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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 29 Sept. 3, 2003


Don’t let anybody kid you. In Mount Gretna, as elsewhere around the globe, the connection between weather and business is palpable, direct, and inescapable.

Along Rte. 117, spring rains drove business away. Summer’s sunny days struggled to bring it back.

Mary Hernley, Mount Gretna’s flower doyenne, says the unusually soggy spring not only delayed her plantings, but also diminished her flow of flower buyers. Bob Andrews said the same pattern affected sales at the Mount Gretna Deli.

Yet when fair skies returned, so did their customers. Most businesses here say the year is likely to end on a more or less normal note. “I didn’t expect it when the year began,” says Tap Roberts, who helps manage the Timbers Dinner Theater. “With all that talk about the economy, I really didn’t think that we’d match last year,” she says. “I’m pleasantly surprised.”

So are the three Lamont sisters. Their first summer at Le Sorelle Porch & Pantry Café ( has been a good one, says Tiffany. They’re waiting to see how much of the bustling business momentum they’ve created since spring will continue into fall and winter.

Reenie Macsisak, grateful for local support and hopeful that the economy will bounce back, says sales were down slightly this season at the Gift Shop. Gretna Theater reports that attendance this year was off about 20 percent. “Yet our five plays this year ranked among the top 30 in the past 10 years,” says general manager Keith Volker, now helping forge improvements for next year (see story below). Gretna Music says average attendance at its chamber music concerts this summer was actually up about eight percent. And Cicada’s presentations last month drew some of the largest crowds ever, with sell-out concerts by the Philadelphia Organ Quartet and U.S. Navy Cruisers.

Early season weather woes also had their impact at the Tabernacle, although by summer’s end, turnouts for the Susquehanna Chorale, Lancaster Brass, and Hand Bell Choir performances helped boost attendance totals to near-normal levels.

So it was a weather-punctuated season. A rainy start. Some midsummer sun. Then a torrential downpour drenching the art show’s opening Saturday, ripping up heavy stones along waterways that often double as pathways. It also sent thunderbolts that sizzled a Comcast cable line on Temple Avenue and felled trees at the tennis courts, on Muhlenberg Ave., along Pinch Road, and at the Mount Gretna Inn. “It was,” says borough supervisor Bill Care, “the most disruptive storm we’ve had in a while.”

Keith Volker, standing on the Inn porch Saturday morning, joked with his guests “You’re not going to let a little rain stop you from enjoying the art show, are you?” Suddenly, a lightning bolt split two 70-ft. branches from a nearby pine tree. “The crack was deafening,” he says, “leaving so much electricity in the air you could feel all the hairs on your body stand on end. It was impressive.”

And emphatic. The storm convinced many people to stay home on art show Saturday. By Sunday, however, when blue skies reappeared, so did the crowds. Overall, attendance at this year’s show was down only about 17 percent. Yet those festive spirits --- spirits which for nearly 30 years have made the art show a time for celebrations, family reunions, and an uninterrupted weekend’s worth of fun --- were up. Even without help from the weather bureau, Mount Gretna’s festive spirits were definitely up.


Will complimentary art show tickets for Mount Gretna residents continue to be available next year? Yes, says Linda Bell --- and she's asking for help in carrying out the task.

Printing and delivering the free tickets has become a costly, time-consuming assignment. This year, after printing letters and stuffing them into envelopes, she and several others spent hours personally delivering tickets door-to-door in the Timber Hills area because nobody could come up with an accurate mailing list. So next year, Linda will seek a volunteer in the South Londonderry Twp. area to distribute complimentary tickets to each home there. The Heights, Campmeeting, and other areas have independently handled ticket distribution to their residents for the past two years.

Why does the complimentary ticket question arise?

For one thing, it's costly. Besides its primary role as a celebration of artists and their creative works, the show has become a major fundraising event benefiting the entire community. Counting printing and postage costs with the value of tickets redeemed, complimentary tickets this year took away more than $7,500 that would otherwise be available for fire trucks, ambulance crews, and other community services that have ranged from buzzard removals to Tabernacle repairs.

"We give this question a lot of thought each year," says Linda. "When the tradition began, the idea behind complimentary tickets was to help compensate residents for disruptions caused by the influx of crowds and traffic.” Also, she says, free tickets help encourage residents' participation in the arts, a time-honored mission of the Pennsylvania Chautauqua. And they boost art-buying crowds, benefiting both local artists as well as those who travel here from throughout the country to sell their works.

So, taking everything into account, show organizers decided to continue the practice of giving free tickets next year, even though some residents seem not to use them. Says Linda: "I know people who receive free tickets, yet pay the $5 admission fee anyway since they want to contribute to an event that benefits everyone in Mount Gretna. How? Just ask anybody here who's ever had to dial 911 for a fire truck or ambulance."


Gretna Theater’s amiable artistic director Will Stutts may have held off just a bit before committing to next season’s lineup. “He wanted to experience the community before setting the plays for 2004,” says general manager Keith Volker. “It’s that idea, ‘Let’s be a part of the community that we are.’”

As an important ingredient in Mount Gretna’s diverse cultural offerings, Gretna Theater has, since Stutts and Volker took over this year, shifted its emphasis to becoming a more integrated part of the community. The free “Crimes of the Heart” performance June 26, open to all local residents, was the first step in what Will promised earlier this year would be a “Herculean effort” to attract increasing numbers of Mount Gretnans to local performances.

Theater officials hope their efforts to draw closer ties with the community will also be reflected at their October 11 black-tie gala at the Hotel Hershey. “We’re hoping to see two tables of local residents to really start this reconnection with the community,” says Keith. For details, see

Meanwhile, Theater officials are planning with an eye toward maximizing the Mount Gretna experience. “Lots of theaters can put a play on stage,” says Keith, “but nobody offers what we do. You pull in off Rte. 72, start your way through the trees, and something just happens. That experience continues until you’re back on that highway, heading home. We need to make sure that everything that happens in between is good. Not just at the Playhouse, but everything, all the way down to the parking police. ‘Put those cigarettes out, smile when you wave people into the car slots.’ Sometimes it’s the simple things. But everything has an impact,” he says.

Will’s lineup for next year? It includes “Groucho: A Life in Revue,” “Amadeus,” “The Foreigner,” “The Robber Bridegroom,” and “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Performances start June 15 next year and continue through Sept. 4. And it appears to be, as they say in Britain, spot-on.


Those Mount Gretna artifacts historian Jack Bitner has collected over a lifetime? They’ve found a new home. Fred and Ruth Buch, who own an organ factory in Ephrata and a cottage here along Yale Avenue, will preserve the entire collection—including the Wurlitzer carousel band organ which, since its earliest days at Mount Gretna’s former amusement park, has delighted young and old alike.

Jack, along with many others, hopes the relics will someday find their way into a Mount Gretna museum. The museum idea, he says, has been discussed for decades, but with little progress. “I became concerned about the relics I have collected over the past 40 years, and decided the only way I could assure they would stay together was to find a new custodian who shared my feelings about a museum,” says Jack. “Fred and Ruth will take possession of the entire collection, and I have confidence they will do the right thing with them.”

AND IN OTHER NEWS (45 Words or Less)

[] Rails-to-Trails celebrates the Cornwall Bridge opening this Saturday with a Chili Cook-off fundraiser hosted by Cornwall Inn and chefs from 10 area restaurants. Music, hamburgers, beer tastings, games and ice cream accent the 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. outdoor event. Bring lawn chairs. Adults $15.

[] Volunteers will soon roll out that new “fast attack” fire truck designed for Mount Gretna’s narrow streets. The $170,000 unit, built in Canada, uses a wheelbase similar to our rescue truck. It replaces an engine that protected homes here for the past 20 years.

[] Mount Gretna’s wastewater treatment plant will install that long-awaited ultraviolet disinfectant unit. Officials hoped a grant might fund the $30,000 project, but such subsidies now are scarce. “Our ‘Growing Greener’ grant suddenly turned brown,” observes the philosophical Bill Care, “so we paid for it ourselves.”

[] Enthusiastic audiences buoyed Cicada Festival planners this season, and they promise an equally exciting lineup next year. Among the highlights: Cathy Chemi, Steve Courtney, the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, plus “top notch” performers in the Thursday night organ recital series.

[] Cicada Festival organizer Peter Hewitt encourages tax-deductible 501(c)3 donations and sponsors to continue the series’ high quality, low-priced entertainment. Contact him at P. O. Box 121, Mount Gretna, PA 17064, or e-mail Tel. 964-3856.

[] Art show co-founder and former Mount Gretnan Bruce Johnson says despite the downpours, he was delighted to see at the show many friends gained over the past 30 years. His new book, “It’s a Fine Line,” is now available ($29.95 with free shipping) at

[] The Tabernacle will soon close for winter, but not before three couples exchange vows. Final wedding this season: October 25th. Latest on record? Nope. Several years ago, a (presumably chilly) wedding party of about seven held their ceremony in the open-air facility in November.

[] A handicapped lift will soon help Lodge patrons entering the art gallery and Le Sorelle café. The $11,500 addition wasn’t absolutely required by state regulations. “But it was the right thing to do,” says Bill Care. “We have a lot of elderly and handicapped visitors.”

[] Merv Lentz invites everyone to use the Campmeeting’s new quoits beds. He stores the flat iron rings away when they’re not in use, but Merv and Scott Bly encourage all to help revive this lively 1930’s-era Mount Gretna tradition. Give Merv a call at 964-2033.

[] Le Sorelle Porch & Pantry Café will close at 11:00 a.m. Sept. 26 and reopen Oct. 8. The occasion? Tiffany’s wedding. Details:

[] Gretna Music audiences will hear the concert masters from three leading symphonic orchestras in this year’s winter concert series at Elizabethtown College. Concert masters of the Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh orchestras will appear. Details: Tel. 717-361-1508.

[] Resurfacing operations begin this week on the Gettysburg Avenue parking lot alongside the Community Building. Borough crews also plan to install new water mains and fire hydrants along Lafayette Avenue this winter.

[] Conewago Creek preservationists continue their activities this fall. The group meets regularly, headed by new Mount Gretna resident Matt Royer, who invites those sharing environmental protection concerns to contact him at 214-7928, or

[] Mount Gretna’s Evelyn Duncan, now pursuing peripatetic adventures in her comfortable motorhome, is temporarily at Gretna Oaks Campgrounds along Pinch Road. Just back from Germany, she invites friends to call her at 717-222-9018 before she returns to America’s highways this fall.

[] Fire Company volunteers invite everyone to join them at their grand annual picnic and pig roast, starting at 4:00 p.m. Sept. 20. The all-you-can-eat funfest continues till 11:00 p.m., costs $15 per person, and helps pay for training and equipment we all depend on.

[] Artist Shelby Applegate is showing recent additions to her work, including colorful lithographs and monotypes on gelatin plates developed this summer, at her 203 Valley Rd. studio. She invites visitors to just drop in whenever the “Studio Open” sign is up, or call 964-2342.

[] Shelby also beckons passersby to gather bouquets from her garden, using scissors she keeps on her porches. (Exceptions: the pink and white cleome spider flowers near the center and behind her fountain. “They’re now becoming more showy and don’t need to be picked,” she says.)

[] Mount Gretna Heights will link its interconnection to the Mount Gretna Authority next month to assure backup water supplies. Heights residents are paying for the hookup in exchange for 1.3 million gallons of water the Authority provided when their well collapsed nearly two years ago.

[] Deb Vollmar reports that Mount Gretna’s Garden Club will assume responsibility for flower arrangements at next year’s art show. Like to help? Contact Peg Smith, 964-2101.

[] The “Remember When” gift shop will remain open this fall each Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. until mid-December. “Joe and I want to thank everyone for a good season,” says Reenie.

[] John Condrack, in addition to maintaining the tennis courts and handling duties at Philhaven Hospital, ranks among the top ticket-sellers this summer for the Fire Company’s jeep raffle. They’ll draw the prize-winning tickets at the Fire Company block shoot Oct. 18.

[] That bright yellow DaleMobile, a Cushman scooter that once patrolled Manhattan’s streets, will likely be the only vehicle in America with a stained glass dome light. The impossible-to-miss motorized three-wheeler is now the flagship of Dale Grundon Stained Glass Designs’ delivery fleet.

[] Art show co-founder Reed Dixon invites everyone to an October showing of his recent mixed-media paintings at Lancaster Galleries, 34 N. Water St. in Lancaster. The month-long exhibit opens Friday night, Oct. 3.

[] Things You Probably Didn’t Know Dept.: Campmeeting Superintendent Merv Lentz taught at Palmyra H.S. for 26 years, built five homes here, and still does minor construction and repair jobs. He sometimes gives private lessons in German, and has been handling Campmeeting duties for 25 years.

[] The Fire Company, now with a solid corps of volunteer firefighters, always can use more help. Especially needed: folks to help with fundraising. Call Keith Volker or Ben Sutcliff to sign on.

[] Mount Gretna borough crews will soon be driving a new Ford F550 snow-plow-equipped dump truck. Bill Care hopes it’ll be here by the end of October. Snow? October? Yikes!

[] At least one case of Lyme disease has shown up in Mount Gretna this summer. Left untreated, the disease can result in chronic arthritis and nerve and heart dysfunction. It’s generally characterized by a rash followed by flu-like symptoms (fever, joint pain, and headache).

[] Mountaintop residents along Temple, Lebanon, and Muhlenberg avenues and Old Mountain Road will gather at Cliff and Kathy Snavely’s house Sept. 29 for a potluck supper starting at 6:00 p.m. Kathy says they’ll catch up on neighborhood news and plan a Fire Department fundraiser.

[] Philadelphia’s Jon D’Agostino says fire chief Ben Sutcliff went extra lengths to return keys lost during the art show. “All the way home, I thought I’d never see those keys again. Folks like that make Mount Gretna a perfect escape from the city,” says Jon.

[] Earth moving begins this week at the Governor Dick park’s Nature Center. Officials hope to finish the log cabin building by January. Despite rumors, park officials say the only trees they intend to remove are those designated under a professional forester’s “keep the forest healthy” stewardship program.

[] Lebanon Valley College’s Alumni Association awarded “Creative Achievement” honors to Mount Gretna’s Rodney Miller. A music educator in Lebanon, Rodney is also the Timbers’ musical co-director and arranger. He’s published over 40 instrumental and choral works, and is a five-time winner of ASCAP’s Standard Award.

[] International lawyer John Christman is among Mount Gretna’s new residents. The Harrisburg native says his work deals mainly with democracy in the former Soviet Union. His mother, Irene Christman, has been coming here since the 1920s and now lives with him at 116 Harvard Ave.


5 “Major” trees Campmeeting crews will remove this year “before the next ice storm takes them down. They’re in bad shape,” says Merv.

283 Average attendance this year at Mount Gretna’s chamber music concerts, up from 262 last year.

300 pounds weighed by that hand-carved 9-1/2-foot tamarack totem pole now alongside Virginia Minnich’s Princeton Ave. home. When she and Bob ordered it on a trip through Montana two years ago, the carver warned there might be a long wait before it was ready. A few weeks ago, it finally arrived. For Bob, who died in an automobile accident in October 2001, the totem symbolized a long-cherished dream. “He always wanted a totem pole, and Jeff, Sarah and I originally planned to place it near the back of the house,” says Ginny. But when they began digging, a huge boulder forced them to place it nearer the street, where it's more visible. “I tell friends, ‘Bob probably made sure that boulder was there,’” she says. (See

600 “University of Mount Gretna Alumni” T-shirts sold this year at the “Remember When” gift shop. “We reordered four times,” says Reenie Macsisak. And as former Mount Gretan Harry Shucker, now a vice president at South Carolina's Furman University, notes, "We are all alumni of Mount Gretna."

14,059 Attendance at this year’s rain-soaked art show. Last year, when sunny skies prevailed both days, the total was 17,069. Yet, say grateful Fire Company officials, this year’s donation from art show proceeds nearly equaled last year’s.

30,000 dollars added to Governor Dick’s Nature Center construction budget by Lebanon County and the SICO Foundation. The extra funds allow planners to install the metal (rather than a less expensive asphalt) roof they’d originally planned before costs soared beyond expectations.


According to the latest surveys, nearly 60 percent of Americans are connected to the Internet. Presumably, most of them use e-mail.

Among Mount Gretnans, including those who dwell here in spirit but receive this newsletter in other parts of the globe, we suspect that demographics may help boost that percentage somewhat higher. And since Lake Conewago, like Lake Woebegone, is a place where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children above average,” we may safely assume that folks here are more Internet-savvy than most.

Which, albeit feebly, brings up a point: We still need your help in passing along this newsletter to others, inviting them to add their names to our growing international roster of subscribers.

You can be sure that we never use those names and addresses for any other purpose than to send news of Mount Gretna. As a matter of fact, when people sometimes ask us for a neighbor’s e-mail address, we make it a practice to first ask permission. That’s not a big thing, we suppose. But, respecting the privacy of others is. So we keep our mailing list confidential. We hope those asking for our subscriber list, even for the most worthwhile of causes, will understand.

Thanks to the courtesy of the Mount Gretna Inn, you’ll find back issues of this letter on the web at Please continue to print copies for friends and neighbors without Internet access. And please continue to keep us posted on your news, notes, ideas and queries as we explore, share, and collaborate on all the fascinating facets of Mount Gretna life.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Avenue

A Special Note to Our Website Readers: Before preparing each newsletter, we usually dispatch a special alert to our e-mail address list inviting everyone to send ideas for topics of interest and upcoming events. We attempt to make that alert as informative as the newsletter itself. Here is the “Call for Articles” that preceded this issue:

Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2003 1:29 PM
Subject: Coming Up, Another Issue of Mt. Gretna's E-Mail Newsletter

With the Labor Day Weekend just ahead and the 29th annual Art Show just behind us, it's soon time for another issue of Mount Gretna's e-mail newsletter.

We invite all readers --- whether along Pinch Road or along the Road to Mandalay* --- to send their news, notes, and notices to We'll happily include them in a roundup of the latest news and events in our next issue.

Meanwhile, a few brief reports to keep you up to date:

All but a few traces remain from last weekend's rain-soaked Art Show. Despite five severe storms that dumped nearly 2.5 inches of rain on Saturday, the crowds came, saw, and bought --- helping provide over $20,000 in funds that will go for road repairs, fire engines, and other worthwhile projects. Overall attendance was down about 18 percent from last year. But when the sun came out on Sunday, so did the crowds, making it one of the best-attended Sundays ever.

Despite Saturday's deluge, everyone seemed in good spirits, helping one another cope with the weather, and displaying neighborliness in abundance. Philhaven Hospital, for instance, seeing that our parking lots in nearby fields had turned to a muddy soup, graciously opened the macadam lots surrounding their buildings. Bus drivers quickly changed their routes to accommodate visitors parking in three different areas. Artists, food stand operators and others helped create a rollicking sea of good-natured smiles.
Hess Barbecue officials, veterans of hundreds of festivals, affirmed that ours is the best-run, best-managed anywhere. And Mike Bell reminded everyone at the Volunteer Picnic on Tuesday that Harrisburg Magazine readers recently voted ours the best art show in Central Pennsylvania.

We'll have other reports in our next issue. And we invite our readers --- both around the corner and around the world --- to send in their questions, impressions and suggestions to

Also this reminder that, thanks to Keith Volker and the Mount Gretna Inn, back issues of this newsletter appear on the web at

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Avenue

*Road to Mandalay? Yep, truth is, our readers outside Mount Gretna outnumber our readers within this tiny, robust, community. And they're located on just about every continent --- proof once again that "Mount Gretna's not a place, it's a spirit."