There's so much for a sports fan to love about summertime in Central Pennsylvania! With the sun shining for hours after school-night curfews, kids and adults play basketball on Blair County blacktops and baseball under little league lights while basking in the July heat until well after sunset.
With folding chairs and coolers, families gather for all-star ball games and softball tournaments, enjoying the camaraderie of travel teams and little league schedules. Faithful parents work concessions stands and pitch in to help with fundraisers in support of their children's efforts.
Many young athletes head off to summer sports camps, honing their skills while getting a small taste of college life, mentored by NCAA student-athletes and coaches.
This is the season when Pocono Raceway comes alive, hosting two NASCAR races and one Indycar weekend, bringing the world's most popular and fastest drivers to the Keystone state, an easy drive for local race fans.
Summer and sports just naturally go together.
Celebrating the Fourth of July, thousands gathered in the shadow of Penn State's Beaver Stadium during Central PA's Fourth Fest, undoubtedly anticipating the start of football season; thousands more enjoyed the inter-state big league baseball clash between the Pirates and the Phillies.
But summer is also the time for non-competitive sports and outdoor recreation, like fishing, hiking, biking, boating, canoeing and kayaking and state parks are brimming with visitors throughout the first week of July.
The night after the Altoona Curve treated more than 8,000 fans to post-win fireworks at People's Natural Gas Field, the Friends of Shawnee State Park held a show of their own.
It was a unique experience, driving into the dark park shortly after nine o'clock, when the gates are usually closed to the public, long lines of headlights scrambled for elusive parking places and patches of grass to await the planned fireworks.
The warm-up act was provided by Mother Nature herself, as the humid air brewed up a beautiful summer storm. Thunder roared like a firing race car and lightning illuminated the sky as huge raindrops fell on the grateful, overheated crowds. As the storm subsided, fireflies emerged as though on cue, tempting impatient children to chase them.
When the man-made fireworks began, the explosions sparkled off the water on Shawnee Lake, revealing a handful of small fishing boats, their crews taking in the show on a wonderful summer evening. As revelers departed, their headlights turning their attention to exit signs, darkness again cloaked the park, with the exception of the occasional campfire.
Whether your pleasure is a comfy box seat at a baseball stadium, or a soggy log alongside a trout-filled river, our region is in resources for summer sports fun. All we have to do is get out there and enjoy it.
Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.