Old Home Week kicks off tonight behind Punxy Plaza

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Working at the Punxsutawney Fire Department's Old Home Week Celebration is a family tradition for many of the vendors for J&J Amusements.

"My family has been working in the carnival business since the late 1800s," said Fran Freeborn of Beaver Falls, operator of the dime toss game for J&J Amusements, at Old Home Week carnival grounds located behind the west side of the Punxy Plaza.

Freeborn, 71, said she was about 17 years old when she first began working at Old Home Week.

"We work with J&J Amusements a lot because it's a family show," Freeborn said, adding that there's only one show left with J&J for this year.

She said her family will travel to the North East Cherry Festival as an independent, to the Clearfield County Fair with Reithoffer Shows, and then the Freeborns will go back and work the Butler Farm Show with J&J.

Freeborn said that another fair the family goes to as an independent is Stoneborough Fair, which she has been attending for 71 years.

"I was born in August, and my parents took me there in September," she said. "We operate one game, the dime toss, which used to be the nickel toss at one time, many years ago.”

She said the dime toss is quite simple, as you pitch a dime on something to win it.

Freeborn said her booth has a lot of regular customers who come play all night and all week, for that matter.

"I've got people playing now who've been playing our game for many years and who now bring their grandchildren to play our game with them," Freeborn said. "I have a barn in Beaver Falls that is chock full of merchandise to be used for our game. Enough to last my husband, Ken, and I as long as we're going to be operating (the game) during the summer carnival season."

Freeborn said she has help from Rick and Laurie Lloyd from Punxsy at Old Home Week.

"Rick has been working for Ken and I since he was 17 years old, and he even traveled with us for three years," she said.

Freeborn said the one event that stands out the most to her over the years was when the carnival the family was working in Florida was struck by a tornado.

"It came through the front gate and left my stand standing but turned my truck over and destroyed most of the rides," Freeborn said, adding that she and her family were lucky to survive that one.

Mike Porada, carnival coordinator for the Punxsy Fire Department, said he's been setting up the layout of the carnival grounds for many years.
"Back years ago when it was up at the National Guard Armory, I more or less set everything before the owners would arrive," Porada said. "I set it up so many times I knew where everything went."

Porada said it is a little bit different at the grounds behind the Punxy Plaza.

"Larry Fein, who is in charge of this unit for J&J, came in Saturday and determined where everything was to be placed," he said. "Some of the rides and concessions are the same ones that we've had for many years."
Tonight is a one-price night, as the carnival opens at 6 p.m. and runs until 11 p.m.

Once again, there will be the nightly prize drawings to be held at 10:30 p.m., and participants must be 18 years of age to participate, with tonight's prize being a $200 gift card to Sheetz, donated by a friend of the Punxsy Fire Department.

The band "Ridin’ Shotgun" will perform from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, at the carnival grounds.