Coptoberfest

Detective Mark Britton, has been involved with fundraising for Johnstown Police Department since his early days as a patrolman. “The motorcycles were in pretty bad shape,” he says of his first fundraising efforts. “I started a campaign to raise money to get the bikes painted and updated.

“The community has always been very supportive.”

Britton's latest effort is a bit more ambitious. “We decided to take it to a different level,” he says. Together with three other committed volunteers, a day-long music bash is planned for Oct. 12 at People's Natural Gas Park. Coptoberfest, which runs from noon to 9 p.m., will feature three top regional and Nashville-based bands. First up will be Locked and Loaded followed by Adam Ernst, with Chris Higbee taking the stage as the day's headliner.

“Entry to Coptoberfest is only $5,” says Britton. “So this will be a very affordable day for everyone.”

The event will raise funds for the Camp Cadet programs in Cambria and Somerset counties as well as for Operation Guardian for Distressed Officers. All donations and funds raised will run through Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

Camp Cadet, founded in 1976, is a non-profit organization that educates boys and girls from 12 to 15 on the criminal justice system and establishes positive relationships with law enforcement. It also focuses on drug and alcohol education, violence prevention and many other issues facing today's youth. It is staffed by state troopers, local police departments and numerous volunteers.

“One of the main reasons for raising funds for Camp Cadet is because of Trooper Patrick 'Stu' Stewart,” Britton says. “Stu was taken from this world far to soon. Camp Cadet was near and dear to him and we always want to keep his memory alive in everyone’s mind for what he did not only for Camp Cadet but for the communities and the family he loved so much.”

Operation Guardian for Distressed Officers is a rainy day fund for officers and their families who need financial support. “They are protectors who are always serving us and if there is a chance to help them out, that is what it's all about,” says Kevin Dale Pollino, another member of the committee organizing the festival. The other two members of the committee are Georgine Suder and Paul Murphy.

Pollino, a country guitarist who was tasked with getting musical acts for the event, says the crowd will not be disappointed by the day's lineup.

Locked and Loaded, sponsored by Freedom Ford, will start things off with a mix of rock and country. The five-piece band includes members from Cambria and Blair counties.

Ernst, whose performance is being sponsored by Murphys, will go on stage next. A 26-year-old country music artist, born and raised in Belsano, Ernst is one of a handful of Nashville's lead guitar-playing frontmen. Ernst, who started playing guitar at the age of 5, performs a pop-rock and country mix with elements of hard rock. His vocal range has been describes as “impressive and smooth.” While performing often in his home area and the tri-state region, he continues to grow his career in Nashville.

Higbee was born and raised on a farm in Southwestern Pennsylvania, but now calls Nashville home. He started playing fiddle at the age of 7 and has shared the stage with country music legends such as Charlie Daniels.  

Higbee, who released his debut album in 2013, is now working on his fourth studio album.

The Chris Higbee Band is comprised of lifelong friends as well as some of Nashville’s most talented session players. Chris’s wife, Melissa, a command sergeant major in the US Army and an Iraq combat veteran, is a member of the band and a very talented vocalist.

“By the end of the day he'll have disco music and everything else in there. His band is a top-shelf band,” Pollino says.

The day also will feature raffles and 50/50s, including chances to win a very special gun.

The “Don't Mess With Texas” rifle is the only prototype used in the design of the limited-edition weapon. Only 99 of the rifles were made. It was designed and manufactured by Axelson Tactical, a company that is owned and operated by Jeff Axelson and named in honor of the owner's brother, Matt Axel, a Navy SEAL who died in 2005. Matt was one of four Seals air dropped into Afghanistan in June of 2005 on a mission to locate a top Taliban leader. The mission, “Operation Red Wings,” was the basis for the 2013 movie Lone Survivor. The rifle is autographed by Matt Axel and was donated by Mike Giffen.

Suder says five local vendors will offer everything from chili to barbecued chicken dinners. Vendors include Raynes BBQ and St. Matthew's Anglican Church of Johnstown, BoBos BBQ and Grubz on Wheels, of Somerset County, and Sugar Shack from Greensburg. “We made it a point to try to get a variety of foods,” says Suder. “We picked local vendors who will provide delicious dishes sure to please everyone and at a price that is affordable.”

Coptoberfest t-shirts also will be available.

Chief sponsors for the event include St Clair Tremont Club, Freedom Ford, Smith Transport, Sheetz and Pittsburgh Brewing/IC Light.

“We hope everyone comes out and has a good time,” Pollino says. “And we hope we are able to raise lots of money that will help our men in blue when they need us to give back to them.”

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