Treats and maybe a few tricks this weekend at Hickory Hollow

October is officially here, which means campers at Hickory Hollow Campground won’t think twice when little ghosts, goblins, vampires and witches start to appear at their RV steps this Saturday.   After all, they are used to hearing the screams from across the street at Huston’s Haunted Hallow this time of year as the ghosts prepare for Halloween in Milford Township.  But this weekend may be a bit less theatrical when the little campers, instead of the ghosts, show up screaming “Trick or Treat” to their fellow campers with pumpkin baskets held out to collect their candy and treats that have become a popular tradition over the years.

If our campers are like 41% of Americans, they will be including some spooky decorations to put up around their RV sites this weekend.  Popular picks usually include pumpkins, skeletons, corn stalks, orange and purple lights, hot-air balloons and a spider or two.   A viral sensation last year was the 12ft skeleton from Home Depot, so be on the lookout for one of those floating around. Hickory Hollow will be having their annual decorating contest on Saturday, at 9 pm, we can’t wait to see how our campers decorate this year because we know you love Halloween as much as we do.  Children love the decorations, but they love our annual Trick-or-Treating event even more.  Kids of all ages are invited to Trick-or-Treat throughout the campground, Saturday, October 9th during daylight hours from 11 am – 1 pm.   Even though there may be a few tricks at Hickory Hollow Campground this weekend, treats will be the real draw!

The tradition of going door-to-door asking for food dates back to the Middle Ages when the less fortunate would go “souling” on November 1. In exchange for food, they would agree to say a prayer for the deceased the next day on All Souls Day, November 2.   Later in Scotland, the tradition of “Guising” became popular during this time of year.  The spirits were thought to be moving around more during Halloween as their prepared to cross over to the other side.  The people started to wear masks and costumes to disguise themselves at Halloween to prevent evil spirits from harming them.  In England and Ireland, the custom was called “Mumming.”  Shenanigans started to accompany the costumes and mischief makers would sing a rhyme, do a card trick or tell a story in exchange for a treat.  If that treat wasn’t presented, a “trick” could be played. For 19th century children, tricks included sticking hot cabbage into keyholes to stink up a house or jumping out to scare people. 

When European immigrants arrived in America, they brought along their Halloween mischief and requests for treats and throughout the ages, the tradition of “Trick or Treating” has continued to gain steam.  Today, major candy companies endorse the holiday, Halloween decorating is becoming even more popular than Christmas decorating, and adults and kids alike love dressing up and asking for treats. 

A good Halloween scare should come from Huston’s Haunted Hollow, not accidents or injuries within the campground, so we want to make sure everyone used safety measures this weekend when the little goblins are out “Trick or Treating.”  Drivers should be especially alert to pedestrians of all ages while coming and going from the campground.  Please follow the slow speed limits posted upon entering, and use extra caution as the kids may be scurrying in and out of campsites more interested in getting their next treat instead of safety.  Make sure the kids are visible when trick-or-treating.  Make sure costumes do not impede your child’s ability to walk or see, and always test makeup for skin irritation, and make sure wigs and accessories won’t cause a hazard like choking.   Parents, it’s okay to ration the candy bounty so no one overindulges and feels ill later on.  After all, we do want the kids enjoying the rest of the weekend’s events too. 

“When black cats prowl, and pumpkins gleam, may luck be yours on Halloween.”


October Offers “Some More” Fun at Hickory Hollow

Oh, the clichés of fall! Camping, feeling the chill in the early morning, enjoying the rustling of the fallen leaves as you walk through the woods, and sitting around the campfire eating s’mores while enjoying the beauty of Hickory Hollow Campground.  These are some of the best days of the camp season!   Campers are enjoying every last minute as the camping weeks start to dwindle away and the thoughts of winterizing the camper become real.  Please nature give us “some more” good weekends to enjoy all the beauty that Somerset County has to offer.  When we talk about “some more” something else comes to mind, the contracted term “S’more.”

We are all familiar with the traditional S’more made over the open campfire that combines the sweet, stickiness of marshmallow with the creaminess of chocolate and the crunchy grain of graham crackers together for a favorite campfire treat.   This messy, gooey treat has been a camping favorite since the 1920’s when a similar recipe called “Graham Cracker Sandwich” appeared in a cookbook.  Boy Scouts were eating the tasty treat back in 1927, and knowing boys, they were probably saying “some more” please.  But the credit goes to the Girl Scouts when they published the “Some More” recipe in “Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts” in 1938 when the shortened-contracted term “S’mores” name became popular at summer camps.

S’mores graduated from a campfire favorite to an official word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 1974.  But the three special ingredients, found in the traditional s’mores, have come together before in favorites like Mallomars in 1913, and MoonPies in 1917, proof that we humans love the taste of mixing marshmallow, chocolate, and graham crackers together.  Eating s’mores over the last hundred years has been great, but let’s go in a different direction this week.  Why not try your hand a making a seasonal version of the famous “Graham Cracker Sandwich” this month as we enter into a season of change? 

Local apples are abundant this time of year, so why not try making Caramel Apple S’mores – thinly slice a Granny Smith apple and remove the core.  Place a toasted marshmallow inside of the two apple slices. Drizzle with caramel syrup or you can add some melted caramel. Add a caramel candy to the end of the marshmallow stick when toasting and transfer it over to the apple with the marshmallow.  Or replace the caramel with peanut butter.  Tastes so good! 

Gingersnap S’mores is another version of the old camp favorite- make your own gingersnaps or purchase them and add a toasted marshmallow and melted chocolate bar for a tasty fall treat.

If you can’t seem to get enough pumpkin spice – try making this seasonal version of the s’more.  Pumpkin Spice S’mores– Add a toasted marshmallow between graham cracker squares, top off with white chocolate and pumpkin butter. 

S’mores aren’t just for kids anymore, so enhance the flavor and make a fun adult version of Maple Bacon S’mores by whipping up a batch of candied bacon.  Place bacon on a rack, combine brown sugar and cinnamon and rub onto the bacon to lightly coat.  Bake for 35 minutes, let cool, and then cut up, layer between a toasted marshmallow and  graham cracker and enjoy. 

If you are brave enough to try the Maple Bacon S’more, add a Pumpkin Spice Wine Spritzer that will really impress your guests as well.  Add ice to a low ball glass, pour 1 oz pumpkin spice liquor and 4 oz. white wine, top off with seltzer and garnish with a cinnamon stick. 

Another fall cocktail you may enjoy is the Apple-Pie Cinnamon Cocktail.  Run a bit of honey on the rim of two glasses, then dip the rims into a mixture of 2 tablespoons of sugar and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon.  Fill glasses with ice. Combine 2 oz. vanilla vodka, 2 oz. Fireball whiskey, and 8 oz. of apple cider and shake well for a tasty fall adult drink. 

If you are looking for a more cozy latte recipe to try, replicate Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Pour 2 oz. of milk, 2 oz of sweetened condensed milk, 2 tablespoons of pumpkin puree, and 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice into a saucepan and heat on medium heat until the milk warms up.  Use a whisk or drink mixer to froth the milk. Pour into a cup, add a shot of espresso and your toppings of choice – whipped cream, pumpkin spice, vanilla extract/ syrup or caramel sauce. 

I encourage you to try some of the special fall treats I suggested while camping over the next few weekends, but don’t forget about the added treat that is also available at Hickory Hollow Campground this time of year. The eerie night sounds of screams and laughter coming from across the road at Huston’s Haunted Hollow. The popular haunt attraction is celebrating 25 years of shrills and thrills every weekend in October – Friday and Saturday nights from 6:30-10:30.   Campers love sitting outside and hearing the guests scream, but if the screams are captivating your attention and you are wondering what is going on over there, then purchase your tickets on line at hauntedhollow.net, and you too can join in on the haunting good time as you embark on the adventure of escaping the Haunted Hollow, Willie, and all the other spooks that are looking forward to scaring the pumpkin spice right out of you.  If you have ever seen The Doctor or Willie, you have reason to be scared.  If you don’t like clowns, you may also have a reason to be scared.  If you don’t like walking around in the dark smelling the foul odors found in the swamp and hearing the wolves howl, you may have yet another reason to be scared.  But if adventure is just not your thing, campers can still experience the haunted hollow by signing up for a behind the scenes tour at the campground. The experience will take you to where the screams start…. but be prepared, you never know who may show up in broad day light to prove that the black of night is not the only scary thing around the Hollow this time of year!!  “Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen, voices whisper in the trees, soon it will be Halloween.” Happy Camping my friends!


Fall- The Best Of All

If you think the end of summer means the end of your camping adventures for the year, think again.  September 22, officially kicks off the Fall season and probably the absolute best season to enjoy the great outdoors and camping in Somerset County.  Fall is a fantastic time to enjoy your favorite home away from home at Hickory Hollow Campground. Campgrounds tend to be less crowded in the Fall when the kids go back to school and the pools close; and camping during off-peak season may save you a few bucks or you may be able to reserve that premium site that wasn’t available all summer.  So, don’t get the RV cover or the anti-freeze out yet because some of the best camping for the year is still waiting to be had!

One of the best reasons to go camping in the Fall at Hickory Hollow Campground, located in picturesque Somerset County, of course, is the beautiful natural scenery that can be enjoyed from the lakes to the mountaintops.  The colors come out in full splendor and the cooler temperatures and shorter days make it the perfect season to enjoy lots of cozy time around the campfire.   Most campers will agree, there is almost nothing more enjoyable than relaxing outside of the campsite after dark surrounded by family and friends enjoying a warm fire, great conversation and stargazing.  Summer camping always includes some pesky unwanted guests like mosquitoes, but camping closer to that first frost significantly reduces the bug population, so you can concentrate on the stars instead of itching. 

If you are looking to experience Fall at its best and leaf peeping is your thing, you certainly won’t be disappointed when you reserve your campsite at Hickory Hollow Campground now through the end of October.  Fall is just….well, beautiful in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  Home to some of the prettiest mountaintop views and lakes that offer beautiful reflections of the colors, Mother Nature has some real beauty in store for our campers in the next few weeks. 

If you love the beauty of Fall, but are looking for a little more adventure than just leaf peeping, Somerset County won’t disappoint I assure you.  There is a wide array of activities to take advantage of, including festivals and Halloween celebrations, pumpkin patches and corn mazes, craft fairs and haunted houses, and so much more for the family to enjoy.

Fall is all about pumpkins and apples, and color oh my…..so why not check out a few of the fun events taking place just a few miles from Hickory Hollow Campground in the next few week: 

  • September 25th – AppleFest,  11 am at the Kingwood Church of God Fellowship Center located just a few miles South of the campground on RT 281.  The ladies are prepared to serve some delicious apple fritters, apple dumplings and pies along with homemade ham and bean soup, haluski, and burgers.  Hop on the horse and wagon ride or kids can enjoy a ride on the barrel train.  There will also be a bouncy house, petting zoo, face painting and live auction starting at 3 pm. 
  • October 1-3 — Confluence Pumpkinfest, located about 20 miles S. on Rt 281.  The celebration includes craft and food vendors, pumpkin pie contest, the Great Pumpkin 5K walk/run, square dancing tractors, car show, pumpkin balloon bounce, a parade on Sunday afternoon, tough-man fire truck pull, live music, antique tractor show and so much more. 
  • October 2-3/9-10 Bedford Fall Foliage Days. Centered in historic downtown Bedford, the popular festival brings together 400 of the best local artists, crafters, concessions, and music vendors in the crisp mountain setting. 
  • October 9-10/16-17 Seven Springs Fall Craft Days.  The family fun at Fall Craft Days goes from 11-6 pm on Saturdays and Sundays and offers scenic chair rides, outdoor adventures including the Alpine Slide, 100+ crafters and artisans, and live performances. 
  • October 8-10 Fort Ligonier Days – Named one of the top 100 events in American, Fort Ligonier Days commemorates the Battle of Fort Ligonier during the French and Indian War of 1758.  The weekend will be host to a parade, craft show, concessions, fort tours and live demonstrations.
  •  Meadow Creek Farm Market, located on Laurel Run Road, is open daily from 11-6 pm. Savor the flavors of the season like pumpkins, gourds, fall décor, and veggies fresh from the farm. 
  • Cairns Pumpkin Patch/ Chads Corn Maze, Rt 711 S. Ligonier PA.  Walk around the 3.5 acre cornfield and try to find your way through the 1.5 miles of walking paths before you go and pick out that special pumpkin from the patch.
  • Friday and Saturday evenings September 24-October 31st – Haunted Hollow.  Celebrating their 25th year, Haunted Hollow is located just across the street from the campground and is home to the Bruner Boarding House, the Milford Asylum and Willie just waiting to scare the crap….I mean,  take you through the haunted hollow and this year’s best dream or nightmares! Get you tickets at  https://hauntedhollow.net/tickets/

I hope you are excited as I am, to smell autumn dancing in the breeze and the sweet chill of pumpkins and sunburnt leaves.  The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for this grand finale we call, Fall !


Festivals Galore

Labor Day has come and gone, and with it the closing of the pool at Hickory Hollow Campground and many other places.  But no need to fret that summer is over yet, at least, because there are still plenty of great activities to take advantage of here in the Laurel Highlands.  The weekend after Labor Day in Somerset County is very popular with the locals and tourism crowds. This weekend is filled with some popular festival favorites that take you back in time – start with Mountain Craft Days going back to the 1700s pioneer era, make a stop and learn about the early 1900s farming era at the New Centerville Jubilee, and then top it off with a remembrance of 911 and that world changing event that happened 20 years ago.  After the pandemic caused the festivals to go on hiatus for a year, everyone is happy that the traditions will be continuing this summer. 

Located just a mile down the road from Hickory Hollow Campground is the ever-popular New Centerville Farmers and Threshermen’s Jubilee celebrating their 69th year on September 8th-12th at the festival crowds.  In rural America, the Threshermen were once the main focus around this time of year as the farmers worked tirelessly to bring the harvest in.  The labor-intensive work was done using steam power and by hand to fill the barns before winter.  These old traditions have been replaced with new modern farm equipment, but the Jubilee celebrates their legacy every year drawing crowds from all over the US.  New Centerville is one of just a few festivals in America that shows old-time steam engines, in motion, so if you have never experienced them before, come on out to the festival and see and hear these magnificent machines in action.  

People are always looking for something new, but at the Jubilee the focus remains on keeping the traditions that our farming forefathers used authentic year after year. There will be lots of antique equipment demonstrations, along with a quilt show, cement block making demonstrations, garden tractor pulls, horse pulls, truck pulls, photo contest, and a cider mill pressing apples for cider purchase.  You will be hungry after all that so venture over to the concession stand for some crowd favorites like delicious apple dumplings, homemade bean soup, barbeque chicken, and ice cream.   The Jubilee committee has been working hard to prepare for this weekends events and like they say, “There is nothing like the Jubilee.  It is a history lesson, but much more than that – after 69 years, it has become our history.”

Mountain Craft Days located at the Somerset Historical Center is another crowd favorite when it comes to end of summer festivals.  Started in 1970, Mountain Craft Days replicates a time dating back to the 1770s when European and American settlers came to the region and enjoyed a much simpler lifestyle. Take a walk back through time this weekend September 10-12 at Mountain Craft Days and learn the ways of the pioneers.  Artisans, craftspeople, and interpreters bring the traditional crafts, country food, music and children’s activities to life as you walk through the cool woodland setting.  Authentic log cabins are featured along with over 125 craft booths with demonstrators plying their trades using wood, iron, fabric, copper, glass, paper and other materials.  Learn the ways of the pioneers as you experience the not so easy tasks the Pioneers had to endure just to have the basics needed for everyday chores.   You can experience blacksmiths hammering hot iron, demonstrations of copper, flax spinning, butter churning, gingerbread making and so much more.  You will leave with a greater appreciation of the not so necessary items we have access to today, thanks to Amazon Prime.  Make a stop at the ham pot pie booth or pick up a few apple dumplings for the road.  Corn on the cob will be cooked over an open fire pit, funnel cakes, fried mush, haluski, kielbasa, chicken and waffles and a variety of other delicious Somerset County foods will be available to purchase so you won’t need to worry about getting back to the campground later and cooking. 

As the 20th year after 911 is remembered this week, another great spot to visit would be the 911 Memorial located outside of Shanksville, PA on RT 30 South toward Bedford.  The official service which will take place on Saturday is by invitation only, however, you can check out the service live on the 911 Memorial Facebook page.  If you get a chance to visit the 911 Memorial, stop across the highway and check out the newest exhibit that pays tribute to those who served in the Global War on Terrorism called Patriot Park.  Patriot Park is not part of the 911-Memorial but recently opened and includes a Field of Honor containing more than 7,000 American Flags to honor the life of every service member who died in the global war on terrorism. 

With everything going on in the world, a heart touching display entitled “Reflections of the Human Spirit; America’s County Responds to the Tragic Events of September 11th” will be on display at Laurel Arts, the local arts center located at 214 Harrison Avenue in Somerset.  This exhibit includes photography, art, documentaries, media archives and other artifacts related to the community’s response to September 11.  The exhibit is open from 11 am to 6 pm Monday – Thursday and 12 – 4pm on Saturdays now through September 30. 

While you are sitting around the campfire this weekend at Hickory Hollow Campground go ahead and reminisce a little about this precious gift we are given called life.  Every life has a purpose. Every generation brings something of value to the world.  George Orwell was said, “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” Hope you make some historic memories while camping this weekend!


Slack off this weekend – it’s for your health!

Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer and the end of Hot Dog season but thankfully, not the end of camping season.   Hickory Hollow Campground continues to remain open for camping at our park for RVs, tents, and cabin rentals until the close of the season on October 31st.   Campers will join us this weekend in the rolling hills of Rockwood, PA and celebrate this hard-won example of how far we’ve come since the early days of the Industrial Revolution. 

There is much more to Labor Day than just a three-day weekend, which is perfect for camping I know, but let’s focus on some interesting facts surrounding this labor movement that dates back to about 1882.  Labor Day is a time to remember the work of those who fought hard for workers’ rights, and the essential role workers play in America’s growth and development.  No one is really sure who come up with the idea behind the first Labor Day in the United States but historians actually believe the credit goes to a machinist named Matthew Maguire, secretary of the Central Labor Union around 1880.  Others believe that a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, Peter McGuire, first proposed a day to celebrate workers around that same time period. 

Labor Day is celebrated because the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries brought a vast array of jobs and commerce to the United States.  What it didn’t bring was appropriate pay, safety regulations, or guidelines for the number of hours people should work each day and week.  During the Revolution, the average American worked 12-hour days, seven days a week.  People were starting to take note that children were doing hard labor in harsh working conditions for little pay and that the American people deserved fair pay, fair hours, and safe working conditions.

  • New York City hosted the first Labor Day parade on September 5, 1882 to show support for all union workers.  10,000 union workers took unpaid time off to march in the parade down 42nd Street. 
  • The tradition of “no white after Labor Day” came from jealous women, if you can imagine that.  As more new-money millionaires entered society after the end of the Civil War, the wealthy wives of the old-money crowd invented their own fashion rules that only the in-crowd would know, one being no white dresses after Labor Day. When someone showed up to an autumn party in a white dress, they outed them as a nouveau riche newbie, someone who acquired their money in this generation and did not have it passed down.  Fashion experts agree there really is no need to follow this rule today, thank goodness.  Maybe women can also stop asking “Do these white pants make my butt look big?” or maybe not. 
  • Pennsylvania’s work hard, but Oregon, followed by Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York recognized the legal holiday in 1887.
  • President Grover Cleveland declared a national holiday in 1894, but only to stop the boycotts, riots, and sabotage that was taking over the country with an estimated $80 million in damages after the railway tried to reduce wages on about 4,000 factory employees. 
  • Going to an amusement park is literally the law on Labor Day in Virginia who passed the Kings Dominion Law that prohibits schools from starting before Labor Day.  Maybe the 325 free tickets that lawmakers were given between 2001 and 2013 may have helped keep the law on the books, you might want to ask the Amusement Park Lobbyist.  
  • Labor Day usually means those 7 billion hot dogs consumed from Memorial Day to Labor Day are replaced with Pumpkin Spice – in many forms.  Starbucks fueled this $500 million craze that started with $100 million in pumpkin latte sales in 2015. 
  • A three-day camping weekend may make you live longer.  An analysis was done of 600,000 Americans, European and Australian workers and the results found that people who work more than 55 hours per week had a 33% increased risk of stroke than people who worked less than 40 hours a week. 
  • Don’t let the rest and relaxation of Labor Day dull your nerves.  Statistics show that Labor Day is the third deadliest U.S. holiday for auto accidents. 
  • More than 160 million people make up the current United States labor force according to government statistics.  Unfortunately, there are about 9.3 million open positions that still need filled today in the US according to Trade Economics as of June 2021.   Maybe we can create another three-day camping weekend to celebrate the day those positions are filled. 

This Labor Day weekend, I hope you get a chance to camp at Hickory Hollow Campground, stay safe and remember these famous words;  “Nothing will work unless you do” and  “A man is not paid for having a head and hands, but for using them.”    Enjoy the last hurrah of summer!  


Forecast for this weekend – “Wet and Wild”

With the weather heating up, it’s the perfect time to get outside and play!  What better way to play than splashing around and spending time frolicking in the water on a hot summer day.  Hickory Hollow Campground will be hosting their annual “Wet and Wild Water Fun” event this weekend and we invite you to join in on the fun Saturday afternoon. 

Water play is a great way to cool off during summer’s hottest days, but you may be surprised to learn that it also has many amazing benefits for both children and adults.  It doesn’t matter if you are 2 or 72, water play can engage a person’s sense of fun and delight, and offers a range of benefits for physical and social development.

  1. Water Play develops hand-eye coordination.  If you follow Hickory Hollow Campground and planned ahead for this fun weekend, you will have a good opportunity to improve your sense of accuracy and control.  Just grab that Nerf Super Soaker, Stream Machine Water Cannon, Shark Water Blaster or any other bucket or container add some water, find your target, point, aim, and shoot.  
  2. Water Play improves your speed.  No matter your age, you may find yourself speeding up as you pass by campsite 58 to avoid Big Dan blasting you with a stream of water from his hose. 
  3. Water Play introduces math and scientific concepts. Kevin and Anna Mack, our craft helpers and seasonal campers, will be happy to give the kids a crash course on just how far and how fast water can flow, both up and down hill, from a hose.
  4. Water Play improves your problem-solving skills.  Jump on owner Doug’s hayride and see what resolution you can come up with to avoid getting wet as he drives through the campground and the eagerly awaiting campers armed with water hoses and buckets of cold water. 
  5. Water Play helps you appreciate music.  It may not sound like DJ Poosa’s music, but the melody will be even sweeter when you hear the kids laughing and screaming as they run around the water playground enjoying themselves.       
  6. Water Play improves your climbing skills.  When the foam machine starts up, everyone will be climbing the mountains of white foam within minutes and won’t be able to stop laughing as the mountains get bigger and bigger.   Even Dan Green won’t know how to stop the flow.
  7. Water Play improves balance and strength.  When Activity Director Abby breaks out the water balloons, get ready for some fun improving those motor skills like bobbing, bending, and throwing.
  8. Water Play offers exploration and learning opportunities.  Kids are invited to make a Jelly Fish Puppet and learn all about this sea creature during the afternoon children’s craft.  
  9. Water Play enhances communication and social skills.  Social Media has nothing on a group of campers teaming up together and joining forces to soak some of their favorite campers. 
  10. Water Play releases energy.  Water play can be an excellent outlet for pent up energy whether you are a kid or adult.  We give you permission to join in on the fun and let off some steam this weekend no matter what your age.    

So this weekend’s forecast at Hickory Hollow Campground looks like a wet and wild one, prepare to get wet and proceed with caution, squirt guns may be loaded!


Some Like It Hot!

Beans or No Beans will be the question this weekend when Hickory Hollow Campground hosts their 14th annual Chili Cook-Off contest on Saturday, August 21.  When your packing your groceries for the weekend camping trip, make sure to include some tomato sauce and chili powder so you can whip up your version of the best tasting chili and enter our Chili Cook-off.  The festivities take place under the pavilion at 5 pm with the campers judging their favorite chili and the winner being crowned this year’s “souper” cook. 

2020 Winners: 1st Andrea Riek, 2nd Abby Mack, 3rd Christa Wessel!

Chili cookoff contests have been popular since the first one was held at the Texas State Fair in 1952.  The original contest had 55 contestants with Mrs. F.G. Ventura of Dallas being crowned the winner with her amazingly simple chili recipe.  The cook-off was a brainstorm idea of author Joe E. Cooper who wanted to find a unique way to promote his new cookbook “Beans or No Beans.” Little did Joe know that his book would become the authority on chili history and lore, the book all other chili authors would refer to for the next 50+ years. 

Today, Chili is pretty much a stable in every household whether you are looking for a quick crockpot meal to prepare ahead of time or hosting a football party on the weekend for a crowd.  Chili recipes have developed over the last century and the variations are endless.  There is traditional Texas style chili, white chicken chili, three chilies chili, pumpkin chili, seafood chili, meatless chili, beans or no beans chili, and thousands of additional variations to try.  You will never run out of ideas to make an interesting new dish called chili.  But let’s take a look at how to make the perfect pot of traditional chili based on famous chili judges’ recommendations.     

First of all, pepper is very important.  Flecks of black pepper are frowned on, so serious cooks substitute white pepper for the “up front” bite.  “Up front” bite is the tingle from the pepper that you taste immediately; the “back bite” is the tingle that comes later, usually from cayenne.  Tomato sauce is the preferred base because you taste no offensive seeds or skin.  Canned beef or chicken stock is preferred in place of water for thinning the mixture to avoid the chlorine taste associated with tap water. 

Over the years, chili cooks have developed and improved the cooking techniques, with one of the most favored today being the “dump” method.  Spices are divided into several portions or “dumps” and then added to the pot at varying time intervals.   This process ensures flavorings like garlic don’t lose their potency by overcooking. Look for a chili powder that includes ingredients like: cumin, oregano, and garlic for the best bowl of red chili.  Cumin is the spice that gives chili its distinctive aroma, and red pepper or cayenne is what puts the back bite in the chili.  This is what grabs you a few seconds after taking that first bite.   

If you plan to enter the Hickory Hollow Chili Cookoff this weekend, here is a copy of Mrs. F. G. Ventura’s 1952 recipe to help you get started.  What spicy new flavor or spin will you be using when you whip up your next batch of chili? Will it have all the flavors of the first chili, or will you opt to try something new like owner Doug’s Shrimp Chili from last years contest….maybe NOT!

While you are tasting the variations of chili this weekend at the campground here is some fun trivia to share as well. 

  • U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson loved chili. Lady Bird Johnson had so many requests for her recipe that she had it printed on cards and mailed out.
  • William Gerard Tobin, former Texas Ranger, and advocate of Texas-type Mexican food negotiated with the US government to sell canned chili to the army and navy.
  • In 1977 chili was proclaimed the state food of Texas
  • In 1895 chili was sold from the back of a wagon for 5 cents a bowl and crackers were included for free. 
  • In 1921 the chili of Lyman T. Davis was canned and sold as “Wolf Brand Chili.” In 1924 oil was discovered on Mr. Davis property and he sold the chili business. The new owners used Model T Ford trucks with cabs shaped like chili cans and painted to resemble the Wolf Brand label.  A live wolf was caged in the back of each truck.  Today the company is owned by Stokley-Van Camp in Dallas, Texas. 
  • Texas prisons and the inmates used to rate jails on the quality of their chili, the one thing they missed most when leaving. 
  • Christopher Columbus discovered chili peppers when he discovered the Americas in 1493.
  • There are 140 varieties of chili peppers grown in Mexico alone. 
  • A teaspoon of red chili powder meets the recommended daily allowance for Vitamin A, needed for vision and bone growth and Vitamin C.
  • Chili peppers originated in Mexico, but today China is the world’s biggest producer of green chili peppers. 
  • Chili peppers have been part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC.
  • Chili peppers help you burn more calories by raising the body’s core temperature during digestion and send a trigger to the nervous system to produce more healthy fat.
  • The Japanese used to put chili peppers in their socks to keep their toes warm instead of eating them.

So when you’re making your chili this weekend, remember that just like that spicy chili, Hickory Hollow Campground offers the perfect blend of flavors and heat for your summer getaway, a taste you can’t forget.   


Calling All Parrotheads!

“Everybody’s Talkin” about the benefits of outdoor camping and how much fun it is.  Whether you are the “Oldest Surfer on The Beach” or “Little Miss Magic,” camping is fun for all ages.   The seasonal campers at Hickory Hollow Campground say, “I have Found Me A Home,” at least from April til October at very affordable rates.  Maybe you are lucky enough to have reserved a beautiful campsite or rustic cabin at Hickory Hollow Campground, and if so, you probably have the RV packed and ready for a “Lovely Cruise” to Rockwood PA this weekend. “In the Shelter” of the beautiful Laurel Highlands hills and rolling meadows is the place to be when the “Natives are Restless” and you need to get away from the “Honey Do” list.

Go ahead and tell your boss you will be “Incommunicado” as you enjoy some much-needed time away from the office.  “Respect” is hard to find in the workplace because we all deal with a few too many “Fruitcakes” but you can be the “King of Somewhere Hot” when you load up the family and head to sunny Somerset County and the home of Hickory Hollow Campground.    I’m sure the family will be making a few “Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes,” as they prepare for a fun filled week and a much needed break from this “Carnival World”.   

Only “Time Will Tell” what lies ahead once you get to Hickory Hollow but we encourage you to check out the list of fun activities posted in the camp office as you start “Changing Channels” from work to play mode.  Abbie, our Activity Director will be “Knee Deep” in children’s activities so you can count your “Lucky Stars” that the kids will be in good hands and enjoying themselves. At “First Look” it may appear that “Everybody’s on the Phone” but by the end of the week “Everybody’s Talkin” about the great time they had. 

The owners of Hickory Hollow are proud to say “It’s my job” to keep the campsites easily accessible, the bathrooms clean, the pool clear and the traffic moving slowly through the grounds to ensure all our campers stay safe and enjoy their stay.   The rest of the crew will be picking up the “Slack Tide” and will never tell you “I don’t know, and I don’t care” so go ahead and ask them questions about all the cool stuff to do at the campground or around the local area.

Hickory Hollow doesn’t have a “Beach House on the Moon” but it has fresh air to help you “Breathe In, Breathe Out and Move on.”  A place where “Barefoot Children” can be seen running around enjoying dandelions “Blowin In the Wind” and little boys playing “Cowboy in The Jungle” as they run through the fields with their squirt guns.  A place where mom can get back to being “A Hula Girl at Heart” and dad can enjoy “Growing Up But Not Older.”

“Livin It Up” is easy at Hickory Hollow, so if you can’tgo to “Mexico” or “Meet Me in Memphis” than join us for some simply pleasures and try camping.  Camping is “Nothin But A Breeze” where kids won’t be “Spending Money” on a “Sunny Afternoon” because there are too many fun things to do at Hickory Hollow’s “Summerzcool”. 

Hickory Hollow Campground is sending out the “Coconut Telegraph” to invite you to our annual Jimmy Buffet Beach Party on Saturday, August 14.  We may not have the beaches of “Floridays”, but we do have “A lot to drink about” and a few “Parrotheads” who are looking forward to a “Party at The End of The World” this weekend.  Campers will ask “Where’s the Party” and are invited to join us across the road at Haunted Hollow Saturday, August 14 from 5 – 9 pm.  The concession stand will be serving up “Cheeseburgers in paradise” along with a few other tasty treats.  Local talent, Randy Meyers says “I Just Need My guitar” to entertain the folks on Saturday with my fun “Margaritaville” tunes and songs about this “Big Old Goofy World.”   A few people in the audience may be “Too drunk to Karaoke” but who cares, it’s a beach party and you “Have a license to chill.”  Whip up some refreshing “Boat Drinks” or “A Bottle of Rhum” and come enjoy the “Everlasting Moon” that seems to shine over Hickory Hollow at night as we get our “Island Fever” vibe going.


“Don’t You Know” when it closing time and the “Tiki Bar” closes down, remember “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere” and they are still having one “Last Mango in Paris” and partying “Somewhere over China.” Hopefully our campers aren’t still pondering “If the Hokey Pokey is all It Really is about” and are ready to stop “Quietly making noise” when the clock strikes 11:00 pm, after all we are a family campground.

 “When the Coast is Clear” and the kids have gone to beddaddy may offer mommy another drink or two from the “Tin Cup Chalice” and start chanting let’s “Bring Back the Magic” or “My Lovely Lady?”

“Come Monday” after you had a chance to take in the beauty of the campground and enjoy all the cool activities that were available, meet some nice folks like “Frank and Lola” the family will “Wonder why we ever go home” because camping is so much fun at Hickory Hollow, oh the “Stories we could tell.”  


Anywhere is within walking distance

Summertime is a great time of year and in Somerset County the climate is perfect for outdoor activities.  Campers are certainly enjoying the cooler evenings with night temperatures averaging between 50 and 60 degrees these last few weeks. It’s the perfect sleeping weather and not having to use the air conditioning is an added bonus.  Cool nights are perfect for campfires, and cooler days are perfect for outdoor activities like walking, riding around the campground in the golf cart or hiking. 

Hickory Hollow Campground has a fun activity on the schedule for this weekend that involves some easy “hiking/riding.” Join us for the annual “Golf Cart/Walking Poker Run” scheduled for Saturday, August 7 from 5- 8 pm.  Come to camp prepared with props and cool ideas to decorate your golf cart; this year’s theme is “Under the Sea.”  Campers will be judged on their unique creativity and are invited to parade with us through the campground from 5-6 pm showing off their water themed golf carts.  Then from 6-8 pm the “Poker Run” kicks off, and walkers and riders are encouraged to participate and gather playing cards from different locations throughout the grounds.   The winner is determined by the participant’s showing up at the end destination with cards in hand and the best “poker hand” winning. 

Some people call a nice quiet, hiking experience when the sun is beaming above your head on a beautiful summer day a win too!  But whether you are casually walking like you will be doing for the “Poker Run” on Saturday, or hitting one of the trails around the campground or local area, preparation is key for a safe and comfortable adventure.  Take a look at these essential tips you should be aware of before you head out for that summer hike/stroll/ bike ride or other outdoor activity.   

  1. Check the weather forecast.  Somerset County has some pretty unpredictable pop-up storms so stay in tune with the local weather apps before venturing out too far.  The weather will also help you make good choices for clothing, shoes, and other gear to take along.
  2. It is recommended to avoid long hikes during the hottest time of the day, usually around noon-3pm.  If you are planning to hike any distance, get an early start and plan to end by early afternoon when the sun and humidity is highest. 
  3.  Plan your hike in a way where you find yourself in the shade during the hottest hours.  Get a lay of the land and hike near trees, water, and in shady areas.  Dip your clothing or hat in some cool water and drape around your neck to help maintain your body freshness as water evaporates when you sweat. 
  4. Hydration is key! The amount of water you need depends on factors like temperature and humidity, your intensity level, body type, age, sweat rate and the duration of your hike.  Make sure you have ample water to get you through the hike and back home safely.    
  5. Protect yourself from sunburn & bug bites.  Sunscreen and insect repellant are essential, but also consider investing in some sun-protection clothing with long sleeves as another source of sun/bug defense. 
  6. Know the signs of heat exhaustion, the inability of your body to cope with the stress of heat.  Watch for symptoms like heavy sweating, fatigue, rapid breathing and faintness. 
  7. Wear the proper attire.  Clothes with quick drying properties allow adequate ventilation and prevent dampness and that uncomfortable feeling during your activity.  Wear thinner socks and avoid heavy base layers. Think about throwing an extra hat, pair of socks, handkerchief, and a pair of polarized sunglasses in your bag before heading out just in case. 

Hickory Hollow has a beautiful walking trail that takes you about ¼ of a mile around Lake Ann and ends up close to the pavilion and tent sites.  Just a note, bugs like the water as much as we do, so please remember to spray before you play and you will have a much more enjoyable walk.  If you’re looking for some great trails outside of the campground, see AllTrails.com https://www.alltrails.com/us/pennsylvania/rockwood for a list of some of the best trails in the local area.  The site provides curated trail maps, driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from nature lovers like yourself.  You will find some great local park options around Forbes State Forest, Ohiopyle State Park, Laurel Ridge State Park, Mount Davis, Roaring Run Natural Area, Kooser State Park and Laurel Hill State Park and the state game lands, all located within close proximity to Hickory Hollow Campground.  The trails range from 0.9 miles to 10 miles and from 2,306 to 2,959 feet above sea level.  The site offers you options for kid and pet friendly trails, to forest and nature trails, to safe running trails.

If you are looking for even more adventure, check out the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail which is a 70 mile trail that stretches along Laurel Mountain from the picturesque Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle State Park to the Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown.  This trail is probably the most used trail for seasoned backpackers who enjoy the challenge of steep, rugged areas of trails. Connector trails lead to and from trailheads and shelter areas and are marked with mile markers. With six trailheads, you will find overnight parking and trash receptacles if you are planning an extended hike.  A Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail map can be downloaded at http://www.dcnr.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx website.  

It’s not hard to fall in love with Somerset Counties trails, from rivers to mountains, so check out the routes and get exploring.  Whether you are a hiker or a gambler, the distance between your dreams and reality lies ahead of you, in just one more adventure, so always take the scenic route.   


Just Wing It This Weekend!

Hickory Hollow Campground will be cooking up wings this weekend as campers look forward to this tasty annual event.   We’re prepared to fry up about 1,000 wings for consumption, that’s about 100 pounds of the little wings that Americans can’t seem to get enough of.  Add some special buffalo or garlic parmesan sauce, and you have a tasty treat most people love.

I’ve been enlightening you over the summer on some cool facts about America’s favorite outdoor activity, camping.  We all know that there is nothing more American than apple pie, but I dare say, that chicken wings probably come in a very close second to the two favorites.  After all, chicken wings were born and breaded here in America.  Let’s take a look at how the delicious little wings took America by storm. 

The story of chicken wings dates back to 1964 when restaurant owner, Teressa Bellissimo of Buffalo, New York, received a shipment of chicken wings accidentally, instead of necks she used for stock.  Her teenage son and his friends were hungry one night so she decided to fry up this “blunder” instead of wasting the wings.  She tossed a little chili sauce over them and served them to the boys, who loved them.  Soon after, she added the wings to the menu at her restaurant, the Anchor Bar, located in Buffalo.  To take away some of the heat from the chili sauce, she served the wings with blue cheese and celery sticks and the “Buffalo Wings” became an instant hit. 

Teressa’s food salesman decided to work along with the Bellissimo’s and took the concept on the road selling the special “hot sauce’ and promoting chicken wings to other restaurants.  The concept hit the big time when McDonald’s began selling Mighty Wings at some of its restaurants in 1990.  KFC rolled out Hot Wings a year later, and even Domino’s Pizza offered a version in 1994. 

The rise of chicken wings all had to do with timing.  In the sixties and seventies, cooking the whole bird was trendy.  The family sitting down together for meals was still the norm, but in the eighties, consumers started to prefer boneless skinless chicken breast.  Because the wings were relatively less expensive, bar and restaurant owners realized the value of adding them to their menus.  By offering a chicken protein at a lower cost they increased sales, and by adding that special “hot sauce” they discovered that beer sales also started to take off. 

Sports bars with multiple TV’s, thanks to satellite dishes, started to become more common around this time, and of course we Americans’ love football so the two seemed to go hand in hand.   Wings were a great “group food”, easy to prepare, affordable, and shareable and paired perfectly with a pitcher of beer.    Today, chicken wing sales during Super Bowl Sunday averages about 1.33 billion wings according to the National Chicken Council. 

Let’s learn some fun facts about wings….

  • The average American eats 90 wings per year, except for Seattle folks, they don’t really like wings.
  • One chicken wing contains about 140 calories, without sauce. The meaty part is only 42 calories, eating the skin adds 30% more calories. 
  • Wings provide essential amino acids, iron and niacin and are easily digestible.
  • Most farmers feed their chickens vegetable derived feed which results in better brain health and inflammation prevention for us. 
  • The normal American can eat about 12 wings in one single sitting.
  • The world record for most chicken wings is 444 in 2015 by Patrick Bertoletti in just 26 minutes.
  • The South eats the most wings, but the North invented the “Buffalo sauce”
  • Ranch is more popular than Blue Cheese for dipping
  • Hooters sells an estimated 30 million pounds of wings each year
  • Buffalo NY holds a National Chicken Wing Day every year and draws about 80,000 people over Labor Day. 

So whether you are camping at Hickory Hollow Campground or watching a sporting event this weekend, chances are you, or someone in your family, is probably eating a dozen of chicken wings and enjoying a nice cold beer.