Lots of speakers at Pomona Grange banquet

PHOTO PROVIDED From left, Centre County Grange Fair Queen Amelia Miller, Centre County Pomona Grange Master Ashley Furman, National Grange Master Betsy Huber, and Centre County Dairy Princess Gabrielle Swavely discuss some of the issues the country is facing at the Centre County Grange Legislative Banquet.

SPRING MILLS — What do you get when you put 25 politicians, 22 guests, three children, 48 grange members, one Dairy Princess, one Fair Queen and one National Grange President all together in one room?

You get the Centre County Pomona Grange #13 Legislative Banquet.

The annual dinner was held recently at the New Hope Lutheran Church in Spring Mills.

The evening started out with a Milk Punch and Cheese Reception hosted by Centre County Dairy Princess Gabrielle Swavely and the Centre County Dairy Promotion Committee. Immediately afterward a wonderful dinner of ham and turkey and all the trimmings was served by members of the church to the waiting attendees.

Centre County Pomona Grange Master/President Ashley Furman welcomed everyone and thanked them for attending. She led the reciting of the “Pledge of Allegiance” and introduced the attending invited guests.

PHOTO PRVOVIDED From left, Centre County Pomona Grange Master Ashley Furman gets assistance from Caleb Davidson and Cooper Poorman while handing out the many door prizes at the banquet.

Furman introduced the Dairy Princess first. Gabrielle Swavely told everyone about some of the achievements she has completed so far in her reign. She was in the top seven finalists at the PA State Dairy Princess Pageant in Camp Hill in September. While there she was named Miss Congeniality and won numerous awards in the competition. She thanked the Grange for inviting her.

Next Furman introduced Amelia Miller, the 2019 Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair Queen. Miller was in the top five finalists at the State Fair Convention in Hershey last January. She will continue to promote the fair until she relinquishes her crown onAugust.

Lastly Furman introduced the main speaker for the night, Mrs. Betsy Huber. Huber was the first female president/master of the Pennsylvania State Grange. She is currently the National Grange president/master and also was the first female elected president for the National Grange.

Centre County Pomona Grange Chaplain Ben Haagen gave the invocation and everyone enjoyed dinner. When finished Furman asked everyone attending to introduce themselves. There was a mix of young and old. Politicians, grange members, guests of all ages and royalty were in attendance.

Huber, the speaker, then told the audience about how the grange is fighting for the rights of communities throughout the nation. She informed everyone about issues like broadband, the growing of hemp, the use of “beagles” at airports, and also how the grange is working hard to stop the flow of prescription drugs coming into the United States from Canada and Mexico. She informed everyone that while they are coming from Canada, they don’t originate in Canada, but from Africa and China. She spoke about the good and bad positions in growing hemp. She informed everyone about how broadband is often misrepresented as being available when in actuality it isn’t. She informed the audience that the USDA along with the TSA is working with actual beagles to stop the import of illegal pork and pork products from other counties to the United States. After a chuckle from everyone, she explained that it is a more common problem than you would think and beagles have just the right nose for it.

When Huber was finished she was presented with a Penn State gift package from the grange for her willingness to come and participate.


Candidates and politicians were then allowed to speak but were given no more than a two-minute time frame. Virtually all those who spoke were candidates including the three Centre County commissioners: Steve Dershem, Mark Higgins and Michael Pipe, who are all up for election this year. Each of the current commissioners talked about what they have accomplished and what they see needs to occur in the future. The other candidates running for Centre County commissioner in attendance were Chris Exarchos and Vicki Wedler both former county commissioners. Candidate Tanner Day was scheduled to appear but was “under the weather” and chose to stay home.

Candidates running in the special election for the 12th District replacing retiring Senator Marino, Democrat Mark Friedenberg and Republican Fred Keller, were both in attendance and spoke about how they would like to change several things in the agricultural industry for starters.

Recorder of Deeds candidate Republican Georgi Bennett and Democratic candidate Joe Davidson were in attendance but due to a medical emergency Bennett needed to leave early so Davidson was the only one to speak about his current position. Seeking the position of controller which is becoming vacant by the retirement of outgoing controller Chuck Witmer, were Republican Henry Fifield and Democrat Jason Moser. Fifield is currently the assistant controller and Moser serves as the Democratic jury commissioner. Since current Centre County Treasurer Rich Fornicola is also retiring, candidates for his position are Colleen Kennedy, who is an accountant in State College and Blaine Thomas, a Bellefonte businessman. Prothonotary Debra Immel, who is retiring after 40 years of service, was in attendance and her assistant prothonotary Jeremy Breon (a candidate for the job) was in attendance and spoke of his reasons wanting to take over the position.

Coroner Scott Sayers was on duty for the evening and unable to attend. Jeremie Thompson, a candidate for Ferguson Township supervisor informed everyone why he was seeking the job. Also in attendance were uncontested candidates Bryan Sampsel, currently serving as Centre County sheriff, and Christine Millinder, the current register of wills and clerk of orphans court, who is also running uncontested. Other officials in attendance were Bob Yearick, the mayor of Howard; Glenn “GT” Thompson, US congressman from the 59th District; Kerry Benninghoff, state representative from the 171st District, and Rich Irvin, state representative for the 81st District.

Ending out the evening was the awarding of door prizes donated by guests, candidates and granges. With over 100 people attending, Legislative Committee Chair Patty Bird and her committee of Ashley Furman, Ruth Luse and Kenna Kurtz deemed the banquet a huge success and thanked all those who attended.