Pick of the Week: Discover Presque Isle

Categories:  Community    Events
Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Pick of the Week: Discover Presque Isle by Toby Keller
Army Corps of Vlounteers

Dom Pucella came to Erie in the fall of 2008 knowing he would get an education from Mercyhurst University (then Mercyhurst College), but was unsure about the town. What did Erie have to offer that his hometown of Cleveland didn’t have? His parents felt the same way—wondering why their only boy would go so far away to attend school when the city they had lived in their entire lives had all the institutions necessary.

“They weren’t thrilled about me being in Erie,” Pucella admitted. “They thought I would be bored, and they weren’t wrong—at least for the first year. After I got to know the city a little bit I realized there’s really a lot going on here.”

To convince his family, including two sisters that are three and four years younger than him respectively, that Erie has a unique charm, he planned a weekend away for them in the Gem City the summer before his sophomore year.

“I really wanted them to see the kind of place Erie can be so they wouldn’t mind me being here so much,” he said. “Of course it gets dreary here in the winter like it does back home and there is some downtime to complain about, but they thought I had absolutely nothing to do.”

Pucella planned the trip around Discover Presque Isle Weekend, and it won the favor of his parents and sisters. The multiple athletic events, like the 3rd annual Beach Brawl and the Volleyball Challenge, combined with the more relaxing leisure activities, fit his family’s getaway desires.

“I’m glad they liked it,” he said. “Because it would have been a long ride back to Cleveland if they hadn’t.”

In fact, they liked it so much that they made the trip back the next year.

Presque Isle delivers an experience that would be impossible to match in Cleveland or other towns down I-90 West. Erie is lucky to have the peninsula, and just as lucky to have people like Alexandra Dusckas, executive assistant of the Presque Isle Partnership, who coordinates events like the upcoming Discover Presque Isle Weekend 2012, the 19th installment of this Erie tradition. Running from Friday, July 27 to Sunday, July 29, the event is expected to draw between 130,000 and 150,000 people.

“Every year symbolizes celebrating Presque Isle,” Dusckas said. “It’s a three-day, fun weekend that is free for the community. Some people come from out of town, and they really make a vacation out of it. It’s something that Erie has to offer that’s different.”

The shoreline of Lake Erie stretches for 871 miles, but it would be hard to find a better place than the 3,112-acre Presque Isle State Park to enjoy it. With the rolling hills of Pennsylvania farmland to the south, grapevines up the coast to the north, and Ohio’s flatlands to the west, Erie is a crossroads of lifestyles. All of them can agree on one thing: out on the peninsula it’s all about having a memorable time.

“Even if you come to Presque Isle all the time, we offer so many opportunities that even people from Erie come to experience it,” Dusckas said. “Events take place throughout Presque Isle, so if you’re only used to Beach 6, this gets you everywhere.”

The three-day weekend has an extensive events list that covers a myriad of interests suitable for all ages. Friday’s fun starts at 11 a.m. with Pontoon Boat Tours through the peninsula’s lagoons three times a day through Sunday. Reservations can be made starting at 10 a.m. that day and the last tour leaves at 2 p.m.
Some new events include Presque Isle Lighthouse tours for a $5 donation starting Saturday, Family Yoga taking place on Beach 8 Saturday and Sunday with Michael Plasha, director of Plasha Yoga Studio, Rock School on Saturday at 1 p.m., and acoustic sound of MJT at 1 p.m. on Sunday in the Rotary Pavilion. There is also a children’s Festival in the waterworks area from 11a.m. to 4p.m. Saturday and Sunday with engaging activities, like banner creation, sand treasure find, and other crafts. The sand-sculpture competition, one of the events Dusckas runs to when she has a free moment, will be back, as will other favorites like the kayak experience and Saturday’s bonfire.

For the Presque Isle Partnership, this is a chance to raise money that will benefit future participants in this event and everyone else who visits Presque Isle throughout the year. According to Steve McDermott, executive director of PIP, the Discover Presque Isle event is the annual fundraiser that creates revenue that is used for operating and doing projects the rest of the year.

“I’m working 24/7 to make Presque Isle a better experience for everyone,” McDermott said.

McDermott listed a few projects in the works because of the funds coming from Discover Presque Isle Days:

“We’re waiting until after Labor Day and then we’ll complete the pathway leading to the turtle observation deck, which is a project that has been underway for the last year-plus,” he said. “We have a list of renovations and upgrades we intend to complete prior to next summer in the Perry monument area, like a brand-new pavilion that is much larger than the one out there, with 25-30 recycled-aluminum picnic tables. Right now we’re conducting a lighting study because we want to light the monument. That is going to be the quintessential and lasting take away from the Perry 200 events. It is very critical to some of the events that will take place next summer.”

Although Discover Presque Isle Weekend is a free event, the sale of “Frog Buttons” provide visitors with the opportunity to make a donation that helps keep Presque Isle the pristine gem we know it to be.

“All of our fundraising comes from the Frog Buttons,” Dusckas said. “Every year we change the features and the colors, we hold a coloring contest for little kids to do, and one button will be worth a thousand dollars.”

Dave Seitzinger created the original frog design for these buttons, which have become collectible items among returning participants. This year’s theme is the Superhero Frog, which dovetails right along with the many superhero movies that have come out in the last year or so. They will also be selling T-shirts under the same circumstances: one lucky purchaser will win some cold hard cash.

This year’s Discover Presque Isle Weekend is poised to be another hit for the people of Erie and out-of-towners like the Pucellas. It’s a weekend that can change the whole perception of the city, opening eyes to the beauty of the Peninsula. Go online at www.discoverpi.com/discover-presque-isle to find a schedule of events or registration forms for events like the mile swim taking place on Saturday or the volleyball challenge. There is something for everyone to love at Presque Isle, and this unforgettable weekend is your most opportune time to find it.

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