Wendy Royal Fall 2023
What is Goose Day, you ask? I must admit that I had never heard about the holiday before I worked in Pennsylvania tourism. Like Groundhog Day, the observance has its roots in traditions brought here by settlers who came to America from other countries. Groundhog Day is an offshoot of the German Candlemas Day, a celebration of the upcoming spring planting season. In contrast, Goose Day is based on the English holiday of St. Michaelmas, which celebrates the harvest. Goose Day is observed almost exclusively in and around the Juniata River Valley.
It all began in 1786 when Andrew Pontius was traveling to Lancaster County to hire a tenant farmer to help on his successful farm. Upon stopping in Harrisburg for the night, Pontius met an Englishman named Archibald Hunter, who jumped ship while the British fleet docked in Philadelphia to start a new life in America. Pontius was so impressed with the man that he offered him the job. Hunter accepted and signed a contract stating that accounts would be settled annually on the traditional day to do so, September 29. On that day, Hunter appeared at Pontius’ door with his payment and a goose. Hunter explained that in England, it was customary to settle charges on September 29, St. Michaelmas Day, which included gifting a goose. The English believed eating a goose on September 29 would bring good luck.
Fast forward to 2023, and Goose Day is still going strong in the Juniata River Valley, though I don’t believe debts are settled with a goose in tow. Special events are scheduled throughout the area each year, but 2023 is an exceptional year to plan a trip to participate in the merry making. Not only does Goose Day fall on the weekend, but Penn State has an away game on Saturday, meaning there will be plenty of lodging for everyone.
The full list of Goose Day events will be announced during Lewistown’s First Friday on September 1. Last year’s list was 18 pages long! While the events are planned with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek, the Goose is recognized year-round in Lewistown. More than 30 large fiberglass geese, sponsored by local businesses, are displayed throughout the town. The geese are uniquely designed and painted by local artists. You can visit jrvvisitors.com/wildgeesetracker to find the locations of the whimsical creations.
Begin your adventure at the Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau office in the Historic Courthouse, 1 W. Market St., Lewistown. You’ll find Goose Day brochures, and area information. The helpful staff is always ready with insider tips only the locals know.
Goose dinners are available at restaurants throughout the area on September 29, so don’t miss out on your chance to increase your luck. Wineries, breweries, and distilleries will also celebrate the occasion with special themed drinks. Brookmere Winery will be hosting a special Goose Day Happy Hour on Friday, from 6 to 9 p.m.
The weekend of events will kick off on Saturday, September 30, with the 45th annual Goose Day 5k, which starts at 9 a.m. at Lewistown’s Monument Square and follows a course through the downtown area. “It’s a fun way to kick off the weekend,” said Buffie Boyer, communications director at Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau.
The Goose Day Road Rally is one of the weekend’s most unique and thrilling spectacles. The rally, which often features vehicles decorated with a goose theme, is more of a scavenger hunt than a race. Teams of up to 8 members chart a course to find specific items designated by the race organizers. The team which discovers all the things using the least amount of mileage wins the rally. In addition to bragging rights, the winning team is charged with creating next year’s rally. Approximately 15 teams competed in the 2022 rally. Teams can register for the race right up to the day of the event.
Arrive Early and Explore the Juniata River Valley
Extended weekend itinerary
Wednesday, Sept. 27: Wednesday is market day in Big Valley. From early spring to late fall, locals enjoy the fresh produce from the Valley, handmade items, and Amish-made desserts at two large flea/farmers’ markets. The locations are the parking lot of the Big Valley Antiques Center in Reedsville, and at the Belleville Livestock Auction and Farmers’ Market. Both locations open around daybreak. The farmers’ market at Belleville is only open during the morning hours, but you may want to stay to witness the bidding at the livestock auction which starts at 1:00 p.m.
After a morning of experiencing the best of the valley’s harvest at the farmers’ market, stop by Brookmere Winery in Belleville to taste the fruits of another harvest. Brookmere Winery is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year making it one of PA’s oldest wineries. In addition to the vineyard and winery, the property is home to The Vineyard Inn, a cozy bed and breakfast with three newly renovated rooms with private baths.
Thursday, Sept. 28: Discover the Juniata River Valley’s pristine outdoor adventures. Visit Stone Mountain Hawk Watch in Allensville, located along the Mifflin/Huntingdon County border. The overlook is located within the Rothrock State Forest.
With an eye to the sky, visitors often see broad-winged hawks, bald eagles, osprey, and other raptors. The Broad-winged Hawk migration begins in Mid-September, so chances of witnessing the soaring birds are good. Perhaps the most beautiful sight is the panoramic view of the valley below.
From the parking area to the overlook, visitors will follow the orange blazed Standing Stone Trail for approximately a third of a mile. The trail is rocky but not exceptionally difficult for most hikers.
The Juniata River Valley is also known for great fishing and floating on the Juniata River. This 100-mile-long river has many Class A fishing streams in its expansive watershed. Whether you prefer traditional fishing or fly fishing, the staff at the visitor’s bureau can help you pick a great spot. Rent a canoe, kayak, or tube at River Valley Hardware in McVeytown, then access the river at one of access points in Juniata and Mifflin Counties. Nine of them have paved ramps. For information on river access visit explorepawaters.com/find-a-waterway
Fortunately for outdoor enthusiasts, the area offers plenty of camping options, with Buttonwood and Waterside campgrounds situated along the river.
Friday, Sept. 29: Goose Day
Eat goose! Enjoy your lucky meal at nearly any restaurant in Mifflin and Juniata Counties. From traditional roast goose to goose pizza hungry visitors will have not have a problem finding a delicious fowl feast. After your meal enjoy libations at one (or more) of the area’s wineries, breweries, and distilleries. For information on locations, visit jrvvisitors.com/things-to-do.
Saturday, Sept 30:
Experience all the Goose Day festivities! In addition to the aforementioned 5k and Road Rally taking place on Saturday, you’ll find a complete list of Goose Day events at jrvvisitors.com/events/goose-day