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Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 105 April 1, 2010


What we value

Amid the snowdrops, a winter's worth of lingering mounds of snow melted into the record books last month, signaling a welcome end to the coldest season and striking an upbeat

by Ann McKay (Pennsylvania Avenue) 

tempo for spring. Now begin the preparations for Mt. Gretna's 118th summer -- a swirl of events that, even for communities three or four times our size, would be daunting.
Yet if it is a burden, it is one we take on willingly. Something stirs deep within most of us, something that responds to a long-standing tradition of sharing experiences that lift hearts and elevate the mind. For both residents and visitors, what kindles such energies is a restless generosity, an immutable impulse to share the gifts that we ourselves enjoy. And only rarely do we hear anyone fretting over whether we are spending more than towns similar in size but vastly dissimilar in scope, cultural pursuits or quality of life.
We are here because we choose to be here. Touched by qualities rarely duplicated, we welcome others to join in a sense of place, in a sheltered woodland that some say time forgot.
To grasp what we value, start with a heritage which springs from the early traditions of an enlightened Chautauqua movement more than a century ago. Regardless of where we have chosen to live in Mt. Gretna, we are, all of us, in the broadest sense "Chautauquans." We understand that the bracing tonic which fills our days with endeavors that lift the spirit also enriches our very lives. It is a part of who we are.
Like-minded people, we often stop to admire the talents of our neighbors, pausing frequently to appreciate the gifts and professionalism of those in our midst. Whether artists creating a distinctive glimpse of the world on canvas, musicians executing a difficult Bach concerto on the Playhouse stage, or skilled crewmen repairing frozen pipes in the middle of a February night, they earn our admiration and deserve our applause. That, in fact, is one reason we'll pay special tribute to the Mt. Gretna Borough team at an appreciative gathering this month (Sunday, April 18, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.) at the fire hall. It will be simply, and sincerely, a heartfelt affirmation of their competence, dedication, honesty and reliability -- qualities essential to a community with aims that stretch further and reach higher than most.
A plaque that Jeff and Debora Hurst chose for the entrance to the Campmeeting heralds the inspiring thought that, though we cannot do everything, we can all do something to light a brighter path in the world.
That sentiment is, of course, by no means exclusive to the Campmeeting. Indeed, it radiates throughout this community, to every neighborhood from Stoberdale and the Heights to Timber Bridge. It is a shared value: to leave this place better than we found it. And given the rich heritage passed along to us by our predecessors, it is a calling that calls out for nothing less than our best.



With Phil Dirt and the Dozers Already Sold Out
Delay May be Risky Strategy for Ticket Buyers

When it comes to getting Cicada Festival tickets this season, procrastinators may be out of luck. Finding a seat for the nearly always sold-out performances is never easy. But this year, the challenge has suddenly escalated.
Not only are top-rated attractions luring concert-goers fast, but Festival planners introduced
a new website that invited advance ticket orders before the box office officially opened today (April 1).
Early-order envelopes began piling up sooner than ever this year, and Cicada's all-volunteer staff has already begun sorting requests according to postmark dates. 


Yesterday, officials announced that the Phil Dirt and the Dozers Aug. 10 concert is already sold out, with more ticket orders than the box office can honor. Coordinator Dick Smith was mulling over the possibility of scheduling an extra "Dozers" concert Monday night (Aug. 9). He’s not sure he can do that, but he'd like to hear from those who might be interested; (send him an email at or leave a message on the Cicada phone at 717-964-3225). He stresses, however, that another "Dozers" concert is, at the moment, "only a possibility."


Ticket prices are low ($11 for each of the six performances, including the festival's first-ever matinee with The Grassroots Aug. 12). And here's a tip to help keep them that way next year: Add a generous contribution when you send in your ticket order.

Click onto the new website, make your choices and mail to: Cicada Festival, P.O. Box 637, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064. And remember to include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Every little bit helps, say volunteers.



It's probably well that every 100 years or so something happens to remind us that architectural landmarks can occasionally add not only convenience to our everyday lives, but also color, richness and a sense of our place in history

Archway Drive:
Early Harpel Postcard

So it was when bricks began tumbling down in the 117-year-old railroad bridge east of town last January. To prevent injury, Cornwall police temporarily closed the popular thoroughfare, which Mt. Gretnans often prefer to use on their northbound journeys into Lebanon rather than the more heavily traveled Route 72.

It took exactly 52 days to complete repairs as workers sprayed a coating of mortar inside the structure. Officials surmised the bricks had been loosene

Archway Drive:
March 11, 2010

d by varying temperatures over the years, causing the mortar to contract, expand and finally start giving way -- threatening passing motorists.
Now a part of the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail, the scenic overpass was once part of the Cornwall and Lebanon Railroad, which carried passengers and freight to Mt. Gretna and the Pennsylvania Railroad's Conewago junction around the turn of the century, says Thomas J. Edkin, a realtor and avid local historian who supplied the photo at upper left.
Barriers were removed March 11, opening the historic tunnel to local motorists and restoring convenience, connection and a reassuring link to a more tranquil era.



Untying the Tax Bureau's Gordian Knot

Officials charged with untangling the chaos resulting from the Lebanon County Earned Income Tax Bureau's apparent $5.7 million error in distributing municipal revenues from 2004 to 2007 -- including $210,000 to Mt. Gretna Borough -- unveiled their proposed solution last month. In essence, it was a plan to levy paybacks from allegedly "overpaid" municipalities over periods ranging from 10 to 20 years.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone agreed with the recommendation. Bill Barlow, who moved to Mt. Gretna only a few years ago, was among several people who challenged the claim's accuracy, the Patriot News reported. 
Cornwall Mayor Mark Thomas pointed out that the EIT bureau is "asking us to pay back a ($1.06 million) bill you can't prove and we're not sure we owe. Let's start from here, get it correct and move forward."
If everyone agrees to drop their claims, "that's fine with us," replied tax bureau attorney Howard Kelin. Otherwise, he said, the matter will likely end up in the courts.
That prospect looms large, according to the Lebanon Daily News, quoting EIT official Gordon Waldhausen: "We have an obligation to facilitate a resolution." But that means getting "32 different entities to sign on the dotted line. If that doesn't happen, a lot of tax dollars will go outside Lebanon County."



One happy result of a community filled with artists is that creativity just keeps bubbling up like a freshly opened bottle of champagne. 
Latest to overflow the rim is professional photographer Madelaine Gray, starting a multi-year poster project depicting the diversity of Mt. Gretna in all its neighborhoods and starting, naturally enough, in the Campmeeting, where she herself makes her home when she's not

Next: Mt. Gretna Posters 

wandering through the lavender fields of France.
Madelaine intends to donate 10% of the proceeds to Mt. Gretna's fire company, currently in the midst of its $400,000 fundraising campaign.
"I want to do a series of posters featuring Campmeeting, Chautauqua, Timber Hills and the Heights," she says. She hopes to have the Campmeeting poster ready by Memorial Day. "I have already taken a number of of photographs in the Campmeeting but I want to take some more. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has an interesting feature to their cottage that I could consider photographing." Contact her at 964-3118 or e-mail




Jerry and Mimi Swayze, frequent Mt. Gretna visitors each summer (and sometimes in the winter, too), stoppin last month en route to a South Carolina vacation at Garnett's Cafe, the Richmond, Va. restaurant that Kendra Feather opened last October.
The owners' proud parents, Joe and Laura Feather of Conewago Hill, happened to be there as well, with son Curtis and several New Jersey cousins, all celebrating Kendra's second successful restaurant launch in Virginia's capital city. "
Ipanema Cafe," which she opened in 1998, is Richmond's favorite vegetarian/vegan restaurant.
Garnett's, named for Laura's lively 103-year-old mother (Garnett Kiki Beckman), who until just a few years ago was still climbing the Grand Canyon, is winning high praise from Richmond reviewers. Said one: "A simple, whimsical lunch, a good sandwich, a slice of chocolate cake with boiled icing, an experience reminiscent of a visit to grandma's -- more than a meal is offered here. Nostalgia is for sale. The experience of being fed on simple food, by someone who cares, is what Garnett's serves up."

Darting to and fro between Manhattan and Mt. Gretna

Award-winning design director and friend Lizzie.

ere she and adventure writer* Bill Gifford are preparing to move into their newly acquired Muhlenberg Avenue residence that was formerly the home of the late historian and aerospace engineer Jack Bitner), Elizabeth Hummer may have trouble squeezing enough time into her schedule to accept the latest accolade bestowed by her alma mater.
Elizabeth, design director at Harper's Bazaar magazine, will receive Penn State University's 2010 Alumni Award from the Department of Integrative Arts and Graphic Design Program this month. for plans at their historic home in Mt. Gretna, Elizabeth is excited, but acknowledges, "We have our work cut out for us." 
She says that Jack once mentioned the house was designed on the back of a napkin by the famous architect Stanford White. "It was probably linen," says Elizabeth. She'd like to hear from anyone who can provide additional details on the napkin-spawned design.

(*Bill Gifford's latest review, of John D'Agata's "About a Mountain," the account of  "a colossally bad idea" to bury nuclear waste deep inside Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert, appeared in last Sunday's Washington Post.)

Marriage made. . . well, if not in Heaven or Gretna Green, the next best place. Mt. Gretna's newest newlyweds took their vows here Feb. 22, setting in motion the possibility of a new epicenter for chess enthusiasts.
Entering into matrimony were Gail Babic and John Dempsey. Names sound familiar? She is the painter and former art teacher who moved to a Campmeeting cottage a few years ago from St. Cr

In Mt. Gretna, "checkmate" means "happy surrender"

oix. He is the former captain of Scotland's Olympic chess team who gave chess lessons here last summer at the Hall of Philosophy. And, oh yes, she formerly played chess for the U.S. Virgin Islands Olympic chess team. Therein lies a tale of entwined interests leading to his visit here last summer, which led ultimately to a proposal of marriage.   
So is Mt. Gretna, their new permanent home, likely to become a major chess capital? It's a good bet. Both are world-class competitors. And they'll likely have a series of class offerings for beginners of all ages this summer, not to mention instruction for both intermediate and tournament-level players. Like to know more about opportunities to learn the game? Drop John a note at or call 717-450-5115.  Photo: Madelaine Gray



9 Seats left on that bus headed to New York City April 24. That's because Rhoda Lon, who is sponsoring the trip to raise money for Mt. Gretna's fire company, suddenly discovered she can switch to a 55-passenger bus from the almost-filled 48-passenger version she booked initially. "The more, the merrier," she says.
Leaving Mt. Gretna at 7:30 a.m., the bus departs New York City at 7:30 p.m. in a "day-on-your-own, do-what-you-want" spring break that Rhoda figures is "just what everyone needs after a winter like this." Give her a call (717-304-0248) or
click here to send her an email.

Final official tally for the number of deer harvested at Governor Dick Park in a special four-day hunt last December. That unexpectedly low number surprised officials. Last spring, track surveys had estimated the population at 32 deer per square mile, up from a 10-per-square-mile finding revealed by similar studies two years ago. 
Since the first Governor Dick Park hunt was authorized in 2005, hunters have reported a total of 94 deer taken during three limited hunts sanctioned by a Lebanon County court ruling. The court overturned a ban on hunting in the 1,105-acre park specified in the will of land donor Clarence Schock.
Park officials are now installing special fencing to protect 15,000 seedlings being planted in areas where trees were decimated by gypsy moths. Board member Chuck Allwein, a former biology teacher, cautioned that "people are going to see bare spots" after spraying operations are completed this spring to control invasive species such as Alanthus (Tree of Heaven) and Mile-a-Minute plants. If left unchallenged, he says, those invasives threaten to "take over the mountain."

Photo: Head Gear LLC

360  Easter eggs that coloring specialists like Carson Brooks, 5, prepared last week the annual egg hunt sponsored by Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church.
About 45 youngsters turned out for the
sunny, if chilly, Saturday safari on March 27, starting promptly at 11:00 a.m. Within five minutes, the keen-eyed hunters had spotted and scooped up all 30 dozen eggs, plus some plastic ones that volunteer Ron Jones annually stuffs with candy and tiny slips of paper announcing a prize for the lucky finders.   Dale Grundon photo.

80,000  That's how many $5 subs it would take to hit the fire company's $400,000 goal in their current fundraising campaign., so they won't quite make it to the top this Saturday, no matter how many turkey, ham or roast beef subs they'll sell.
But that doesn't mean our determined fire department volunteers won't be out there trying. Look for 'em outside the post office April 3, from 10:00 a.m. until noon (where you can also buy raffle tickets on Madelaine Gray's newest Mt. Gretna photograph; see "Magic at a Miniature Golf Course," below.) Then sign up for as many sandwiches as you can, and maybe toss in an extra buck or two for the cause. (It'll make you feel good!) Your subs will be ready for pickup April 14 at the fire hall -- so mark the date: You won't have to fix dinner that night!

2nd Annual "Steps to Survival Walk" coming up in Mt. Gretna May 22 to benefit Lebanon's Rails to Trails group and the Sexual Assault Resource & Counseling Center.
Register by May 1 ($20, payable to SARCC; tax deductible) and get a free T-shirt: Madelaine Gray, P. O. Box 219, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064. Details: Call (964-3118) or
email Madelaine.



Coming in August
An Organist with Style, Talent. . . and Chutzpah

A New York Times reviewer says he pushes "the boundaries of organ te

Talent & Swarovski crystals, too

chnique to breathtaking heights."
Following his concerts in Russia last year, audiences in Moscow's Tchaikovsky Hall demanded eight encores -- and 12 in St. Petersburg's Capella.
The Philadelphia Inquirer's music critic says Cameron Carpenter -- who this summer will be the first organ soloist ever to appear on the Mt. Gretna Playhouse stage -- "cultivates an avenging angel image at the organ."
(Click here to see him in performance.)
And Peter Hewitt -- the Mt. Gretna organ impresario who worked with Gretna Music to arrange his Aug. 5 performance as an extension of the regular July organ series -- says that getting Carpenter here, amid a summer already packed with bookings in Switzerland, Russia, France, California and New York City, is "quite a coup."
The flamboyant soloist, acclaimed as a worthy successor to famed organist Virgil Fox, will appear through a grant made by a Mt. Gretna resident. It will be Carpenter's first tour with a custom-built traveling organ he calls Excalibur.
Tickets are now on sale online.



At this year's summer programs
Choices, choices. Have we got choices.

What might make a fascinating study for college interns sometime is a survey of people who live in Mt. Gretna but miss out on opportunities to take advantage of summer programs unfolding right at their front doors.
This year there's something to tempt even the most reluctant hold

The Campmeeting soda parlor around 1946, when milkshakes were a dime and ice cream cones 5 cents each. Ed Landis (seated at counter, facing the server in apron) recalls once eating a full pint of ice cream there in one sitting. "At 20 cents a pint, that was a fortune," he says. The soda parlor and an adjacent store, operated by Barbara Acker's grandfather William Harbach, were located in the building later converted into Mt. Gretna's United Methodist Church. At right, behind counter: Barb's mother, Katherine Ulrich, serving Bill and Alan Schick, whose parents lived in Lancaster and owned a cottage on 3d Street.

outs. From another University for a Day program July 10 to the Hall of Philosophy's centennial celebration July 16, plus a program on what it was like growing up in Mt. Gretna during the 20s, 30s and 40s; a Planet Earth and Art History series based on Discovery Channel programs; popular entertainer Steve Courtney and the Sunday mini concert series on the steps of the Hall of Philosophy.
Opportunities to learn line dancing,  pottery-making, ornamental Fraktur, and jewelry-making with wire wrapping have also been injected into the 2010 offerings -- all part of a rich Mt. Gretna tradition of sharing, learning and exploring.
So with 138 different choices on the menu between Memorial Day and Labor Day, there's a good chance that nobody will be bored.


What evokes magic at a miniature golf course?  In the case of this photograph -- being raffled as part of the fire company's "burn the mortgage" campaign -- what inspired this mystical scene were childhood memories of a Manhattan resident, whose grandparents brought him to Mt. Gretna.
Last summer, he commissioned photographer Madelaine Gray to recapture some of those memories in six scenes. After she sent him multiple choices, including this one of the miniature golf course stand at twilig

"If it hadn't been for that commission, I probably never would have thought of doing this scene," says Madelaine Gray. The framed 16 x 20 print will be raffled this month to benefit the fire company.

ht, he wound up buying 11 pictures.
"I had to really work on getting this one right, with just the right light and few people in the background," says Madelaine. "If it hadn't been for that commission, I probably never would have thought of doing this scene."
Normally, says Madelaine, she doesn't go out looking for anything in particular, sometimes bypassing subjects she had never before thought of as a photograph. "It's an interesting process. I just start walking around, letting my consciousness guide me so I find something unexpected." This framed 16 x 20 photograph is one of two she donates annually to fire company's $400,000 campaign. 
At this month's raffle, 50 tickets will be offered at $5 each, starting Saturday (April 3) outside the post office at the sub sale (see "Numbers," above).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Mt. Gretnan Sue Pera, who runs the award-winning Cornerstone Coffeehouse in Camp Hill with husband and business partner Al, tells what she's learned about running a successful enterprise in a video interview with the Central Pennsylvania series, "Learn From Our Mistakes."
Sue and Al return frequently to Mt. Gretna, visiting her parents, Earl and Nancy Besch, and volunteering at the art show each summer. Their popular cafe is a perennial winner in readers' choice contests sponsored by regional magazines including Central Pennsylvania and Harrisburg Magazine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~, 20-month-old Mathias Harms got off to a good start last month, helping "Pop" Bill Kleinfelter tackle the leaves outside his cottage on Pennsylvania Avenue. "Grammy" Barb Kleinfelter, who grabbed a camera and sent this photo, reports however that once indoors, both of the busy rakers soon took a mid-morning nap.
Yet even with occasional breaks for a snooze, getting a jump on spring cleanup is probably a good idea. Mt. Gretna Borough will conduct leaf pickups only once this spring, starting May 10 on Chautauqua Drive and continuing up the mountain.
Officials ask residents to rake leaves to the curbside, separate leaves from brush, and keep streets open. They'll collect brush (including tree limbs up to 3 inches in diameter) on May 3 and June 7. Questions? Call the Borough office: 964-3270.
In the Campmeeting, supervisor Merv Lentz says no specific dates are set for spring clean-up. "Many residents have their roofs and yards cleaned and then place leaves and branches 'curbside.' This method seems to work best for us. As things appear, we collect them," says Merv.
No word yet on pickup schedules for Mt. Gretna Heights and Stoberdale residents. Leaf pickup services are unavailable for those in Timber Hills, Conewago Hill or Timber Bridge.



Free Plants for your garden: Dick Brown's third annual "native plant dig and exchange day" comes up April 24. The retired educator (named Lebanon County's 2009 "Conservationist of the Year") invites you to dig up native plants overflowing the garden at his 980 Mine Road home. Come with your own tools at 9:00 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. so he can show you where to dig. He sets an "exchange table" for visitors bringing plants to share with others.  Details: 964-3006, or click here to drop him an email note.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~'s up as Governor Dick Park stirs into spring? Plenty.

[] First, a fast-paced fitness hike, geared to raise your heart rate, April 3 at 9:00 a.m. Wear proper footwear; hiking poles are optional in this morning workout.

The first of four "Progressive Walks" starts April 10 at 10:00 a.m. Walk on wooded trails to see how the forest unfolds week to week.

[]  April 11,
Dick Brown (see above item) presents a program at 2:00 p.m. on how to use native plants in your backyard garden or a small meadow.

[]  Earth Day celebrations April 18: At 1:00 p.m., "Element-ary!" a family-oriented workshop about our connection to the earth; 2:00 p.m., Progressive Walk No. 2 to continue watching changes seen along the trails; 2:45 p.m., "Get to know the earth," free play time digging in the dirt, building something with sticks and turning over rocks to look for little creatures -- at a spot designated for this activity.
Questions? Email, call 964-3808, or check the online calendar.


What Dale Dourte started last summer is blooming this spring at La Cigale design center along Route 117. Strains of bluegrass, rich and pure, em from the hall on Monday nights, drawing ever-increasing numbers of musicians and aficionados into the lair entrepreneur John Mitchell has created amid acres of French Provencial linens, napkins and other table art.
The musical olla-podrida attracts an audience diverse in their artistic tastes but unified in their appreciation of live music flowing as much from the hearts as the instruments themselves.
(Sample what you're missing with these YouTube videos.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Fellin, the engaging Milton Hershey School publicist who drops into town occasionally to visit her dad, Chautauquan Scott Zellers, was bubbling over the other day about the upcoming "18,000 Voices," a rollicking Barry Kornhauser original musical celebrating the school's centennial year, blending experiences of generations of MHS students with familiar tunes from the past 100 years. Performances begin at 7:00 p.m. May 6 and 8 at Founders Hall on the school's campus. No tickets required. 


A Sunrise Worship Service at Soldiers Field begins the traditional Easter observances for Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church April 4, at 7:00 a.m.
Regular Sunday services, with music by the church choir, will be held at 8:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Everyone is welcome.  



"Spen a day in Mt. Gretna will make you feel that life is a whole lot simpler," says Outta the Way!, a new online guide to interesting, inexpensive and nearby spots to visit, most of them in Central Pennsylvania. A handy guide for those "I'm bored. Let's do something different" kind of days. 



S.P.L.A.T! It's how to add the touch of magic to an otherwise dull Sunday afternoon, say Lucy Kosoff, Chase and Logan Balmer and Luke Royer. They are among a group of about a dozen youngsters taking part in the Mt. Gretna Arts Council's first foray into a program called "Spirited People Learning Artfulness Together." (Everyone agrees: S.P.L.A.T.! is much easier to remember.)
Jessica Kosoff is coordinating the effort, a cooperative venture with a Palmyra-based group that offers arts instruction for four- to 10-year-olds at the fire hall in five sessions that continue through May 16.

Will there be similar programs in the future? That's a distinct possibility. "It's a good wintertime activity," says Jessica. If you'd like to know more about this or other Arts Council ventures, drop her a note at



Printing tip: If you have trouble printing copies of this newsletter, click here for the latest issue. (Keith Volker usually has it posted on the Web within a few hours immediately before or after the email version is dispatched.) Once you've opened the current online version, just press the "print" command on your computer.

Photos not visible?
Some readers solve that problem by right-clicking on the picture space and then selecting "Show Picture."
Another way to see the photos is to go to our Website: and click on the current issue.
Constant Contact, the commercial service that distributes this newsletter, also gives this advice to readers when pictures don't appear:
Look at the top of the Newsletter for a button that may say something like, "Show images and enable links. Always for this sender." That's AOL's wording, but different email services use slightly different terminology. Yet their meaning is the same. If you click on "Allow content from this sender," the photos should appear immediately.
If you use an email service other than AOL and are still having problems, drop us a note. We'll forward Constant Contact's specific recommendations for your service.
Speaking of photos: If you have digital pictures of Mt. Gretna scenes, events or people likely to interest others, please email them to us at
(That's what Mark Flannery of Wyomissing, Pa. did following a recent trip here to check on his summer cottage. No, seeing a Jigger mirage won't hasten summer's arrival, but at least it's a pleasant thought when one is sampling the last taste of winter -- we hope!)
Whenever possible, we'll use the photos our readers send us -- with appropriate credit. Thanks so much for your help.