HUGHESVILLE - Focusing on fun and education, the inaugural PA Energy Games were held on Sept. 7 at the Lycoming County Fairgrounds in Hughesville.

"The idea for this event came about during a lunch in Towanda," Board Member Rory Sweeney said. "We wanted to come up with something fun to connect local people with the energy industry, and then we decided to also add an educational branch to it."

The result featured more than 100 sponsors and businesses, thousands of attendees, numerous musical attractions, kids' activities, fireworks and countless opportunities to learn more about energy. There was even a large-screen outdoor TV for those that didn't want to miss the Penn State football game.

"This kind of event is the first of its kind and we're extremely excited about it," said Board Member Stephanie Paluda, who also represented PIOGA, one of the platinum sponsors of the games. "There's more energy industries here than even the natural gas industry. There's representatives of coal, solar, biomass, nuclear and more."

One of the educational exhibits covering all of those areas was the MEET-U (Mobile Energy Education Training Unit), which offered attendees the opportunity to see various equipment and speak with volunteer experts.

One of those volunteers was Southpointe Energy Resource Group Vice President of Operations Mike Forgione, who also donated various rocks to the MEET-U to be used for events like the games.

"We want to teach people about energy," he said. "We talk about oilfield history, fossil fuels and all other energies that our world uses. We especially want to show these things to our young kids, because it gives them ideas and they'll be the ones developing these different energies in the future."

For the truck show, dozens of large trucks with heavy equipment were also on hand throughout the day. One of the trucks was a 2014 Kenworth built by Doug Mirabelli of Latona Trucking and Excavating.

"It took about four months to build, but we saved around $40,000 to $50,000 building it," he said. "As far as Latona, we build pads and haul equipment, and the natural gas industry has helped us a lot."

A popular event during the energy games was the equipment rodeo, which tested participants' speed and precision to move balls and objects to their appropriate locations using excavators and tractors. There was also a safety and obstacle course competition that included a fire-resistant clothing suit up, carrying heavy, awkward objects and more, all the while paying careful attention to industry and environmental standards.

Inside the Exhibit Hall, numerous energy-related businesses were present to speak with attendees and display their products and services. The Utilities Employees Credit Union found the energy games to be a beneficial outlet to become connected with people and the industry.

"We're a largely virtual establishment, which means we don't really have a physical location or field office," Business Development Associate Janene Naugle said. "Being virtual has great advantages, but it lacks that physical connection. So, we're excited to be a part of the PA Energy Games because it gives us that opportunity."

Bill Stewart, director of the Keystone Energy Forum, also commended the opportunities that the energy games presented in connecting with the community.

"The Keystone Energy Forum was created in 2010 in an effort to make factual information available to the public," he said. "Using our forum, people can gain a better understanding of the industry and see what's going on, and then decide for themselves."

Following the games, Sweeney reiterated his excitability of the event and noted that the PA Energy Games will return next year.

"For an initial and inaugural event, our volunteers really came together and made an amazing event," he said. "We received a ton of great feedback from the exhibitors and the public. We were able to achieve beyond what we set out to accomplish, and everyone that was there loved being there. Having an event like this allowed us to reach out to a much larger percentage of the public because there was something for everyone."

Sweeney also extended many thanks to all of the event's sponsors, volunteers, businesses and the public for making the games successful.

"For now, our aim next year is simply to be bigger and better," he said. "It says a lot that our sponsors and volunteers put so much trust in an untried event, and now that it's been shown that it can happen, we should be even bigger next year. Companies are already coming back next year and looking into becoming greater sponsors, and we'll look into even further inclusion of other energy industries and ways to celebrate the work and pride of America's energy."

Johnny Williams can be reached at (570) 265-1639; email: jwilliams@northeastdriller.com.