EBENSBURG – It is easy to see that Danea Koss loves her hometown of Ebensburg.
Koss gave up a successful big city career to come back home to raise her children, and lead many of the community’s big events. She has a 7-year-old son Roan and an adult stepson Zach.
As economic development director for the Borough of Ebensburg and coordinator for its Main Street Partnership, Koss helps organize and promote Ebensburg’s homecoming and Downtown Shutdown in July, Wheels and Wings motorcycle event in June, Art in Bloom show in April, a fall foliage ride on the Ghost Town Trail in October and summer farm markets.
The biggest event – and the most work for Koss – is September’s PotatoFest, led by the 150-member Main Street Partnership and the PotatoFest committee.
Next week’s Dickens of a Christmas has a schedule to rival PotatoFest, but Koss says she has more time to enjoy the annual holiday celebration.
“With Dickens, it’s a fun one because so many groups get involved,” Koss said at the Ebensburg Municipal Building.
“They kind of host it, and we just pull it together. It is really nice to see the community come together.”
Churches, schools, veterans’ organizations, businesses and civic groups will among those sponsoring or leading events Friday through Dec. 8, with events centered in Downtown Ebensburg.
Like all the community’s outdoor events, weather becomes the biggest challenge.
Beyond that, Koss says organizers strive to find new attractions that keep the event fresh.
“We want to give people a new experience,” Koss said. “We love it when people bring things to us.”
Cresson Lake Playhouse has added two events beyond its traditional cabaret show in Cambria County Courthouse.
The CLP Christmas tree toss will be held at noon Dec. 7 at Penn Eben Park.
“You can see how far you can toss a Christmas tree,” she said.
After throwing trees around, participants and spectators can continue the fun with CLP’s bar crawl, moving from Penn Eben Park at 2 p.m. to visit local bars and restaurants to sample beverages.
“They will hit all of those shops and make merry along the way,” Koss said. “It adds some adult events, because a lot of things are kid-related.”
Bishop Carroll is expanding the entertainment options with its production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The school is also bringing a cookie decorating contest and bake sale to the Dickens lineup.
As part of keeping things fresh, one popular attraction has been replaced this year. There will be no ice sculptures, but Santa is bringing some friends, Koss said.
“We are bringing live reindeer from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday (Dec.7),” Koss said.
“Santa is bringing two of his reindeer. We are not sure which two it will be.”
Returning favorites include the Dickens of a Christmas Parade, old jail tours, courthouse door decorating contest, Ebensburg Women’s Club breakfast with Santa and Cambria County Historical Society open house, gingerbread contest and bake shop.
Koss, 43, says the Dickens event’s continued growth illustrates the hometown atmosphere that continues to attract visitors and businesses to Ebensburg.
“People want to see what these small towns are doing,” Koss said. “They want that hometown experience. It really helps our bed and breakfast and our hotels.”
Koss can relate to the attraction of a “hometown” experience. The Central Cambria graduate earned a degree in communications and media at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and moved to the Washington area, where she worked for several major nonprofits. They included the Child Life Council, where she oversaw the organization’s credentialing and organized conferences.
While working in the capital region, the former Danea Williamson “reconnected” with her high school friend Justin Koss, who was working with the American Red Cross. They have been married for 11 years.
“We decided we wanted to move back to Ebensburg,” she said. “We wanted to raise our children here. It’s close to family.”
The region is ideal for the couple’s love of outdoor activity, Danea Koss said.
Justin Koss was able to keep his position directing environmental health and safety for the Red Cross national organization, working remotely from Ebensburg. Danea Koss was hired by the borough in 2013.
Much of her economic development efforts are in collaboration with the Main Street Partnership, which she says has evolved into a “mini chamber of commerce, just for Ebensburg.”
The work is paying off, Koss said.
“There is a lot of new development here,” she said. “I think we have only one vacant storefront. It’s wonderful to see the reinvestment in Ebensburg.”