Rainy Weather No Deterrent for Clarion County Freedom Rally

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Despite the rainy weather, around 60 people gathered in Veterans Memorial Park in Clarion early Friday afternoon for the Clarion County Freedom Rally.

(PHOTO ABOVE: Clarion Freedom Rally in Veterans Memorial Park in Clarion by Ron Wilshire.)

Organizer Patty Schmader, owner of Serenity Spa & Tanning Salon, told exploreClarion.com, “Considering the rain, we had a good turnout. We have a lot of support here in Clarion.

“Our town needs it, and there’s more to come. We’re going to grow from this, absolutely, and hopefully this will never happen again.”

Featured guest speakers at the event included Pastor Harry Hoff, of Hope Rising Community Church; Representative Donna Oberlander; Clarion Borough Council member Ben Aaron; Rob Sheesley, candidate for delegate to the Republican National Convention for District 15; and Pittsburgh Real Estate Entrepreneur and Activist, Mat Simmons, as well as several area business owners.

“Businesses in this community are passionate about giving back,” Pastor Hoff noted in his address.

“The Bible says, in Proverbs, that iron sharpens iron, and I believe that’s what’s happening here today is that iron, businesses are sharpening other businesses, that men and women are coming together and standing united.”

That theme of standing united was repeated throughout the event, with many of the speakers talking about how the community can come together to support one another.

However, the frustration with the ongoing closure of many businesses was another major topic.

“As I look out to the crowd, I recognize a lot of you, and I see men and women who have abided by the law, you have invested in our communities, you are community leaders, you are business owners and entrepreneurs, you are licensed professionals. You’re hard working, you’re caring, you’re compassionate. You’re people who have made sacrificial changes in order to save lives from COVID. What I don’t see: I don’t see a single coward out there, not one. I don’t see a deserter, not one. I see patriots,” Oberlander said.


“I’ve asked myself, and I’m sure you’ve asked yourself, if big box business can continue, why can’t our small business continue? Why can’t we make adaptations that would allow you to continue to operate? And, I think you could.”

Oberlander said that some of the restrictions, including those keeping those who work outdoors from returning to work sooner, “defied logic,” and stated the legislature has been pushing for transparency through the entire virus mitigation effort.

“We have never believed you had to sacrifice lives to save livelihoods, or to sacrifice livelihoods to save lives. It’s not an either or.”

She noted that while the initial goal of the stay at home orders were to “flatten the curve” in terms of the growing number of COVID-19 cases, and to allow hospitals time to gather necessary PPE and equipment to handle patients diagnosed with the virus, that goal has been achieved, and the current rate of infection and numbers of cases and hospitalizations are well below a rate of concern as far as the possibility of hospitals and healthcare systems being overwhelmed.

“We can take responsible steps to reopen,” Oberlander said.

“I’m here today to offer you encouragement. I’m here today to hear your stories, and I am very hopeful that they will speak loud and clear to the legislature, to the governor, and to our community.”

Clarion Borough Council member Ben Aaron, who is chairman of the public safety committee for the borough, also spoke about the need for people to speak up as the state and the local community move forward.


“We’re at a point now where we need people to be able to contribute to the conversation with our voice. We need Donna to be able to express our voice. That’s why I am in local government. I represent people; I don’t decide for them,” Aaron said.

“As far as what we can do here in the borough and in our county, our community, because that’s what we are. I’m tired of the argument that because you want to reopen businesses, you don’t care about people. We care about everybody, and we’ll make sure that everybody’s safe, because our business owners are responsible enough adults that they can run a successful business. They can handle themselves. They can contribute to the conversation.”

Aaron went on to say that as we begin to open up in our local area, we’re also presented with an opportunity.

“We’ve had to hit a reset button in our local economy. With that reset, we’re constantly asking people to buy local, shop local, keep your business local. Well, now we have a chance and a foundation to start from and rebuild what we have here together.”

“We can support each other through this.”

Photo by Lexis Twentier.

Photo by Lexis Twentier.

Rob Sheesley addressed the “strange place” that our area is currently in regarding the ongoing mitigation efforts.

“You luckily have a wonderful representative that takes your issues and concerns and information to Harrisburg to try to do the best that she can, but sometimes our representatives and our state senators’ hands are tied, and this is certainly one of those points in time where they’re doing the best that they can, and they’re running up against some obstacles,” Sheesley said.

He went on to recommend that people take time to consider what they can do to not only help the small businesses in their community, but also what they can do to help their representatives in Harrisburg, and recommended people consider ways of making their voices heard to stand up for what they believe in.

Pittsburgh Real Estate Entrepreneur and activist Mat Simmons spoke passionately about the need to reopen businesses not only in our local area, but also across the entire state.


“We are making it known that us small business owners are not going to stand by idly while he (Governor Wolf) continues to determine what’s essential and what’s not essential. I’m sorry, but I am essential to my kids. My income is essential to pay to feed them. You’re essential to your kids, you’re essential for your family, you’re essential for your employees who have to feed their kids. This isn’t as easy as saying ‘they’re essential, they’re non-essential,'” Simmons said.

“We have to continue to make our voices known. We’re small business people, we’re entrepreneurs, we never take things lying down, do we? No!”

Simmons stated that he is calling on small business owners to “take back control” on June 1.

“We need to stand together, and we have power in numbers,” Simmons said.

He announced that he and several other business owners have created a website, takebackcontrolpa.com, which allows business owners to sign up as part of a database of small businesses that are opening back up, and they will send people to stand guard over those businesses if police try to force a closure.

“We have to support small businesses, and we have to take back that control. We have the control. He (Wolf) can’t keep us down, and that’s why I’m calling on you guys. Come June first, we open back up.”

After the speakers, the rally wrapped up with many participants stopping for some free macaroni and cheese offered by Zach’s from New Bethlehem.


Organizers Alyssa Morrison, founder of Empower Beauty, and John Pacsai, of Infusion Night Club and Grille, were appreciative with the support they received today.

“I think that we had a lot of support and everything was positive, and that’s what we’re here for,” Morrison said.

Pacsai added, “It’s nice to see a lot of small business owners, to really come together and show how important this community is to us.”

As fate would have it, Governor Tom Wolf announced on Friday afternoon that 17 Pennsylvania counties, including Clarion County, will move to the green phase of the state reopening plan on Friday, May 29.


Clarion County, Several Other Counties to Go Green on May 29

Photo taken by Ron Wilshire at the Clarion County Freedom Rally.

Photo taken by Ron Wilshire at the Clarion County Freedom Rally.

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