Slice of summer: The high school gridiron marks a turn of a season

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The calendar says it's summer; Labor Day still lies ahead. But on Friday nights, the scenes, sounds and scents of autumn are overwhelming the remnants of the hot-weather months.

Can't you see the players piling out of buses with their pads and helmets already on? Hear the band? Smell the kielbasa?

It's high school football season and, in Western Pennsylvania, that means a whole lot more than the game.

As public swimming pools reduced their operating hours, high school football players took to their fields for practices and the start of the weekly games. Likewise, legions of musicians spent the latter part of the summer perfecting their performances for kickoff and halftime.

The games provide a chance for students and alumni, longtime residents and neighborhood newcomers to gather for an inexpensive evening of sport and boosterism. And this is when the supporting cast that stands behind the players, band members, cheerleaders and majorettes really gets busy.

We're talking about the parents in the snack bar.

They've spent hours preparing homemade treats or cooking at the stadiums. The sale of the snacks is an organizational challenge that rivals a military operation, all in the name of fundraising.

At some high school venues, the snack bars offer simple choices -- candy or chips, maybe a hot dog and a drink. Others, however, have taken game food to a higher level. At one school, the big seller might be the walking taco -- a bag of Fritos with chili and cheese poured right in. At another, hot sausage sandwiches and pierogis. And desserts. Tables lined up at the top of the stands, piled with cookies and brownies and cupcakes.

It's been a terrific summer, but fall is looking pretty delicious.

This concludes our series of "Slice of Summer" vignettes highlighting warm-weather pastimes in Western Pennsylvania.

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