LEWISTOWN - Newcomers to Mifflin County are often caught off guard by the area's unique Sept. 29 holiday, exclaiming "What's that?!" when a resident mentions Goose Day. Jenny Barron Landis and Rhonda Moore, of the Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, want to change that.
They envision a time when neighboring counties and states - perhaps the entire nation - recognize the area for its Goose Day celebration.
"Goose Day is our Punxsutawney Phil," Landis said.
Sentinel file photo
Kristen and Joseph Stamplis stop to read clues Sunday at Kish Park in Burnham at the annual Goose Day Road Rally while other rally teams search the park for clues as well.
"To our knowledge, no one else in the U.S. celebrates Goose Day," Moore said. "This is our heritage ... It would be a travesty if our children didn't know what Goose Day is."
In recent years, Goose Day was at something of a low point. While the road rally, 5K and goose dinners endured, other traditions died off.
"The economy is a lot different now. It's very tough to hold an event," Landis said.
To bring it back bigger and better, though, they are asking for help from the communities in Mifflin and Juniata counties. This year, families, church groups, clubs and businesses can get creative and host their own Goose Day activities.
The possibilities are endless, Landis and Moore said, quickly listing some ideas for the groups: car washes, group picnics, bazaars, fall festivals, yard sales. Goose Day, traditionally known through Europe as Saint Michaelmas Day, is steeped in various traditions. In Ireland, the custom revolved around apples, so apple dumplings, pies, fritters or candied apples are all possibilities for Goose Day fundraisers. The Irish also tied together bunches of wild carrots and gave them to visitors, so a bake sale could include carrot cakes and cupcakes.
Landis and Moore encourage people to come up with their own ideas, but they have a few up their sleeves for anyone who wants to participate but isn't sure how. Some examples are a community duck-duck-goose game, a football field goose chase and a release of inflatable or rubber geese on the river.
For businesses, opportunity is not limited to offering Goose Day discounts or restaurants serving goose dinners, though both are possibilities. Florists could create special Goose Day arrangements incorporating asters, the holiday's official flower. Jewelers could offer a raffle or specials on gold rings, in keeping with another Goose Day tradition in which a ring is baked into a cake, and whoever finds the ring after dinner is said to be soon married.
"That's part of the fun of it - coming up with crazy things to do," Landis said.
The rules are simple, Landis said. Events must be held over Goose Day weekend, which this year will be Sept. 27 to 29. The event does not have to span the entire three days. Participating businesses do not have to operate under modified hours. Once a group commits, Landis will add the details of the event to a list. Beginning Sept. 1, the JRVCCVB website home page, juniatarivervalley.org, will become "Goose Day central," Landis said. In addition to being listed, events with websites and Facebook pages will be linked from the homepage. The list will be promoted to regional media and some national outlets in the form of press releases. Goose Day-related Facebook posts by Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau will be shareable so other users can repost them.
Anyone interested in participating in or hosting a Goose Day event can call JRVCCVB at 248-6713 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.