Exotic creatures, classic cars help draw large crowd to park festival in Rostraver

Things got a little wild Sunday at the annual August Fun Fest, as those attending the free event got an up-close look at some wild, exotic creatures including a blue-tongued skink and an albino bullsnake.

Addy Otis, 10, of McMurray, got to gently touch the tail of the snake, as did her brother, Sawyer, 7, and sister, London, 12.

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

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

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

She pointed out to the audience that there are just three venomous snake species that are indigenous to Pennsylvania. She said 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, of Sewickley Township, who helps to care for her sister’s pet turtle and has volunteered for two years with the Youngwood-based Wildlife Works wildlife rehabilitation organization.

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

Mandi’s favorite animal?

“I would have to say it’s kind of a tie between possums and fawns, whenever they’re little,” she said.

There were plenty of other activities at the festival to suit varied interests.

Greg Swaney of Uniontown stopped 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 nice thing to come to,” Swaney said of the display of classic wheels. “I just love to look at the cars and some of the details. I’m jealous.”

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

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

Despite rainfall that came in spurts Sunday afternoon, some fans stuck it out under umbrellas and trees to enjoy the vocal harmonies of Chuck Blasko and The Vogues, a regional group known for such oldies hits as “Turn around Look At Me.” The group performed in the park amphitheater, topping a lineup of live music.

Festival visitors also could play bingo, admire a model train display, learn about a group that flies radio-controlled model planes at the park or, for a $4 admission fee, take the kids to an activity area including inflatable attractions.

By noon, there was a 10-minute wait for motorists lined up to get into the event.

Tracy Charlton of Sutersville comes regularly to the festival with her large family, now including four children ages 1-13.

She said they take in everything the event has to offer, including feasting on chicken and funnel cakes.

“We’ll be here all day, until they are close,” she said.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff by email at jhimler@triblive.com or via Twitter .