been held continuously for 109 years and reflects the spirit of a small, rural community that depends on its members to help each other. This spirit is still evident in the work of the Fannett-Metal Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Company, sponsor of the event.

"Originally people came to the picnic grove with lunch which they spread out on a blanket, staying until there was no longer daylight," said Rita Glass, wife of event president Bill Glass and Fire Department treasurer. "It was a way to welcome back people who had returned home from places such as Chambersburg and Shade Gap, and to visit with friends and neighbors."

The evolution of the picnic from a one-day event to three, and now four, is lost in the shadows of the past. But today it has become such a major milestone that even school alumni reunions are scheduled for the same time period. This year it is being held earlier than usual, but all the wonderful attractions that draw a good crowd will still be in place.

There's a special worship celebration at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, August 7, with gospel music and local clergy, but the actual festivities don't start until Wednesday, August 10. Wednesday is not only dollar hot dog night, but a full day of specially priced midway rides. An $8 armband entitles the wearer to ride from opening to closing that day, in memory of Cheryl Price, a local resident who died in an automobile accident.

The big night is Thursday, with a parade which draws up to 5,000 people. For that night to feed a hungry crowd, "we prepare 1,200 halves of chicken," said Glass. "We know how much to cook based on our records from previous events. Saturday, for instance, we make only 1,000 halves."

Marching units come from Chambersburg and Breezewood as well as other locales; the veterans' organizations mount their color guards; antique cars, trucks, and trailers join the route as well as vehicles from fire and ambulance companies. "There are also comic floats," said Jason Peterson who heads the Parade Committee. "For instance, one farming family is always a comedy skit in costume, such as the year when they acted as the Smurfs, in color and all.." Peterson has been organizing the event for 18 years and "you see something different every year."

Friday features more food and fun with an ox roast followed by Barn Yard Games. Check out the animal chases, among the other activities, which are broken into different age groups. Try catching a pig that doesn't want to be caught! There are also pie eating and watermelon eating contests. "All in all," said Ben Gamble, head of this committee, "It's hilarious fun."

Still hungry? Start out Sunday with a full, tempting breakfast and then challenge yourself to the 20th annual walk-a-thon around a 5 mile circuit, explore the bustling flea market with some 20 vendors, and loosen up that arm to wind up for the horse-shoe pitch.

By noon there will be more barbecued chicken to nosh on while listening to one of the several bands scheduled to play during the homecoming. And don't miss the Barn Yard Olympics, with wheelbarrow races, sack races, and one with a toilet plunger. Annette Thompson, who organizes the event and creates some of the games, says, "It's entertaining."

Close the evening with more music and find a partner for some Square Dancing.

When you go:

109th Annual Path Valley Picnic and Homecoming

AUGUST 10-11-12-13

Hammond's Grove

Route 75 North of Spring Run

Free admission, free parking, pay for rides and food

For more information, www.explorefranklincountypa.com, "events"

SCHEDULE

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10

Dollar hot dog night

6 p.m. - ? ride special; ride all night in memory of Cheryl Price

6:30 p.m.  - Chris Woodward & Shindiggin

THURSDAY, AUGUST 11

4 p.m. - Barbecued chicken

5 p.m. - David Zentner and The Classic Country Band

6:30 p.m - PARADE

After parade - Josh Imes and Band; fire company awards

FRIDAY, AUGUST 12

4 p.m. - Ox roast

6:30 p.m. - Barnyard games, Ben Gamble and local farmers

7 p.m. - Ragged Edge

SATURDAY, AUGUST 13

7-10 a.m. -  Breakfast: sandwiches, ham, sausage, eggs

7 a.m. - 20th Annual Walk-A-Thon - Jenny Lauthers

8 a.m.-?  - Flea market (no reservations needed)

8 a.m. - Registration for horseshoe pitch

9 a.m. - Horseshoe pitch begins

noon-1 p.m. - Free blood pressure check

noon - Barbecued chicken

3-5 p.m. - Jake Kaiser (acoustic/country/classic rock)

6:30 p.m. - Barn Yard Olympics

7 p.m. - David Heaton and Country Connection; square dancing

Bring lawn chairs; no dogs on grounds

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