Mt. Gretna, Pa. . . .'Not a place, but a spirit." -- Marlin Seiders (1927-2008)
Mt. Gretna 2010 Outdoor Art Show:
An enduring favorite that's personal & perpetually new
A newspaper columnist last
week may have put his finger on precisely the reason Mt. Gretna's outdoor
art renews, refreshes and endures year after year.
"One of the pleasures of Mt. Gretna is speaking with the artists
whose work you're buying," noted Reading Eagle writer John Fidler.
He touched on a resounding truth. The experience is a world apart from
shopping in giant retail stores or online for things that come in boxes,
usually from China and made by people that one never can hope to meet.
Personal, enticing and riding a wave of fresh creative impulses, the 2010
Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show swept into town last month on a Friday
afternoon. By the following Tuesday, only a few remnants from straw bale
benches remained, along with brightly colored banners still fluttering on
a mid-August morning minus the crowds.
An annual rite of 36 years standing -- the biggest event that takes place
in Mt. Gretna all year long -- had again fallen into place, guided almost
imperceptibly by 250 or so
Art that transforms
who, with remarkable precision, accomplished their tasks without manuals,
supervisors or endless committee meetings. Able, amiable people united in
purpose and centered in goodwill.
Building on the traditions of nearly four decades, they again fashioned an
outdoor showcase for 250 artists and thousands of appreciative visitors.
True, the numbers were down this year, but only slightly.
During the two-day festival that earned Sunshine Artist magazine's
honors this year as one of the best in the country, some 12,139 patrons
poured through the gates -- almost 17% fewer than last year because of
Art that attracts
that threatened all through the morning on Sunday -- causing many
prospective visitors to alter their plans -- and finally erupted shortly
Yet gate revenues of $84,218, bolstered by a $1 increase in the price of
admission, nudged to within 8% of last year's totals. Not bad in a year
when the twin forces of summer heat and reverberating echoes of a
stubbornly persistent recession have buffeted outdoor art exhibits across
The totals were nevertheless sufficient to produce revenue-sharing checks
immediately -- $15,159 to Mt. Gretna Borough (which maintains roadways
surrounding Chautauqua grounds where the show takes place) and $11,158 to
the fire company (a payment that president Joe Shay says arrives just in
time to nearly cover the annual insurance premium that comes due every
August for the fire engines and fire hall itself).
Other sectors of the community also benefit, with surplus funds often
going to support such things as emergency generators for water supplies,
a lakeside fire h
Art that invites a touch
buzzard-rousting equipment and similar investments that extend benefits
to residents throughout the seven neighborhoods known as Mt. Gretna.
Amid generally upbeat endorsements from artists and repeated comments ("straight-up zen,"
said one patron) from visitors about the
scope, quality and creativity of artistic endeavors on display,
affirmations echoed that this event -- even after 36 years -- continues
year after year with unabated freshness.
Yet one veteran artist, who has exhibited here since the show began,
shared a disquieting thought. Looking over his colleagues during Sunday's
downpour, many with graying heads that matched his own, he wondered
aloud: "Where will the artists who are willing to risk bad weather,
dwindling crowds and economic uncertainty come from in five years?"
Amid the banners, objects of beauty and hay bales, it was a question that
arts-based communities like Mt. Gretna must now ponder.
For as Mr. Fidler observed, the art show is more than a festival, more
than a hectic weekend that we carve out in the course of a busy summer.
Like music, plays, poems and other artistic expressions that take us out
of ourselves, it is a part of the total Mt. Gretna experience, a venue
that -- for reasons transcending economics -- is essential to preserve.
news. . .
A Mt. Gretna network to help neighbors? It's a possibility say Julia Bucher and Kathy
Wall, two Mt. Gretnans with professional experience in caregiving.
Their idea is a volunteer service that might help elderly residents who
wish to remain in their homes, aid single parents who must
cope with special medical needs and assist Mt. Gretnans who might need
someone to drive them home after medical appointments that require
Timber Hills resident Evelyn Koppel hopes to hear from folks who think
such a service might be desirable.
The idea began percolating last month after Julia presented talks as part
of the Chautauqua summer program series. She and Kathy have offered to
add their expertise to the effort. Think the notion has merit? To add
your ideas or serve as a volunteer, contact Evelyn (e-mail email@example.com
or Tel. 964-3412).
Scott Hirst photo
He was the 39th fastest runner in the Boston
Marathon 34 years ago. Several records he set as a student at
Millersville University in the early 1970s still stand. And as an
athlete, Campmeeting cottage owner Jeff Bradley has always been driven by
Yet when he switched to a bicycle last spring -- on a 4,178-mile
TransAmerica Route through America's small towns and villages -- he shut
down the speed display on his Garmin cycle computer.
Rather than focusing on how fast he could pedal, the normally competitive
First priority: sever the speedometer
cyclist concentrated on how much of America he
could take in.
"I had two main goals: Never pedal when I could coast. And keep my
head up, to enjoy this great country," says the 58-year-old former
high school math teacher and track coach.
They were goals his wife Nancy shared as she drove ahead of him in a
support van checking out the map, making sandwiches and offering
encouragement. In lightning storms, she doubled back to supply emergency
shelter. But in non-electrical storms, no matter how heavy the downpour
or how strong the winds, Jeff kept pedaling -- switching occasionally
from his Shimano-equipped Norco Quest touring bike to a Cannondale Caad 8
(10 pounds lighter) to scale the mountain peaks.
On most of their 65 days along the route, Nancy by mid-afternoon had
found the motel where they would relax, rest a bit, then go to dinner
(usually at a local restaurant where they could meet the townsfolk).
"That's where you really get to take the pulse of a local community,
in the eateries," says Jeff, who chronicled
his adventures online.
After their long (usually 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) days on the road with
only one flat tire -- on Nancy's support van, a 2003 Ford Windstar, not
the bikes -- they reached Yorktown, Va. Observing a time-honored ritual
of transcontinental cyclists, Jeff dipped his front tire in the water.
and Nancy at Yorktown
Now that it's over, would Jeff recommend doing anything differently?
"Instead of trying to average 80 miles a day, I'd slow down to maybe
50 miles a day," he says. "I wish we'd taken more time in
places like Charlottesville, Va, at Monticello and Ash Lawn, or maybe
wander through town and get an ice cream cone."
Savoring small town life is a specialty for the Bradleys. When they're
not in Mt. Gretna, they spend time at their year-round home in
Landisville, about 18 miles away.
Owning a Mt. Gretna cottage had been Jeff's dream, ever since he first
ran a 10,000-meter race here 36 years ago. In 2002, Campmeeting friend
and neighbor George Resch called to tell him about a nice cottage coming
up for sale on Sixth Street. "You ought to take a look at it,"
The Bradleys bought and never looked back.
"Nancy loves it," says Jeff. "And in September, after the
tourists leave and things quiet down, it's the most spectacular time of
the year. The more I'm here, the more I realize how special Mt. Gretna
The "Miracle of Boulevard Avenue"
How they create a $15 bargain
So how do they do it?
We're talking about those fire company volunteers who create the annual
"Miracle of Boulevard Avenue" (where the Mt. Gretna Fire
Company is headquartered).
Their miracle? A $15 pig roast buffet complete with not just tender
roasted pork sizzling on an open pit, but also baked beans, succulent
vegetables, pineapple filling, salad, hors d'oeuvres, coffee, sodas and
beer with a baked potato, dessert, rolls, and -- for those seeking an
alternative to pork -- hamburger barbecue. Plus there's
entertainment. All coming Sept. 11, from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m.
But for $15???
Yes, and here's their secret: Virtually all the up-front costs are
covered by donors who years ago figured out they could multiply their
fire company contributions by sponsoring an event that would attract
others, spur donations, and provide a community gathering that everyone
looks forward to and nobody misses if they can help it.
Turns out they were right.
So who are the folks who are again helping create another pig roast this
year? Here's the list:
Emi Snavely and Rhoda Long of Brownstone Realty,
the Mt. Gretna Men's Club, restaurant owner Jason Brandt, the Mt. Gretna
Hideaway, musician Scott Galbraith, Timbers Dinner Theater, Gretna
Graphics, Gretna Computer Consulting and Mt. Gretna builder John Balmer.
These same folks, of course, along with many others, also contribute in
other ways, says fire company president (and Mt. Gretna mayor) Joe Shay,
adding: "But the annual pig roast is just one of the ways they add
something extra to 'the spirit of Mt. Gretna.'"
that Positively Dazzle
For a glimpse into how a community
that celebrates porch living while people elsewhere are drawn indoors to
computer and television screens, take a look at the luminous
display that Campmeeting
residents put on last month.
These are scenes from the "Illumuniation
of the Grove" ceremony, harkening to the days when youngsters,
finishing up their lessons at summer church camp, strolled through the
Campmeeting Grove, singing their newly learned hymns.
That tradition got a modern twist when residents throughout the Campmeeting turned on their porch
and interior lights to honor that heritage.
In the process, they also helped encourage others throughout Mt. Gretna
to do the same.
That, in fact, will happen next July. Plans are now underway to
celebrate Independence Day 2011 with a Grand Illumination throughout the
town -- building on an idea that's at least 100 years old and first
started in other Chautauqua and Camp Meeting
communities throughout America.
Karl Gettle heads a Mt. Gretna
Area Historical Society group to shape those plans. He invites others to
join in (telephone 964-2292, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Karl Gettle, P.O. Box 419,
Mt. Gretna, PA 17064).
He expects to come up with a format that will
permit everyone in Mt. Gretna -- including homeowners that don't
have porches -- to participate with luminous displays that celebrate the
nation's independence in a way that Mt.
Gretnans did more than half a century ago. . . without the hazard
It's a grand theme with possibilities that
most agree are ideally suited to a creativity-ladened, porch-lined and
patriotic-minded community like Mt. Gretna.
And as Campmeeting residents showed last
month, the results can be positively dazzling.
Photos by Madelaine Gray
During the 51 years she lived in Mt. Gretna, Kim Miller Gardner showed up as a volunteer nearly
everywhere: at the Playhouse, the library, the information center and the
The widow of beloved musician, Lebanon Valley College Creative
Achievement award winner and Timbers Dinner Theater co-producer Rodne
Ollie and friend
y S. Miller, who died unexpectedly five years
ago at the age of 49, Kim was back in town last month to collect some
items she had placed in storage.
"I don't know what's in all those boxes," said Kim, looking at
a fully stuffed U-Haul as she contemplated the long drive back to St.
Paul, Minn., where she and her new husband, Bob Gardner, now make their
Bob is an antique car buff. Kim was working as a research librarian at
the Antique Auto Club in Hershey when he stopped in one day and asked for
her help. Soon afterward, he was asking for her hand in marriage.
While she was here last month (with Bob and their collie, named Ollie),
Kim had time to visit with her son Andrew, now married and living in
Baltimore, and two sisters: Kyle Witman, in Elizabethtown, and Judy
Schweingruber, a Mt. Gretnan. Another sister, Wendy Ulmer, who lives in
Maine, was in town earlier this summer to promote her latest
book for children.
Their parents, the late Bill and Ruth Uhler, lived in Mt. Gretna Heights
Seven years after they left Mt. Gretna, Bruce and Trish Myers are busier than ever. The energetic
couple, honored as two of Mt. Gretna's outstanding volunteers here in 2002,
are now instructing
Hershey visitors in the fine art of Segwaying -- on the self-propelled
chariot that Bruce, no
Bruce at 80: Setting the pace
w 80, masters
Trish challenge: Keeping up
Not far behind is wife Trish, another Segway guide, instructing visitors
in the joys of seeing Hershey's sights from this motorized, gyro-equipped
and computer-controlled platform that travels over the Hotel Hershey
grounds at speeds up to 12 mph.
When they're not leading visitors along the Segway trails, Trish works at
a downtown museum while Bruce is busy over at the Giant Center's food and
"We don't have to work," says Trish, "but we choose to.
When Bruce has something to do, he's excited. In fact, I have a hard time
Vegetarian chef and restaurant owner Kendra Feather, in a TV
interview last month after her popular cafe was voted
by Richmond Magazine readers.
The daughter of Conewago Hill residents Laura and Joseph Feather, Kendra
recently opened Garnett's, a second eatery in
Virginia's capital city.
Sue Pera, telling a Harrisburg
Patriot reporter this week the recession has actually boosted business at Cornerstone, the popular Camp Hill
coffeehouse that she and husband Al bought 11 years ago. As an
alternative to expensive restaurants, "it's a small luxury that
people can afford," she said. Sue is the daughter of Mt. Gretna
summer residents Nancy and Earl Besch. She and Al once owned a cottage
here. Folks here are keeping fingers crossed they'll return someday.
They are special bulletins intended primarily
for people who live in and around Mt. Gretna. These occasional advisories
usually contain information about such things as temporary road closings,
disruptions to municipal services, utility repairs, severe weather
shelter availabilities and other items of local interest.
To avoid overburdening readers who live elsewhere in the world, we
normally do not circulate such bulletins to the full Mt. Gretna
Newsletter mailing list. They are, however, available to anyone
who wishes to receive them, regardless of where they live.
If you would like to receive these
interim bulletins, please send an e-mail request to email@example.com with "Local Updates" in the
subject line. We'll add your name to the mailing list.
cheers for the deer
"Deer hunting would be fine sport, if only
the deer had guns," wrote the English librettist William S. Gilbert.
But this year, the deer won't need armaments -- in Governor Dick Park at
least. There will be no special limited hunt in 2010.
In fact, unless the herd thickens considerably, the 1,105-acre park's
dwindling deer population may have an easier time of it for y
ears to come.
That's because of shrinking deer counts and the end of a five-year
exemption to land donor Clarence Shock's ban on hunting.
Since the court lifted that decades-old prohibition for a period of five
years -- starting in 2005 -- hunters with restricted types of firearms
killed a total of 94 deer in three years. In two of those five years, no
hunts were allowed because the deer counts fell sharply.
But never so much as this spring. Astonished officials could confirm
fewer than five deer per square mile. That contrasted dramatically with
the 32-deer-per-square-mile findings of only a year earlier. Yet when
hunters were allowed on the site last December, only 24 reported they had
Clearly, coming up with accurate population counts is anything but easy.
In 2004, forestry official Barry Rose had estimated that "more than
100" deer were roaming the forest (which he said could reasonably
support only 20 to 35 deer). Mr. Rose's projection prompted officials to
obtain a temporary court order that lifted the ban in 2005. In that year,
a total of 55 deer (having never before glimpsed hunters) were killed in
But nothing close to that has occurred since.
"Our survey this year showed the lowest number of deer in the past
six years. Neither we nor the foresters know why," said Chuck
Allwein, a former biology teacher who serves on the park board. "Our
five-year window allowed by the court is now closed. If we want to
conduct a hunt in the future, we will have to go back to the court."
That's probably just fine as far as the deer are concerned. Any judge
poring over the confused jumble of herd population statistics to determine
whether to allow a resumption of special hunts in the future will likely
wind up with the bewildered look of a deer in the headlights.
 I have heard about a frog pond in Mt Gretna. Can someone
please tell me how I can find it? I have two young boys who would
<> Little-known but much-loved by those who have discovered it, the
Frog Pond is one of Mt. Gretna's hidden gems. Located just 50 yards up a
path in the woods off Fourth Street in the Heights, it is a place where
for more than half a century children have played, couples have fallen in
love, and artists and writers have come for solitude and inspiration. A
stone marker identifies it as the location of a cabin occupied in the
late 18th Century by the former slave and charcoal burner known as
Curiously, few people today seem to know much about it. Yet for those who
grew up here, it was a favorite spot, particularly for people like Kim
Uhler (now Kim Miller Gardner) and Elizabeth Wein.
Now living in Minnesota, Kim recalls scooping up frog eggs and
Original painting by Robert Nisley,
commissioned as a birthday present by her grandmother Betty Flocken,
now hangs in Elizabeth Wein's home.
watching them hatch into tadpoles. Elizabeth, the
author of historical fiction for young adults who now lives in Scotland, was
courted there by her future husband.
And both, with friends and family, spent endless hours as teenagers,
making the pond a suitable home for goldfish that people sometimes
The pond is today maintained by Heights property owners who sometimes add
their own labor to the services of professional tree cutters and confront
such issues as what to do about the pond's only bench, recently smashed
by a falling tree. Max Hunsicker recalls a winter in the 1980s when Tom
Lloyd, chopping away at a huge poplar that had fallen across the pond,
lost "a particularly fine axe" in the frigid waters. "We
never did find it," says Max, who adds that Tom Nicholas and many
other residents often lend a hand to keep the area clean, but
That makes the pond and its surrounding grounds a marvel
For residents like Barbara Lauver, who
moved to Mt. Gretna five years ago, the pond is a special place.
ous and magical place for people like Bob and
Barbara Lauver who now live on Maple Avenue in the Heights and often stop
by with their dogs.
The goldfish? Folks still drop them off from time to time, but reports of
people stopping by to scoop them up to feed their pet piranhas have not
only been confirmed over the years but continue to circulate. Recently,
in fact, when a group seen near the pond with nets got away before anyone
could stop them. A visitor to the pond yesterday morning, however,
assured that the goldfish were still there, safe and sound in numbers, nibbling
away at the algae, insects and abundant plants. The magic continues.
Never been to the Frog Pond? Click
here for a
YouTube video, complete with genuine frog sounds.
who build community
So when it comes to figuring out how the Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show gets
underway each year -- with only volunteers and no paid staffers -- here's
one answer: People give their time to do the essential set-ups a week or
so before the show.
So on a Tuesday morning before the weekend show got underway last month,
volunteers turned out on the Chautauqua grounds doing things like
rebuilding the stage that art show entertainers would use for the two-day
From left, Mt. Gretnans Tom Sheaffer and Joe Feather got things started
with the help of John McCord (center, just in from Arizona)
teaming with frequent hurricane catastrophe volunteer Val Sarabia
(foreground) and Terry Miller (far right). All five men know their way
around a hammer and nails, but only Terry does this sort of thing for a
living. Nevertheless, on a steamy August morning, they furnished yet
another example of how Mt. Gretna's art show gets created each year: with
teamwork, talent and a can-do spirit.
90 People, maybe more, expected to show up at the annual Mt. Gretna
community picnic at the Hall of Philosophy Sept. 4.
Absent rigamarole, it just happens
body in town is invited -- from Timber Bridge to Stoberdale, the
Heights and all points in between.
The doors open at 4 p.m. and folks begin eating around 4:30 p.m., says
coordinator Barney Myer.
Call 964-1830 to reserve your spot, let Barney know how many are coming
and what covered dish you'll bring (salad, entrée or dessert).
Barney himself usually prepares a three-pound meatloaf, and someone asked
last year what would happen if everyone decided to bring, say, a dessert.
"It's never happened in six years," he said. "It all just
That qualifies the community covered dish supper as another of those Mt.
Gretna mysteries: Absent rules, rulers and rigamarole, it just happens.
100th Race coming up this
month for Pat Allwein, who turned 60 this year. The Campmeeting mom,
grandmother and athlete has placed first in her age group at the Mt. Gretna
Triathlon for the past two years and has kept a log of her races since
If all goes as planned, she will cross the finish line of her 100th race,
the 5K Delaware Mud Run, on Sept. 26.
$1,500 Shared by three different groups benefiting from
the 7th annual "Music Under the Stars" season-ending musical
fundraiser last week at Lake Conewago. Organizers Ceylon and Karen
Leitzel presented $500 gifts to Mt. Gretna's fire company, Lawn Ambulance
and the American Lung Association.
Will there be another event next year? "We'd like to see it
continue," says Ceylon, "since many people in Mt. Gretna, even
if they don't come, have told us they enjoy listening to the music from
their porches. So it strikes us that a local non-profit group might want
to take it over as an annual fundraiser. We'd be open to that," he
Printing tip: If you have trouble printing
copies of this newsletter, click
the latest issue. (Keith Volker usually has it posted on the Web within a
few hours immediately before or after the e-mail 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: http://mtgretna.com/news and click on the current
Constant Contact, the commercial service which distributes this
newsletter, also gives this advice to readers when pictures don't
appear: Look at the top of the e-mail message for a button
that may say something like, "Show images and enable links. Always
for this sender." (That's AOL's wording; different e-mail
services use slightly altered terminology. Yet the meaning is the same.)
If you click on "Allow content from this sender," photos
should appear immediately.
If you are still having problems, drop us a note. We'll forward
Constant Contact's specific recommendations for the e-mail service you
Speaking of photos: Evelyn Koppel, who joins husband Sid Hostetter on the Mt.
Gretna Bird Club's Friday morning jaunts (starting 9 a.m. at the
Chautauqua parking lot), says fall is just around the corner and sent
this photo to prove it.
"The bird migration has begun with warblers and raptors migrating
through," says Evelyn. "And the butterfly eggs are turning into
She caught a photo of this Buckeye butterfly just after it landed on a
Mexican Sunflower in the garden of their Valley Road home.
Readers who have digital pictures of Mt. Gretna scenes, events or people
likely to interest others are invited to e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're delighted to receive Mt. Gretna-related photos from readers here
and around the world. We'll use them whenever possible.
This is an unofficial community newsletter unaffiliated with any
group or organization. Rather, it is simply a retirement pastime, much as
woodworking might be for others, with no political or commercial axe to
grind. We send it by e-mail on request, without cost or obligation.
We don't cover everything. Some topics, we believe, are better
left to daily newspapers, TV and other media.
Generally speaking, we aim to report on things that our readers
haven't read elsewhere. Yet since well over half of them live outside Mt.
Gretna -- in other cities, states and countries -- we sometimes include
condensed versions of stories affecting Mt. Gretna that appeared in local
In preparing our reports, we try to keep in mind the example set
by the late Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, who regarded
his audience as people who invited him into their homes. That's a good
standard, we think, for writers of community newsletters as well.
We also try to adhere to the code of Rotary International. Its
Four-Way Test of the Things We Think, Say or Do strikes us as a
useful guideline not just for writers of newsletters and blogs, but for
everyone: "Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it
build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all
We've been writing this newsletter since January 2001, usually once a
month unless we're traveling, ailing or attending to household duties
that (in the interest of domestic tranquility) sometimes take a higher
We thank the many people who help us gather the news, take the
photos, and then edit, fact-check and proofread this newsletter before it
starts out on its journey around the world. They include folks in Mt.
Gretna, New York City, St. Paul, Minn. and Hilton Head, SC.
If you have difficulty reading or printing the newsletter, please
click on the online version appearing at http://mtgretna.com/news.
Thanks to our friends at Gretna Computers, you can always find back issues of this
newsletter on the Web. That online archive, we understand, sometimes
proves helpful to researchers and scholars. It's also consulted
occasionally by people planning to move to Mt. Gretna who want to know
more about what goes on in a community which, as the late Marlin Seiders
once observed, "is not a place, but a spirit."