I support local business: Vol. 2

July 28, 2010

Unless you’re a member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) or one of the few thousand people who live in Northwestern Pennsylvania, you probably haven’t heard of Conneaut Lake Park.  Since my guess is probably not many people who stop in here are ACE members, I’ll give you a brief rundown.

Opened in 1892 as Exposition Park, the resort area began to expend wildly beginning with the remodeling of the Exposition Hotel into what would become what is now the Hotel Conneaut.  After its remodeling in 1902-03, the hotel boasted 150 guest rooms for the reasonable price of $1.00 per day and the park .  Guests stormed to the area to check out the new Figure Eight roller coaster.  Soon the area was bustling with tourism (there were at one point over 12 hotels in the surrounding lake area) and in order to give the park a more “amusement park” feel to it, it was renamed Conneaut Lake Park in 1920.

By the early 1940s, Conneaut Lake Park boasted several rides, such as the Tumble Bug and the ACE famous Blue Streak.  And then, like everything in Northwestern Pennsylvania that was at one point grossly popular, fire struck the park.  Specifically Hotel Conneaut.  Half of the 300 rooms were destroyed in a fire in 1943, and with it, the hopes and dreams of the region went up in smoke as well.

Since the fire of ’43, Conneaut Lake Park has had well documented legal and financial problems that have resulted in, at times, the closing of the park.  Its biggest claim-to-fame since the ’40s has been the fact that the park was so rundown, producers of the post-apocalyptic film ‘The Road’ selected Conneaut Lake Park as one of the crown jewels in a world devastated by disaster.

And here are your fifteen minutes of fame, Conneaut Lake Park. Enjoy them.

However, after going through all of that, there’s a real opportunity for the community to again embrace what was once a historic and beautiful area.  Through the Arts and Culture division of Pepsi’s “Refresh Everything” campaign, Conneaut Lake Park is up for a $50,000 grant to repair and reopen the Blue Streak rollercoaster.

Take a minute and cast your vote for the Blue Streak here.  You can link your vote directly to your facebook account, or submit an e-mail address if you haven’t joined the facebook community like the rest of the world.

Will $50,000 restore Conneaut Lake Park to its once glorious and successful state?  Absolutely not.

But it’s a step in the right direction.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

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I support local business: Vol. 1

June 14, 2010

As much as I crap on this area (and I do crap on this area quite a bit), there really is a lot of culture to take in.  One of the aspects of Northwestern Pennsylvania I’ve learned to appreciate more the older I’ve gotten is the food/beverage industry that pervades this area.  Having lived down South, I learned to love all different kinds of food (pulled pork Eastern-style bar-b-que sandwiches come to mind).  However, having experienced that, I also learned to appreciate more of the food culture I came from.

Now I’d like to highlight my favorite stop around the area: Sprague Farm & Brew Works.

Nestled in sleepy Venango, Pennsylvania, Sprague’s (as it’s affectionately known) serves the best brews on this side of French Creek.  Owned and operated by Brian and Minnie Sprague, this microbrewery caters to its beer-loving customers.  Most days when you walk in, you’ll be cordially greeted by either owner/operator, Brian or Minnie, who will actually take time out of their day to have real conversation with you, since you’re a real person.  Even though they own a brewery, they have not yet forgotten this concept.  Take note, shitty Edinboro bars.

I’ve heard more than one person talk about how they aren’t ‘beer people’.  However, their minds quickly change once a frosty glass of Ale Mary touches their lips.  Named after Minnie (Mary) Sprague, that sweet nectar of the gods is one of several finely brewed Sprague’s beers.  I am personally a fan of their Blissberry, which is brewed with black raspberries.  Cleverly named and even more cleverly brewed, their beer is second-to-none in Northwestern Pennsylvania, evidenced by their 2009 and 2010 Erie Brewfest victories.

So if the delicious beer and fantastic ownership isn’t enough to convince you stop by, then take into consideration the ambiance of the place.  The atmosphere of the brewery is enhanced by a stage that boasts live (mostly) local music every weekend.  Once the weather turns fair around these parts, if music isn’t your scene and you enjoy a quiet conversation, they have a deck at the back of the brewery.  Construction has also started on an outdoor pavilion that will include a separate performing stage, bar, and, rumor has it, a fireplace as well.  Inside they serve some light food and, recently, adding much more substantial entrees, with some sandwiches and pizzas.

This establishment is also benefited by the vast knowledge, beer-brewing ability, and dashing good looks of local folk-hero, Luke Steadman.  Luke is one of the friendly faces who will almost assuredly greet you upon your arrival to Sprague’s.  And as a Master Brewer, you can thank him for such delicious beers as M.L.B. and the newly anointed French and Indian Corn Ale.

Not what you had in mind when you heard 'Master Brewer'? Well get off your high horse because it turns out that Vikings loved to drink and were very good brewers.

It’s hard to describe everything that is awesome about Sprague’s without actually experiencing it for yourself, but it has already established itself as a can’t miss in its short tenure in the area.  If you’re in Northwestern Pennsylvania and a fan of excellent beer, friendly service, and a great atmosphere, Sprague’s is the place for you.