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Susquehanna Life

Life Around the River - Summer 2016

Jun 06, 2016 04:43PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

Iron ore mine tour guides Robb Bomboy and Van Wagner

Songwriter Stephen Foster’s, “Camptown Races,” published in 1850, is known far beyond Bradford County, PA, the source of its inspiration. Residents of Camptown, PA, were surprised to learn that people in England and France had heard of “do-dah day!”

Foster was inspired to write the song during time spent at Towanda Academy and Athens Academy in Bradford County. A historical Pennsylvania marker in Camptown reads, “Stephen Foster’s well-known song, ‘Camptown Races,’ was probably inspired by horse races run from this village to Wyalusing.”

It’s likely the song will be heard many times before and during the 50th running of the Camptown Race, on Sept. 10.  No longer run by “bob-tailed nags,” the modern 10k race covers roughly six miles on country roads and through deep woods.  Runners describe it as “very tough.”  It is comprised, according to runner Nancy Sharer, of “...narrow paths, mud and grass, woods and clearings, uphill and downhill slopes.”

As the race website warns, runners should expect to encounter “tree roots, loose rocks, and a creek crossing” even as they are encouraged to “earn your place in history by conquering this challenging course.”

Although the weather often can be soggy and cold, regulars are not deterred. Averaging about 80 participants in recent years, the race attracts runners who enjoy the fun of a small town American party. 

During the 2013 race, as runners turned from the wooded trail onto a country road they must have smiled. There, blowing in the breeze, was a homemade sign that captured the spirit of the Camptown Race.  It warned motorists to go “slow, adult children playing.” 

More information is at Scan the UR code with your Smart Phone to hear an early version of “Camptown Races.” – Mary Beth Kennedy Voda.


Suffering in Silence

It’s unlikely you’ve heard of aphasia (UH-FAY-ZHUH) unless you or a family member or friend suffers its effects. This communication disorder, resulting from damage to the speech and language center of the brain, is usually due to stroke or traumatic brain injury. It affects a person’s ability to verbalize, understand words and read—intellect is generally unaffected. Processing numbers and math calculations also may be difficult.

“Without the ability to communicate, life can become frustrating,” notes Tara Michaels, executive director, Central Pennsylvania Aphasia Center. “We strive to give individuals techniques to help them communicate, as well as a support network. We look to reintegrate aphasiacs back into the community and give them the opportunity to connect with others.”

The center supports the individual with aphasia as well as family and caregivers; June is Aphasia Awareness Month.

“We welcome community members to visit us to learn about aphasia and what we do,” said Michaels. “We’re always looking for volunteers who have the time and talent to help.”

Clients benefit from programs such as fall prevention and safety in the home as well as group speech therapy, occupational therapy and music. “We work closely with the Bloomsburg University Speech Language Pathology graduate students to offer programming each week,” said Michaels.

Aphasia clients volunteer on behalf of others, including quarterly visits to the Ronald McDonald House [in Danville] to make dinner for those staying at the house. Other community outreach programs have included making blankets for the Linus project and para cord bracelets for Operation Gratitude.

Michaels is always on the lookout for innovative rehabilitative ideas. Artist Erin Ustis Brown introduced Michaels to a clay pots art program she undertook, on behalf of students from Columbine High School, following the 1999 massacre there. “Art can be such a powerful tool, as communicator and healer,” said Brown. “And that’s something I am compelled to share with all who will listen.”

First, Brown and her aphasia clients made small clay projects to get used to working in clay. “Then we spent time playing and exploring emotions and what line or shapes could be used to express different feelings,” said Brown.

The next step was to help clients tell their own stories. “After brainstorming and sketching, talking and laughing, we began creating our own clay story pots,” said Brown. “The clients have really enjoyed working with the clay, and we have shared many stories. There have been some very moving moments. I look forward to Wednesdays to spend more time with these beautiful people.” 

More information is at


Danville Heritage Event

As an educator, Van Wagner feels compelled to share the history and ecology of this region. He teaches environmental science at Lewisburg High School, and has been selected as Conservation Educator of the Year for several years; in 2012 he was awarded the Sandy Cochran award for natural resource education from the Pennsylvania Forestry Association. In 2015, the Red Cross presented Wagner with the Robert N. Pursel Distinguished Service Award. Outside the classroom, Wagner educates audiences with his music and programs on Pennsylvania History.

It was natural, therefore, for him to create Danville Heritage Festival now in its second year. This year it takes place July 15-17, in and around Danville

“This is a unique celebration of our region’s heritage,” said Wagner. “The event will be centered around the Hess Field complex in Danville, and will feature living history demonstrations, speakers and live music throughout the day July 16.”

Camptown 5k Race


All events are free and open to all ages. Other events include a 5k race, tennis tournament and quoits tournament. Speakers will be hosted at the Thomas Beavery Library. The American Legion Post 40 will sponsor a parade at 7 p.m. July 15 in downtown Danville. The parade will conclude with a giant block party, hosted by Cole’s Hardware in Danville.

The highlight of the weekend, according to Van Wagner, is train excursions July 16, departing from the Danville Middle School. The event concludes July 17 at 6:30 p.m. with a traditional hymn sing in Montgomery Park.

The goal of the event? “Education, education, education,” stresses Wagner. “The Danville area has an amazing history. The community has shown that we want to celebrate this heritage.”   

More information is at

Camptown Races (Doo Dah, Doo Dah)

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