On an US Airways flight from Buffalo to Philadelphia last year, I was very surprised to come across an article on State College, Pennsylvania or Happy Valley as we know it. Known to many and unknown to yet more, this little town is in the middle of nowhere and as we like to point out, still at the center of everything (including the Centre County). But I will not get into the geography or weather discussions in here, nor about the where-to-stay details. You can find enough of that information online (or US Air magazines!).And if you look well enough, you might be able to grab a copy of Ken Hull’s Going Local www.goinglocalpa.com/ … it is the most comprehensive information that you will get about the area. And I will by no means even try to encroach on his expertise! (Look out for his new book!)
I will also not reiterate that Happy Valley ranked 19th in the '50 best places to live' or that it received honorable mention in best music scenes throughout the country by the Rolling Stones magazine. Chances are you’re not moving here and if you don’t live there, you wont be coming ‘to’ State College to listen to the bands performing, no matter how many names, big and small have their roots in the Centre County soil... my 2 cents on this topic: if you hear some much-heard-of musician from Broadway or Tennessee or Guatemala or India playing here, don’t act surprised. (that is a picture of Penn State President Graham Spanier singing on College Ave withe the Blue Band....again dont act surprised!)
Another disclaimer I would furnish here is that often times you might feel I am talking more about Penn State than State College. The line of difference is very narrow and insignificant in most places, if present at all… State College, the name, the establishment (both demographically and economically) have all either are born or evolved from the presence of the flagship campus of the Pennsylvania State University. And as they say you can take out Happy Valley from Penn State (other commonwealth campuses) but you can’t take out Penn State from Happy Valley.
“If God is not a Penn State fan, why is the sky blue and white?” and many others like this, stampede shirts and cars of the local Penn Staters. Too blunt? Well that’s how it is. Nowhere else have I seen such blatant pride. Pride of everything, for everything. Yes, we were in the Big Ten but we were not the top one historically, yes we are a school with a decent ranking, top research, good funding, new buildings….yes we are good, old, big, great, premier, pioneer but we know that there are people, teams, universities, institutions, associations, ahead of us in most of these
areas. And in good numbers. But not enough to demean our pride. And we instill this same feeling in every new soul that enters the system. We teach them to be proud of who they are and to strive. And with this pride comes a sense of oneness or belonging. Even for people like me, who are tied in a gazillion ways to another culture and heritage as far removed from Pennsylvania as it could be… even we are proud of this kinship.
The 38,000-something population of State College probably does not take into account the hundreds of Penn State aspirants and goers that come from all corners of the globe. If you stand for a couple minutes in front of the Pattee-Paterno library any given school day, you can hear at least 6 different languages whiz past you… often time each representing a country a culture you’ve been completely unaware of :) so if I can use one word here, I would use eclectic. For more information on “internationality” of the town, visit …psu.edu/about_office/mosaic.html
What I plan on doing here today is throw in some of my own anecdotes, favorites and lessons of what-to-and-not-to-s and display some of my own reasons of loving what I call home in the
United States… the following is a short list for a short stay at State College as our guest:
1. Creamery on a Sunday (or game day) and check out the line. When you eventually get to the front of it, order Keeney Beany or Peachy Paterno, read up on the creamery and history for more! Remember NOT to be blasphemous enough to ask for mixed flavors. even those who ask twice if State College is the name of a town, have heard of the creamery and the rule that the Penn State Creamery does not mix flavors. (Picture: Graduate students taking a break from scooping Creamery fun...who's to say its blowing 40 degrees we're all warm for our FIG Tailgate Fall '07)
3. Herwigs, Austrian Bistro… (this should be the #1) have you ever been intimidated by the cook, teased by the owner and hit with a stick by the staff and force-fed sauerkraut because it’s heart-healthy? Bet not, unless you’ve been here. The first time I went to this family-owned/ cooked/ operated/ staffed place, the son came to me and said (in the most evil way) ‘smile, so people outside think you’re liking it here’… what took me back the second time? ---well the food to start with and the best customer service! Force-feeding I tell you…feels like being at home. as scary as it is, when you can’t pronounce half the menu, they add to it but not taking your order unless you do it the right way. So I start ‘reisen’ and then move to “that rice and pork thing” and the eyes start rolling…
They have this rule that if you don’t finish your food
i) you will be beaten with a red stick (big one), or
ii) you can be given a take out box for $32, or
iii) Charged double if you ask for a half portion.
For someone like me who eats dessert first,
I have fallen in trouble more than once and my experiences have included being fed (literally by the spoonfuls) by the owner… he said I could forego the beating for not finishing sauerkraut if I took the spoonful from him. If that doesn’t feel like family, tell me what does? ...Well, sitting at their big family table might! If you come with a big group of family or friends or are a regular, visiting alone (for me alone means 2 in this town), you are entitled to that. To top it all, the food is so super good, you want to try everything—the dense chocolate cake, the sausages, the potato salad, the veal, the ranch dressing and the pork. Just writing gets me drooling.
(now back to the list)
4. Walk on Allen to see the pig, with her babies…crouch down to take a picture with them and
hug them on my behalf.
5. Sit at the College-Allen bus stop, Wednesday and Friday afternoons, read the Daily Collegian and listen to the drummers play….Any other day? Sit there, feed the squirrels
6. Drive on blue course drive in fall
7. Also drive from Bellefonte to the tiny State College airport (SCE) and see the planes take off right off the road…
8. Appreciate the wall murals on College Avenue near Pugh Street.
9. explore the alleys and small roads parallel to Atherton and Burrows from Easterly Parkway to downtown and marvel at the gardens you pass
10. sip coffee on the IST bridge and enjoy the sway when a big vehicle on 322 B zooms under you
11. Visit the artists’ co-op shop called the Gallery Shop in Lemont, its right beside the Art Alliance of Central PA and has been exhibiting the best of its class since 1968.
12. go to Penn’s cave
13. Buy Penn state gear from family clothesline.
14. Drink a mocha at Webster’s with double shot espresso and munch a chocolate cookie, you can also try a variety of tea there…while enjoying old books, live music, local art and great conversation.
15. doze off on the hub lawn on a warm sunny morning and startle up with “we are….penn state” shout from group of people running around the huge lawn (probably with no shirts on, unlike the one in the picture)
16. buy fresh goodies and flowers from the farmers market on Friday afternoons
17. Do the downtown fall festival and a hay ride around town.
18. Do the Art Crawl on your own: the Palmer Museum of Art, the HUB-Robeson galleries and the Artisan Connection.
19. Walk around campus and read the blue and white signs of the ‘first-s, biggest-s and best-s’ of Penn State and imbibe the history of the first calorimetry to animal husbandry.
20. Squat in front of the Pattee library and people-watch
21. ride the blue-loop (the white-loop, the red link and the green link are good too…but the blue beats ‘em all)
21. scream your lungs out at the homecoming parade, collect as many goodies as you can
22. dance your @$$ off at the next Thon
24. drive to Raystown lake to see the sun rise at 7 point
25. Have ice cream at Meyers on S. Atherton. (its okay to ditch the creamery once in a while)
26. walk around town during arts fest
27. Check out the stone tower near Sackett and Hammond (not that towering) made of stone from different times and places (?)
28. Walk from Willard to the Hub and sit on the benches hiding under the trees.
29. click a picture at the alumni center with the metal statues
30. munch a warm walnut brownie at the Deli
31. Sit outside @ café 210 on St. Paddy’s
32. try your hands at painting your own pottery at 2000 degrees (on college)
33. Go for a free movie at the CAFÉ series in the Music building—they show what you won’t find anywhere else… from rare documentaries to independent movies from Taiwanese to Czechoslovakian, CAFÉ is about Critically Acclaimed Film Experience.
34. Spend one whole hour watching the fish in the HUB aquariums
35. catch an off beat lunch (stir fry buffet....)at the Green Bowl on Beaver.