Sandusky hearing draws media throng to tiny Bellefonte

State College - Centre Daily TimesDecember 13, 2011 

BELLEFONTE — A dozen satellite vans lined Allegheny and High streets Monday evening outside the Centre County Courthouse, and police officers were guiding more to spots. Residents walked downtown to see the spectacle, snapping pictures with their phones. And nearby business owners hung up signs, promoting one-day specials.

“Crazy,” said Leondardo Saavedra, describing the scene outside Brother’s Pizza where he works.

The source of the commotion in downtown Bellefonte was the preliminary hearing of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. His case — which involves more than 50 counts of alleged child sex abuse against 10 boys — has drawn national media attention.

On Monday evening, trucks for Fox News, NBC, and CNN all sat in Bellefonte.

“This is a small town,” said Megan Youells. “So it’s definitely bringing some commotion.”

Youells, 22, and her friend Jessica Austin, 23, live about three blocks from the courthouse. They’re both accountants, and in between taking pictures, they discussed alternate routes for their morning commute.

“Getting onto 80 is going to be crazy,” Youells said referring to the nearby interstate, which she takes to get to work in Lock Haven.

Austin usually drives down High Street on her way to State College, but she figured she would loop around it today.

“Hopefully, I can,” she said.

The Bellefonte YMCA planned to close its main office and annex, both on High Street, because of the closed streets. But other business owners saw the increased traffic as an opportunity.

“Special Hours Tuesday, December 13th,” read a sign outside Dairy Queen. “Opening at 6:30 a.m.”

Brother’s Pizza, where Saavedra works, plans to open at 7 a.m. instead of 11 a.m. Workers there will be serving coffee and breakfast pizza.

“We normally don’t sell breakfast pizza. It’s only for (Tuesday),” he said. “It’s like pizza dough, eggs, bacon, sausage, ham.”

At 7 p.m., about 10 volunteers and workers waited inside the Bellefonte Faith Centre for the food bank and thrift store’s annual Toy for Tots sorting night, which happened to be scheduled for the eve of the preliminary hearing. The nonprofit planned to package 1,700 toys for 413 children.

“What happens is the toys come in on the fire truck, which is really fun and spectacular. And they’re just hauled in in these large bags. They’re already wrapped,” said Nicole Summers, executive director of the nonprofit. “And we have a large army of people who sort through them.”

The Faith Centre received special permission from the borough to let the fire truck drive up High Street, which was closed to most other traffic, and volunteers had to park farther away than usual.

“So logistics are a little bit challenging, but the spirit is really high,” Summers said. “It hasn’t compromised the number of people that are coming in to help or the level of enthusiasm.”

To read more, visit www.centredaily.com.

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