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The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
No. 73 July 6, 2007
A SECRET NOBODY KNOWS

The first signs began unfolding last month when Gretna Theater’s “Mack the Knife” catapulted into the biggest season opener anyone can remember. Last Sunday night, it was more of the same as Music at Gretna’s first classical concert drew over 600 people to the Playhouse, 180 of them buying tickets in the last few hours. Even the fire company’s breakfast fund-raiser last week was a sellout—with more people sharing food, friendship and appreciation for our firefighters than ever before.

Still to come: A cultural crescendo unlike anybody’s seen here in years. Midori, the single-name icon who has her choice in any given week of the world’s top musical capitals, has chosen Mt. Gretna as one of the places where she’ll appear this summer—part of her deep commitment to supporting small- and medium-sized venues where support for the arts is most needed.

So much is going on this summer that veterans and visitors alike are lost without the Arts Council’s 80-page calendar. (Hint: If you’re reading this in Albuquerque or Adelaide, it’s available online (http://mtgretna.com/artscouncil/cal.html)

What’ll it be next week? The “Where God Was Born” book review on Tuesday? Carol Lombard and Clark Gable in Chautauqua’s “great romances” series on Wednesday? And how to fit in Neil Simon’s “Sunshine Boys” (starting Thursday) when “Fiddler on the Roof” is not far behind?

Matching that momentum is a cornucopia of not-to-be-missed Tabernacle treasures—a former Broadway singer from “Annie,” a 250-voice massed choir, an all-male chorus making its debut here this weekend, and one of the nation’s top inspirational speakers coming Aug. 1.

And just how does it happen that world-class performer Midori comes to the Playhouse on the same night that 16 harps make their simultaneous appearance across the street at the Tabernacle?

Toss in everything else folks want to see—from Rev. Jim Corbett’s “Revealing Revelation” series to the Chautauqua summer programs’ “Evening with Barron von Stubben” tonight (July 6) and the Historical Society’s “If These Cottages Could Talk” presentation July 8. How, indeed, to fit it all in?

It is a dilemma that most communities eight times our size would welcome—a something-for-everybody-smorgasbord that leaves no one unsatisfied, everyone savoring the rich rewards of a Mt. Gretna summer.

No, it’s not Tanglewood. And yes, Chautauqua, N.Y.’s budget in a single week probably eclipses ours for a whole season. But few places will likely outdo us in per capita energy, creativity, and fun. And that’s the whole idea.

Yes, bells chime, people come, and Mt. Gretna’s magical summer moves into full swing. A minor miracle, repeated yearly. How does it all work? Nobody knows. As the late Barry Miller once said, “maybe it’s best not to probe too deeply.”


WITH A MONTH TO GO, CICADA TICKETS ARE DISAPPEARING FAST

July has barely begun, yet nearly 70 percent of Cicada’s tickets are already gone.
The “sleeper” this season may be that Elton John/Billy Joel tribute Aug. 9. “People who’ve seen this show rave about Lee Alverson’s portrayal,” says volunteer Laura Feather, who helps fulfill ticket orders. She’s one of 14 helpers creating the weeklong festival, now in its 13th year.
In total, 3,500 seats are available, but organizers suspect many concerts will be sold out or offer only limited seating. (Tip: Call 964-2046 to be sure.)
Top attraction so far: The Hershey Big Band’s Radio Show (Aug. 8) with 548 of the 700 seats sold already. (Also on tap: Rock and rollers Phil Dirt’s Dozers Aug. 7 and Bill Haley’s Comets Aug. 13, plus Shades of Blue Orchestra Aug. 14).
Biggest misconception about the Cicada Festival? Many people believe their ticket price covers our costs, says Laura, who points out that at least a third of the festival’s budget depends on donations. People often overlook that ’tax deductible donation’ spot on the order form, as well as the SASE request to defray postage costs. “Every little bit helps,” she says, “even five dollars.”

HOW AN ICON CHOSE MT. GRETNA

She is described as “one of the world’s greatest living performers.” It is no exaggeration.
Nor is her passion for the arts, which brings her to the Playhouse July 22.
Midori, the classical superstar who can take her pick of any performance hall in the world, devotes a part of each season to helping keep the arts alive by appearing in midsized festivals such as Music at Gretna.
In her famous 1986 Tanglewood debut with the Boston Symphony, Midori broke the string of her violin—twice. Each time, the 14-year-old artist borrowed an instrument from the orchestra. As her performance ended, conductor Leonard Bernstein fell to his knees in awe. The New York Times headline the next day read, “Girl, 14, Conquers Tanglewood with 3 Violins.”
When we checked this morning, the Midori concert was over two-thirds sold out, with seats available only on the side and last two center rows. Advance tickets are $25 and $18, or $30 for all seats on the night of the concert (if, indeed, any seats are left).

SPIN, POLITICS & SOARING POESY

A politician who’s an artful dodger when it comes to dicey questions may—in “Rhyme and Reason,” Maureen Grape’s latest play—remind you of a certain California governor. Her main character lapses into flights of poetic fantasy—merrily employing deft, if obfuscating, touches as he spins his way out of one tight spot and into another. The play is scheduled for its first reading Aug. 28 at the Hall of Philosophy.
Maureen, who lived along Chautauqua’s Pennsylvania Avenue for 18 years before moving to Elizabethtown last summer, writes mainly for fun. She usually puts the plays aside once they’ve been read. A few, however, have been produced by Lebanon theater groups. Maureen is a native of England who came to the United States 38 years ago. She is now retired from a supervisory position at Cornwall Manor but still writes whenever an idea for a play strikes her.
The two-act work is being directed by Gretna Theater’s Renee Krizan in an 8:15 p.m. performance, followed by refreshments and a discussion with the author. Admission is free, although donations are accepted.
(Note: We hope to have a report next month about Mt. Gretna playwright Eton Churchill’s newest work, being presented in a staged reading here Aug. 30.)

STUFF YOU’RE UNLIKELY TO READ ANYWHERE ELSE

[] Looking for art inspired by Mt. Gretna? You’ll find it at the Arts Council’s new website—Mt. Gretna Area Artists—showing examples of their work and how to contact artists such as Shelby Applegate, Barbara Fishman, Madelaine Gray, Dale Grundon, Carol Snyder, Elizabeth Stutzman, Fred Swarr, Kate Dolan, Sabrinah Cooper, Scott Shea and Gerry Boltz. You’ll find them, with phone numbers and e-mail addresses, at http://www.mtgretna.com/artscouncil/LocalArtist.html -- a free service of the Arts Council to help people around the world seeking Mt. Gretna art.

[] Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble aren’t the only places where you can buy books this summer. Mt. Gretna’s Library also has a selection you can pick up by making a donation to the Humane Society.

[] Expect to see that radar speed-flashing trailer in town more often this month and next. It reminds motorists to slow down, especially during Mt. Gretna’s busiest times of the year. Police chief Bruce Harris says the trailer is being stationed at 12 West Cornwall Township locations, including two here (near the miniature golf course and the tennis courts), which get extra coverage in summer months.

[] Note this correction in the Summer Calendar: the Darrell Woomer-Rodney Shearer Hymn Festival at the Tabernacle is Aug. 12 only. (A Summer Calendar entry, which listed the event five days earlier, was in error. “Spread the word,” says a spokesman. “We don’t want people coming to an empty Tabernacle Aug. 8.”) The Aug. 12 event begins at 7:30 p.m.

OTHER NEWS TO KEEP YOU INFORMED

[] What do Art Show veterans look for besides art, food and stroll-along reunions with friends? The free entertainment, of course.
Mt. Gretna’s Scott Galbraith, a musician himself, chooses the talent, and—even though he gets suggestions from all over the world—there’s lots to pick from locally. Scott likes local groups not only because their quality is often unbeatable, but also because local entertainers have many fans.
High on the list is Mt. Gretnan Andy Roberts, on the show’s Sunday schedule twice this year. Also, Lancaster favorites, the Carmitchell Sisters, slated for 3:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Others in the Saturday lineup: “The Reese Project,” a Grammy-nominated Lancaster jazz quartet (9:30-11 a.m.); Harrisburg folksingers Jerry and Marianna Doherty (11:30 a.m.-1p.m.); and Lancaster Latin jazz artists “Trixi and the Matrix” (1:30-3 p.m.).
Stop by. Pull up a hay bale. And enjoy.

[] Coming up on this summer’s Chautauqua summer program series: Dr. Donald Kraybill will reflect on his work, “The Amish: How Forgiveness Redeemed a Tragedy” Aug. 3, at the Hall of Philosophy. Mt. Gretna author Bill Gifford discusses his new book “Ledyard: In Search of the First American Explorer” there Aug. 24.
Also, this month: four Thursday morning sessions on contemporary Bible issues with Dr. Darrell Woomer, square dance lessons, and a four-part series “Revealing Revelation” by Mt. Gretna resident Rev. James Corbett. See details at (http://mtgretna.com/artscouncil/cal.html) or This Week in Mt. Gretna, free to e-mail subscribers (info@lightkeeper.net).

[] Where do musical inspirations spring from? For Mt. Gretna arranger, composer and performer Andy Roberts, the music of Harold Arlen (“That Old Black Magic,” “I’ve Got the World on a String,” and his score for “The Wizard of Oz”) sparked “Get Happy,” this year’s Timbers musical revue, opening July 10. Andy’s latest summer offering (which runs through Sept. 1) promises “sentimental favorites and fresh new beats” in a sprightly dinner theater package. Details: 964-3601 or www.gretnatimbers.com.

[] Who are Governor Dick Park’s smallest residents and how do they survive? That’s next on the “Mission: Discovery” 10 a.m. Saturday series for youngsters age six to 10. The July 14 and 28 sessions will explore the mysteries of decomposition—why it’s a good thing—and launch a search for seeds to identify just how many birds and animals they benefit. Sessions are free, but adults must go with their children. Details: 964-3808 or e-mail governordick@hotmail.com.

[] Bouldering—rock climber speak for shorter, more difficult routes—is among topics in the current Governor Dick Park Newsletter, available free via e-mail (governordick@hotmail.com). Other discoveries you’ll find—upcoming programs on monarch butterflies, moths and caterpillars; what animal tracks reveal—even how to get a piano, free! (It’s one the Nature Center no longer needs.)

[] Discount tickets for the 2007 Mt. Gretna Tour of Homes are now on sale at “Remember When” gift shop and Music at Gretna (717) 361-1508. Advance purchase tickets are $12, or $15 on the day of the tour, Saturday, Aug. 4. Details: http://mtgretna.com/music/Special1.asp).

[] Despite a $600,000 setback after losing a lawsuit that rocked the classical music world, the Audubon String Quartet has survived, says a recent article in the Bangor (Me.) Daily News. See http://bangordailynews.com/news/t/lifestyle.aspx?articleid=151239&zoneid=14. They’ll be here again Sept. 2, favorites in a season-ending tradition that extends over more than a quarter century.

[] Now off the endangered species list for the first time in 40 years, bald eagles continue to make occasional appearances around Mt. Gretna. Dale Grundon spotted one last week, perched atop an electrical pole near Philhaven. The state game commission says Pennsylvanians today have a better chance of spotting a bald eagle than at any time in the past 150 years.

[] “Summer at the Tabernacle” rocks. Former Broadway singer Marie Barlow Martin, who sang leads in the national touring company versions of top shows, has switched to an emphasis on sacred and secular music. She’ll be at the Tabernacle July 15—part of a series that also includes the Brandywine Celtic Harp Orchestra (16 harps onstage simultaneously July 22), the Lancaster British Band (28 musicians in traditional British band style July 29) and other events, most starting at 7:30 p.m. See www.MtGretnaTabernacle.org.

[] Lebanon County Historic Preservation Trust’s garden tour this year includes several Mt. Gretna sites. The July 21 tour runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets, available in advance at several area stores, will also be sold on the day of the tour outside the Muhlenberg Avenue home of Jack and Jeanine Bitner. Proceeds benefit the trust.

[] Bluegrass anyone? It’s coming July 14: the Shuey Brothers at the Tabernacle, 7 p.m.—part of the Heritage Festival. Still more Bluegrass the next day when the Carroll County Ramblers drop in at the Hall of Philosophy for a mid-afternoon concert. (The Heritage Festival series ends July 28 with the Lebanon Swing Band, a perennial favorite, also at 7 p.m.)

[] Why do tickets for that Big Band bash at the lake (Aug. 25) disappear so fast? Group orders, mainly. Ceylon Leitzel says one couple bought three tables of eight for 22 friends. Another group last year made it a part of their high school reunion.
Returning this year is the “After Hours” Big Band. There’ll also be wine available from a local winery. And it’s okay to bring your own lawn chairs, Ceylon says.
Last week, only about 100 tickets remained. Reservations: 717-964-1829 or 866-4274. Mail orders to Mt. Gretna Big Band, P.O. Box 202, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064-0202. Profits benefit the fire company, Heritage Festival and other Mt. Gretna groups.

NUMBERS

2 White-water rafters in Mt. Gretna: Craig Horlacher won top men’s kayak honors at the recent Kish Kayak Slalom, 65 miles northwest of Mt. Gretna in Mifflin County. His dad, Bob Horlacher, was ranked 12th among the nation’s white-water racers last year. They live in the Campmeeting, in a cottage Bob and wife Diane chose more than 30 years ago.

4 Model railroad trains—including one that runs straight through a hollowed-out tree—now chugging through, under and around Mt. Gretna homes.
Newest additions appear this year at the homes of Gordon and Charlene Keeney, on Pennsylvania Avenue, and Ned and Emily Wallace, who share their model railroad setup with Brown Avenue neighbors (and relatives), George and Priscilla Kinney. Just down the hill is another, at the Pennsylvania Avenue home of Jim and Shirley Corbett, whose LGB G-gauge runs across a bridge, under a waterfall and beneath a ski lift.
Across town, in Timber Hills, is a fourth model railroad—perhaps the most elaborate of the bunch. Dan Hottenstein, a retired radiologist, and wife Pat say it’s for the grandchildren. Hmmm.

12 Times (or more) Cornwall Police patrols pass through Mt. Gretna during a typical summer day. That frequency increases from June through August. At other times, five to seven patrols daily through Mt. Gretna are typical.

90th Birthday coming up July 16 in a special celebration for Jack Bitner—historian, lecturer and devoted Mt. Gretnan. The birthday event, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Timbers, is, fittingly, a fund-raising dinner ($25 per person) benefiting the Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society. Peggy O’Neil, mamon2@comcast.net (964-3333) is handling reservations.

500 Visitors each year to the Mt. Gretna Art Gallery (open generally from 3 to 5 p.m.).
For over 25 years, the gallery has displayed works of Mt. Gretna artists inside the Chautauqua Lodge (also home to Le Sorelle Café). Carol Snyder, one of six artists whose works are currently on display, often answers visitors’ questions.
Who buys the paintings? “Local residents, people who want a remembrance of Mt. Gretna, or others who happen to come in and like what they see,” says Carol.
“People come from all over the country,” adds Barb Fishman, another artist displaying her work and sharing gallery duties with associate artists Susan Wentzel, Fred Swarr, Carolyn Hartman, and Barbara James.
What you probably didn’t know: Anyone can buy a painting at any time by simply removing it from the wall and sending a check to the artist, using an envelope affixed to the back of each painting.
Sponsored by the Arts Council and the Chautauqua, the Gallery displays works by six or seven artists, giving priority to those living in Mt. Gretna or nearby. (A guest artist program invites students to display their works during two-month periods between September and March.)
“We have realistic, impressionistic and abstract pieces for sale. Many media are represented including watercolor, acrylic, oil, mixed-media and silk screen,” says Carol. “There’s something here for everyone.”

QUESTIONS READERS ASK

[] I would like my children to take part in the playground activities. I inquired last summer (around July 7) but was told that it was too late. What advice do you have for parents wishing to enroll their children in Mt. Gretna’s summer playground program?

<> “Too late? To my mind, there’s no such thing as ‘too late’ when it comes to summer programs for children,” one mom told us. She enrolled her youngster (for $20) at the supervised playground activities last week and plans to send her there often throughout the season (which runs through Aug. 9).
Parents who want their children to take part in summer playground activities can simply stop by, pay their fee to a supervisor on duty and spend the rest of the summer season enjoying all the playground has to offer.
Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. for children six to 16. A parent or guardian must escort children under six.

[] Any more news on the Wi-Fi availability in the "village" this summer? We're getting ready for our two-week stay, and our cottage is on Pennsylvania Avenue, so the Wi-Fi would be great.

<> Bob Dowd, the technical wizard at Gretna Computers, says the Mt. Gretna Wi-Fi system is on hold because of “major problems in the management software.” They’re searching for another solution, but he can’t predict when it will be ready. Bob promises to keep us informed. So when he lets us know, we’ll pass it on to readers.

GYPSY MOTH INVASION OF 2007: A SPECIAL REPORT

Mt. Gretna Newsletter readers have been astounded by this year’s gypsy moth damage. In Governor Dick Park and surrounding game lands, leaves have disappeared from the top of oaks, opening normally darkened areas to unaccustomed daylight.
It is what a Lancaster New Era report called “a perfect storm—the warm, dry spring that caused dormant gypsy moth populations to explode.” The newspaper reported that “some besieged landowners in the Furnace Hills of Lebanon County are angry at Lancaster County for not spraying to keep the pests at bay along the county line.”
But a state forestry official said no one could have predicted this year’s sudden outbreak. Under normal conditions, winter and a wet spring will kill off 90 percent of gypsy moth eggs from the previous summer. “Conditions this year allowed 95 percent of the eggs to survive,” he said.
For added insights, we asked Mt. Gretna resident Chuck Allwein—a former biology teacher who is also a board member at Governor Dick Park as well as president of the Mt. Gretna Borough (which encompasses the Chautauqua.):

[] Does the extent of the Gypsy Moth problem surprise you?

“I knew there would be an infestation early this summer, but not to this magnitude.”

[] How do they decide whether to spray?

“In the fall, an egg mass count is made. The masses look like an oversize almond and contain about 700 eggs each. They are usually found on the north (shady) side of trees or houses, or areas such as underneath picnic tables. What determines a potentially serious infestation is 250 masses per square acre. This is the number used by the county forester to determine county/state subsidized spraying. Neither Governor Dick Park nor Chautauqua was eligible this year because their egg counts were lower than the 250 egg mass minimum.”

[] Why can’t we just spray now?

“Spraying is effective only in the spring, after the hatch and the caterpillars are a couple of millimeters in length. It must be done from the air. The material is not a pesticide, but a bacteria product called Bacillus Thuringiensis.”

[] What does spraying cost?

“I don't know the current rate for private spraying. (Newspapers reported about $35 an acre, or $12 to $15 an acre with state and local subsidies this year.) We sprayed several years. Sometimes Conewago Hill, Campmeeting and the Heights joined us. The Game Lands never sprayed and probably never will. They consider this a ‘natural cycle.’ If the trees let in sunlight, it contributes to brush, which is browse for deer.”

<> What about the impact on trees?

“Healthy trees can take several years of defoliation. They will partially re-leaf after the caterpillars stop eating. The caterpillars have a hierarchy of preferred food. Oak is first, but if it runs out before the caterpillars mature, they will eat other species, including evergreens.
As the caterpillars get larger, they eat more—up to about a square foot a day. Birds will not eat them because of their hair. At maturity, they pupate, and the male and female moths hatch. The female, which is white in color, does not fly. The male, mottled brown, flitters about erratically and mates with the female. She deposits a buckskin almond-shaped mass. You can often see the pupa, female and egg mass at the same spot.”

<> Is there anything we can do now?

“Nothing as far as the caterpillars in the trees are concerned. But for each one you kill mechanically—that is, crush or pick up and put in a can of kerosene or paint thinner—you will prevent 700 more from hatching next year.”

<> How about later this summer?

“When the male moth is looking for a mate in late July, you can trap them with gypsy moth traps available at any hardware store. This is more of a ‘feel good’ exercise than a real preventive measure because of the sheer number of moths. But again, every one you kill prevents 700 eggs from hatching. After the eggs are laid and you see the masses, scrape them off the tree or building and put them in a can of kerosene or paint thinner. Knocking them to the ground does not destroy them since they are very resilient.”

<> Any other measures you would recommend?

“It will also help if residents write to our representative in Harrisburg (Mauree Gingrich, 430 Irvis Office Building, P.O. Box 202101, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2101; Phone: (717) 783-1815 or e-mail: mgingric@pahousegop.com) to explain the importance of trees to our way of life and economy and encourage state subsidies for spraying in this area. A large part of real estate value in Mt. Gretna is based on the trees.”

<> And the outlook for next year?

“I don’t know about other areas, but Chautauqua residents should be ready to pay for the spraying next spring, regardless of the egg mass count.”

GLORIA H. LIGHT

Gloria Hoffecker Light, wife of Dr. Samuel F. “Pete” Light Jr., died at the Conewago Hill home she loved June 20. A charter member of the Winterites, founded in 1949 for Mt. Gretna’s year-rounders, she was a friend to all, a member of Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church, and a volunteer at Lebanon’s Good Samaritan Hospital. As well as her husband, survivors include her children: Samuel F. Light III of Mt. Gretna, Dr. Robert William Light of Erie, and Suzanne P. Cross of State College as well as a sister, Shirley Turnbull of New Jersey and five grandchildren.

COMING UP – A PAINTING MARATHON

Can anyone turn out artwork at the rate of one painting every 10 minutes over an entire day?
Artist Fred Swarr invites you to stop by his 301 Bell Ave. studio and watch as he paints 60 canvases, one for each of his birthdays, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 4. At the end of the day, all 60 will be available for exchange—one painting for one bottle of wine—celebrating the artist’s triumphant entry into his sixth decade.
Does the name sound familiar? Fred, a.k.a. Dr. Dzign (http://www.fdswarr.com/), is, it’s safe to say, Mt. Gretna’s most prolific artist. At this year’s Summer Premiere, he turned out an “on-the-spot” performance painting to music. Guests watched in amazement as his keyboard design danced across a multi-paneled canvas, which became part of the day’s auction treasures. Next month’s performance promises to be even more impressive.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce

P.S. An article in Canada’s National Post last month placed a dollar figure on happiness. Although money sometimes helps, what counts most are good health and “face time with friends and relatives.” Increasing the frequency of talks with neighbors from once or twice a month to nearly every day, said the report, is like getting a $179,000 raise. Maybe that’s why we Mt. Gretnans so enjoy sitting on our porches, sharing stories with neighbors -- and sometimes breakfast treats, too. When we go to the post office, we typically allow an extra 10 minutes or so to chat with those we’ll meet. And on weekends, flower lady Mary Hernley is not just selling flowers—she’s in the "cheer up" business. She knows that, and so do we.
Our thanks to all who help spot and report the news, and share it with others—especially those lacking links to the Internet. Thanks, too, to our friends at Gretna Computing who post copies of this newsletter on the Web, at http://mtgretna.com/news. (That’s where, if a housemate accidentally erases the Mt. Gretna Newsletter before you’ve had a chance to read it, you can always find a backup copy.).