Animal Conservation

Exotic Creatures and Classic Cars Draw Large Crowds at Park Festival in Rostraver

Things got a little wild on Sunday at the annual August Fun Fest, as attendees of the free event got a close look at wild and exotic creatures including a blue-tongued skink and an albino bull snake.

Addy Otis, 10, from McMurray, was able to gently touch the snake’s tail, as were her brother, Sawyer, 7, and sister, London, 12.

“It was sweet and cool,” Addy said of the snake, named Amigo. “I thought it would be a little bumpier.”

Amigo was among the rescued animals exhibited by Holly Rennell, lead educator at Exotic Edventures of central Pennsylvania, in a new festival feature at Westmoreland County’s Cedar Creek Park in Rostraver.

“Our main goal is really to inspire people to be passionate about nature and wildlife conservation,” Rennell said.

She pointed out to the audience that there are only three species of poisonous snakes native to Pennsylvania. She said the snakes provide a valuable service by helping to control the rodent population.

Among those particularly drawn to the exotic animal show was Mandi Gerdich, 12, from Sewickley Township, who helps care for her sister’s pet turtle and has been volunteering with the organization for two years Wildlife Rehabilitation Works based in Youngwood.

“She’s definitely into animal rescue,” said her mother, Cathy.

Mandi’s favorite animal?

“I have to say it’s kind of a bond between opossums and fawns, when they’re little,” she said.

There were plenty of other activities at the festival to cater for varying interests.

Uniontown’s Greg Swaney stopped by to chat with Collinsburg resident Chuck Haschets, who brought his restored 1929 Model A pickup truck for the festival car cruise.

“It’s just a good thing to come,” Swaney said of the classic wheel display. “I love looking at cars and certain details. I get jealous.”

“I win a trophy with this truck all the time,” Haschets said of the Model A.

This time, he didn’t bring his other prized vehicle, a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible, which he says won numerous titles, including Best of Show.

Despite the rainfall that came in spurts on Sunday afternoon, some fans stayed under umbrellas and trees to enjoy the vocal harmonies of Chuck Blasko and The Vogues, a regional band known for hits as old as “Turn Around Look At Me”. The band performed in the park amphitheater, leading a lineup of live music.

Festival visitors could also play bingo, view a model train exhibit, learn about a group that flies radio-controlled model airplanes around the park, or, for a $4 admission fee, take the kids in an activity area with inflatable attractions.

At noon, there was a 10-minute wait for motorists lined up to enter the event.

Tracy Charlton from Sutersville regularly comes to the festival with her large family, which now includes four children aged 1 to 13.

She said they were enjoying everything the event had to offer, including feasting on chicken and funnel cakes.

“We’ll be here all day, until closing time,” she said.

Jeff Himler is an editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Jeff by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .