When testimony begins next week, Bellefonte will again become a center of the news universe. This week satellite trucks were double-parked outside the Centre County Courthouse, the green lawn given over to cameras, tents, and stand-up crews.
"It's a very proud town. Proud of their heritage," said School Superintendent Cheryl Potteiger, who on a rainy morning this week was helping children wend their way around TV cables to safely cross the streets.
That heritage endures in ways big and small. Plumb's Rexall Drugs still operates a soda fountain. Across the street at Parrish Drugs, penny candy still costs, well, a penny. The lady at the counter says prices for some sweets have recently gone up - to two cents. A classic car show and sock hop is scheduled for Father's Day weekend and nobody thinks that's corny.
But Bellefonte is not without challenges. Drawing businesses to central Pennsylvania is hard. The population dipped 3 percent between 2000 and 2010, and the historic downtown is dotted with a half-dozen empty storefronts. The Sandusky trial has brought traffic and commotion.
"A lot of people are like, 'I just want it to go away,' " said pharmacist David Montgomery at Parrish Drugs. "We're just exhausted. It's in the paper every day. You turn on the national TV news, it's there."
Restaurants and bars may see the deluge of news reporters as a small economic-stimulus program, he said, but for other businesses it can mean that people leery of the fuss don't come to buy.
Bellefonte is a place where you trip over history, people here say, but its future depends more and more on the giant university that sits 10 miles southwest. At times it seems as if every other person works at Penn State or has close ties to the school - evident during jury selection.
The jury was drawn from Centre County, which includes not just Penn State but the Second Mile, the charity for youths founded by Sandusky in 1977. Prosecutors say that Sandusky molested 10 boys during a 15-year period, meeting the children through the charity, and that much of the abuse allegedly occurred on campus.
One question Judge John Cleland asked potential jurors: Do you have any strong loyalty toward or bias against Penn State? When he asked one pool of 40 potential jurors if they worked at Penn State, had retired from there, or had relatives who did so, half raised their hands.
"We're in Centre County. We're in rural Pennsylvania," Cleland said at one point. "There are these [connections] that cannot be avoided."
Indeed, the first president of Penn State, Evan Pugh, is buried here. University staffers find good houses and quiet streets here, and some students rent apartments and commute by bus.
"Our economy is diverse, but a lot of it is provided through Penn State," said Gary Hoover, executive director of the Bellefonte Intervalley Chamber of Commerce.
Still, he and others say their town offers more than a short drive to the university.
Bellefonte was voted the best fly-fishing town in Pennsylvania - no small honor in a state obsessed with hunting and fishing. Each week, tour buses disgorge Victorian-era architecture aficionados, and railroad buffs who come to see the restored 1889 train station.
The town is headquarters of the 35,000-member American Philatelic Society and its research library, which maintains troves of treasured stamps in a restored 19th-century match factory. The society draws devoted visitors interested in everything from Japanese airmail to the stamps of pre- and post-Soviet Estonia.
Bellefonte is full of animals - Moose, Elk and Eagles at the fraternal lodges - and the courthouse is home to Princess, a friendly yellow Labrador retriever who helps calm children involved in legal proceedings.
"Bellefonte is bricks and ivy and gingerbread finish on the buildings, and State College is glass, aluminum, and neon," said David Dimmick, a retired Penn State instructor who grew up nearby and founded the downtown Faith Centre to provide clothes and food to people who need them. "It's changing a bit, and it's changing for the good. A lot of faculty are moving in and buying some of the old mansions."
Thirty-five percent of Bellefonte residents have at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 26 percent statewide. Its homes are worth more than the state average, and its poverty rate is a little lower. Racially, the town is almost all white.
Fine Victorian homes have been turned into bed-and-breakfasts, including the Reynolds Mansion and Judge Walker's House. The town puts its history front and center: Home to seven governors, five of Pennsylvania, and one each of California and the Kansas Territory. Site of a 1790s visit by the French statesman Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, who supposedly gave the town its name when he saw its gorgeous natural spring and cried out, "La Belle Fonte!"
Limestone, timber, and iron ore were plentiful, and the rushing waters of Spring Creek provided the power for machinery. But by the 1850s, the hardwood forests were becoming depleted and better ores found elsewhere.
What saved Bellefonte from ruin? Politics. William Bigler, a veteran of the Centre Democrat newspaper, was elected governor in 1851. Nine years later, the town's Andrew Curtin won the job, and was reelected in 1863. Important people came to town to do business, and hotels and banks grew to support them.
"This place is truly wonderful," a representative of the Edison Electric Co. wrote from Bellefonte to the New York office in 1883. "It supports two daily papers, three banks, an opera house, a Christian Association and a gas company."
In 1900, Bellefonte opened one of the largest match factories in the nation, an 18-building complex that turned chunks of wood into boxes of matches. Every variety rolled out the door. In World War II, the factory supplied waterproof matches to American soldiers around the globe.
Across the street from the courthouse where opening arguments in the Sandusky trial will begin Monday, attorney Rodney Beard and his wife, Rhonda, are deep into a $250,000 renovation of the late-1800s First National Bank. The imposing steel vault has become a file-storage area for Beard's law office, and other space is being converted to apartments, all of it graced by genteel accents like pendant lights and marble stairs.
Beard got his undergraduate degree at Penn State, and his law degree at the College of William and Mary, then came here to work. The proximity of the university, and the businesses it supports, creates a steady flow of interesting cases, and a chance to work with or against some of the nation's top attorneys, he said. He and his wife like the slower pace of small-town life and the easy access to university events.
Now the alleged crimes of the former assistant football coach at that university have brought unwelcome attention.
Still, Bellefonte, he added, is a place where good people are trying to do good things, whether that's attracting new businesses, maintaining a local park, or even renovating an old building.
"We care," he said, "about the town."
Some historical information for this article came from "Bellefonte, Pennsylvania: A Rendezvous With History" by Pierce Lewis, and from the Talleyrand Park Citizens Committee.
Contact Jeff Gammage at 215-854-2415, email@example.com, or on Twitter @JeffGammage.