Johnstown Is Hockeyville USA, Today, Tomorrow, Forever

Sep 29, 2015
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

When the Pittsburgh Penguins take the ice against the Tampa Bay Lightning this evening at the historic Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, PA, the experience will be anything but ordinary.  The match, along with several other special events, represents the small town’s contest win and the designation as “Hockeyville, USA.”   

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen this town with this kind of buzz,” Johnstown Tomahawks play-by-play announcer Rick Hull told Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer.  “People are so happy and it’s just a celebration of Johnstown hockey in general. I don’t think anything could pull the plug on that.”

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

Gov. Tom Wolf kept his promise to veto a short-term funding package on Tuesday, killing the stopgap plan he derided two weeks ago as an ill-suited solution to the state’s long-term problems. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

Along with national bragging rights, winning the designation of Hockeyville USA brings with it $150,000 dollars to upgrade the local hockey venue, which in the case of the 65-year-old Cambria County War Memorial Arena was much needed.

“There have been probably been about 20 plus years or so since any real substantial upgrades have happened at this building,” said Johnstown Tomahawks Director of Media and Communications, Chad Mearns. “These improvements came at a very crucial time for this city, at a crucial time for this building. Pretty much any direction that you look, even if you don’t realize it, you see something that has some sort of change, some sort of improvement this summer.”

Triumph Books

After being named Kraft's first-ever Hockeyville USA, the Cambria Country War Memorial Arena will see the return of a decidedly different hockey legend. 

While Dave Hanson enjoyed a 10-year career as a professional hockey player, he is perhaps most well known for playing one of the Hanson brothers from the classic 1977 sports comedy Slap Shot.

Filmed in Johnstown, Slap Shot was based on the Johnstown Jets in an era where violence was a major selling point for many minor hockey leagues. Hanson fit nicely into the league.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania voters have one week left to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election, and for the first time, they’ll be able to register online

Falconhurst Development broke ground on an $11.5 million multi-site restoration and new construction project in Wilkinsburg on Monday.

Scheduled to open in 2016, the development will include four long-vacant buildings erected at the turn of the century and a set of new townhouses in and around the Hamnett Place neighborhood, which is listed on the National Historic Registry. The development is led by Landmarks Development Corporation, a real estate arm of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

Johnstown's Economic Forecast: Green And Growing

Sep 28, 2015
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 FM WESA

Following the devastating flood of 1889, Johnstown quickly rebounded and began to grow. The region has been bouncing back from a series of set backs ever since.  The city has seen more floods, the near-demise of the steel industry and the gutting of military contracts, just to name a few.

Bottleworks Celebrates And Supports Arts In Johnstown

Sep 28, 2015
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

Like so many other industrial buildings in rust belt cities, the Tulip Bottling Company and Gainers Brewery buildings in Johnstown’s historic Cambria City neighborhood had fallen into disuse after the companies that once employed hundreds dried up and closed their doors.  But the buildings have been given new life as the blue color neighborhood is transformed into the city’s art and cultural district.

“Throughout the year we offer exhibits, classes, lectures, anything art-related,” said Bottleworks Executive Director Angela Rizzo of the buildings that now also house nine local artists in rented studio space.  “Our mission is to provide opportunities for artists and audiences to experience the arts.”

A Wilmerding family's exposure to rabies after taking in a pair of stray kittens prompted the Allegheny County Health Department to warn residents not to touch or take in feral animals and wildlife.

“It is well-intentioned efforts by individuals trying to help, and sometimes they unnecessarily get exposed to rabies,” chief public health nurse Sharon Silvestri said.

The family is doing fine, she said, because rabies is not a fast acting virus. The incubation period can take 30 days up to several years before it reaches the nervous system and travel to the brain, she said.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Brandon and Vanessa Marlin’s daughter Braylee was born 2 ½ weeks early, but the couple from Upper St. Clair is OK with that.

“I was trying to coerce her out,” the proud papa said. “I said ‘Braylee, you’ve got to come because the Pirates are going to be playing here in Buctober, so hurry up.’ That same night she came.”

The Marlins were among the new parents to snap family photos with the Pirate Parrot when he visited West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield Monday morning. Every baby born since Saturday will take home a bib identifying them as the “Littlest Pittsburgh Pirates fan.”

Exploring Urban Islands: From Natural To Developed

Sep 28, 2015
Lindsay Lazarski / Keystone Crossroads

Michael Catania walks on a rocky beach at Petty's Island. He picks up a flat stone and flings it out into the Delaware River. The stone skips a few times toward a shipping terminal and the church steeples of Philadelphia's Port Richmond neighborhood.

"I feel like a little boy when I come here," said Catania, chairman of the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust.

Wooden stakes protrude from the ground. The remains of an old pier line the perimeter of the beach. Plastic bottles, old tires, a TV, and bricks sliced in half — one side "key," the other "stone," litter the shoreline.

Remembering The Johnstown Flood

Sep 28, 2015
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

The residents of Johnstown, Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s were no strangers to floods.  Sitting at the confluence of the Stonycreek River and the Little Conemaugh River, the booming city often went under water.

An eight-inch rain that passed through the region in May of 1889 had submerged much of downtown Johnstown under several feet of water but people were coping, however the South Fork Dam, some 14 miles miles up the Conemaugh Valley was about to let loose, releasing millions of gallons of water that would smash everything in its path.

Perry Quan / Flickr

  Developers of the former Civic Arena site in the Hill District are looking for feedback from the community.


In the fleeting days of summer, health officials reported two cases of West Nile virus in Allegheny County, prompting its health department to monitor their condition and inspect the area around their homes for further cases.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA News

Chris Williams, 34, tilts a delicately etched wooden cube from side to side. His body shifts as it sends out electronic tones. It’s poplar. It’s organic. It’s electronic. It’s… a game.

The box, dubbed Coral, is Williams’ first foray into audio memory entertainment for the visually impaired. With wires and electronics hidden in a laser-engraved, wooden enclosure, the toy produces tonal sequences its players identify and match by rotating in four directions, similar to the children’s game Simon. Players can also use the custom carvings as tactile cues, he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted this year’s flu vaccine would be “much better” suited to fight circulating strains of the flu virus, according to Marc Itskowitz, an internal medicine physician at Allegheny General Hospital.

“So far it looks like [the virus and vaccine] will be well matched, and that usually means the efficacy rate will be better,” Itskowitz said.

He added, however, that vaccines’ effectiveness can never be truly predicted.

Sabreguy26 / flickr

  When several student leaders at the University of Pittsburgh attended an open meeting on the school's strategic plan, they all agreed that something felt wrong.

Lock the Gate Alliance / flickr

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that landowners and developers filed against individuals and environmental groups who have been fighting fracking near the Mars Area School District complex.

Local merchants, food vendors, artists and entertainers were featured at the second Squirrel Hill Night Market hosted Saturday by NextGen: Pgh. 

The event drew twice as many patrons as the first market, NextGen founder and executive director Alec Rieger said.

Rieger said that around 10,000 people attended the August night market. Early totals for this weekend weren't immediately available. 

“I think we kind of hit it out of the park,” he said. “It was much larger than I ever anticipated, this was just a self-financed proof-of-concept… Pittsburgh really crushed it."

NPR's 'Ask Me Another' Coming To Quiz The Steel City

Sep 25, 2015

What will happen when Ask Me Another, NPR’s show of puzzles, games and trivia takes over Essential Pittsburgh? We’ll find out when host Ophira Eisenberg and acoustic musician Jonathan Coulton place Essential Pittsburgh host Paul Guggenheimer and reporter Margaret J. Krauss in the hot seat.

Jeffery Smith / Flickr

The volume and complexity of health research can make it difficult for legislators to keep up.

Larry Stern, a retired health care executive, says with the growing number of interest and advocacy groups, it’s difficult to determine positions of those groups based on evidence from those based on belief.

Rock Musician Peter Frampton Goes Acoustic

Sep 25, 2015
Jeff Daly / Invision/AP Images

Rock and roll legend Peter Frampton will be coming to the Carnegie Music Hall on October 16th as part of his tour “Peter Frampton Raw.” Frampton joined Essential Pittsburgh to discuss the tour, as well as sharing some of his history as a musician.

The tour features Frampton performing many of his without his signature electric guitar sound. He’ll play all his pieces on acoustic guitar with “not an electric instrument on stage.”

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Michael Joyce started working at Homewood Cemetery in 1978, cutting grass.

“I live real close to here so it was just a summer job,” said Joyce, now the tie-wearing superintendent of the more than 200-acre spread. He’s responsible for everything that happens outside.

PA House Sends Short-Term Spending Plan To Governor

Sep 24, 2015

The Pennsylvania state House of Representatives has passed a short-term spending bill that Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto without an agreement on a plan to end a nearly three-month budget stalemate.

    This weekend is going to be amazing.

Josh has been so busy with Thrival and the launch of his new podcast, Nanograms. It launches today and you can find out more about it here.

Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

On Oct. 3, Pittsburghers will walk up and down the formidable stairways of the hilly South Side Slopes neighborhood with maps in hand. The StepTrek, which started more than a decade ago, raises awareness and funds for the Slopes’ aging stairs.

The Politics Of Pope Francis

Sep 24, 2015
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Images

Wading into bitter disputes, Pope Francis urged a divided Congress and America on Thursday to welcome immigrants, abolish the death penalty, share the nation's immense wealth and fight global warming. Lawmakers gave rousing ovations to the leader of the world's Catholics despite obvious disagreements over some of his pleas. It was the first time a pope has directly addressed Congress.

Tracksploitation / Instagram

An event Thursday at Boom Concepts on Penn Avenue in Garfield combines a contemporary approach to music with a style that has been performed, pretty much unchanged, for centuries.

Karissa / Flickr

Pittsburgh will witness a rare lunar eclipse Sunday.

The "superblood" moon will feature a rare marriage of several lunar phenomena: a harvest moon, which occurs in the late summer or fall; a supermoon, much closer to the Earth at about 225,000 miles away; and a blood moon, noted by its red-copper coloring during the eclipse.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes within the Earth’s shadow. It's regarded as safer to view than a solar eclipse, which requires indirect viewing to prevent damage to the observer’s eyes.

Supporters of medical marijuana are keeping the pressure on state House lawmakers who have remained cool to efforts to legalize the substance.