the friendly pigs; they also filled the grassy area outside the Hamburg Post Office to participate in a cow-decorating contest. For $ 5, children purchased a wooden cow and decorated it with their choice of paint, sparkles and other supplies on hand. Volunteers staffing this contest included Alexi Madara, Petra Martin and Paiton Albrecht.
Madara and Albrecht are both high schoolers and can use Hamburg- er Fest hours toward their required community service requirement. However, both agreed that the work was enjoyable.
“I love hanging out with the kids,” Albrecht said as she watched over the youngsters, “and I love helping with the community. It’s a great community we have here.”
“It’s fun and a really nice atmosphere,” Madara added.
Martin is a member of the Hamburg Area Arts Association, which sponsors the cow- decorating contest.
“I think it’s fabulous,” she said. “The kids are doing a fabulous job. It makes me want to paint a cow!”
This year’s first- place winners included Michael Bray ( 2- 4 category), Genaro Garipoli ( ages 5- 7), Justin Riegel ( ages 8- 10), Hailey Koller ( ages 11 and up) and Nathan Price ( family category).
At the Hamburg Strand on Fourth Street, people were invited to “Smooch a Pooch” for a dollar to benefit the single- screen historic theater. Several dogs worked the event, including a sweet- tempered golden retriever, Buddy, owned by Lindsay Adam and Chris Rabold.
Stephanie Adam, Strand Theater coordinator, was thrilled with the new “kissing booth” at the stand, which was built by Hamburg Area High School students and featured a sign created by local printshop Bestonium.
“It’s really good,” she said of the display, “and it’s made a difference. We’ve done this for three years, and we’re seeing more people, getting more attention, this year.”
Hamburg streets were also filled with local artisans. Keena Shaffer, a Hamburg resident, was a first time participant. Her stand, Keena Alyce designs, featured beautifully- lettered statements and sayings on rustic wooden shapes.
Artists and married couple Jay and Martha Ressler, also of Hamburg, have been at the festival for four years. They share a booth, with Jay’s photographs displayed on one side and Martha’s art quilts on the other.
“There’s always interest in our artwork,” Martha said, then laughed, “but a lot more interest in the burgers. It’s always a fun show.”
Chrissy Mayer, visiting the festival from Wellsboro, was a first- time visitor to Hamburg- er Fest, which her family decided to attend with in- laws who live in the Hamburg area.
“I want to try the Oscar,” she said, noting that burgers were next on their list. “It has lobster and asparagus.”
The Taste of Hamburg- er Festival is organized by Our Town Foundation, 335 State Street, Hamburg, and OTF’s small but dedicated staff requires the help of an army of volunteers to pull off the event.
Work began in earnest on Friday, when the streets of downtown Hamburg were filled with teens wearing orange tees. The young people were members of the Hamburg Area High School Wilderness Club, led by teachers Benjamin Hetrich and Justin Brown. This is the third year the club has been involved, and this year 45 members prepped the streets for the festival the day before and worked as gophers during the event, key in helping things run smoothly.
“We believe that school organizations should be responsible for giving back to the community in any way possible,” Brown said. “It helps our kids build a connection to the community... We felt it was important for them to realize all the time and effort volunteers put in to make these events possible.”
Deena Kershner, executive director of Our Town Foundation, felt that the event went well, considering the forecast. Cloudy skies and the threat of rain kept some people way, but streets were still busy at this year’s Hamburger Fest, especially in the early hours.
“We were lucky that it didn’t pour in the morning. It was 3 o’clock before we saw the downpour,” Kershner said. “Overall I was satisfied with the crowds, but it was only about 60 percent compared to last year.”
In 2016, the weather conditions were sunny and crowd estimates reached 40,000. Kershner said that in the 14 years for the festival, this is the second time rain interfered with crowds. Still, she laughed remembering when steady rain did finally descend on Saturday.
“I thought it was really neat that so many people brought umbrellas,” Kershner said, and “even once it started raining people stuck around in the entertainment areas.”
The remaining crowds barely paused, simply hoisting umbrellas or pulling up hoods before continuing their quest for the perfect burger.