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The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
No. 82 Countdown to Another Season May 1, 2008

In a town where live theater has been a lively tradition for more than eight decades, it’s altogether fitting that summer should officially begin with a cast of thousands. And at least 1,000 “extras” will be here to launch the Memorial Day weekend.
Summer’s renewal has already started. Those in charge of making Mt. Gretna whirl have been up late the past few months, preparing cultural and recreational offerings to make the season sparkle.
Highway crews are also at work—bearing down on the resurfacing project that will welcome Mt. Gretnans and their guests for years to come. (The project is on schedule, by the way. Burkholder Paving’s genial Dave Powers reports that they’ll finish the work in town by May 23 and the entire Cornwall-to-Colebrook span by Aug. 27—well ahead of PennDOT’s deadline, even if they have to work Saturdays. No Sundays, though; it’s contrary to his company’s beliefs. Also central to their policy: keeping communities informed. See item below.)
Also sparkling are ideas flowing from inside the recently refurbished Gretna Emporium, which opens for a special Mt. Gretna residents’ preview Thursday, May 22. Owner Stacey Pennington invites you to stop by for an advance peek from 4 to 8 p.m.—the day before the official ribbon-cutting ceremonies at 1 p.m. on Friday. This summer’s plans include “games-on-the-porch,” intriguing family pastimes, and special items she’s chosen just for Mt. Gretna.
Then on Saturday, the 24th, get ready for those 1,000 extras. Some 600 of them will be athletes, drawn here from all over the country and coming into town for a triathlon that begins with the opening gun at 8:15 a.m. Contestants will jump into the still-chilly waters of Lake Conewago, then hop on bikes for a 15-mile race, finishing with a five-kilometer run to the top of Governor Dick mountain.
Swarming through the Campmeeting and Chautauqua will be 400 or more bargain-hunters, drawn to the annual community-wide porch sale plus other events luring shoppers, book lovers and folks just interested in leisurely strolls through Mt. Gretna’s shaded streets on a Saturday morning. Besides porch treasures, they'll find coffee and muffins at the church, sales benefiting a women’s educational fund at the Maple Lodge cottage (6th and Boehm), and the Lebanon Humane Society's sale at the library (where a take-what-you-want, pay-what-you-want policy attracts scores of bookworms).
Plus, there’s the usual assortment of returning snowbirds—cars and vans loaded down with everything their owners will need to fortify another Mt. Gretna summer. “It’s the annual return of the Volvos,” a minister once remarked, “like swallows coming back to Capistrano. An indisputable sign that summer is here.”
Yet what truly launches the season is that 4 o’clock gala Saturday afternoon at the Hall of Philosophy. It’s the grand—but not stiffly formal—Summer Premiere of the Mt. Gretna A signature social event of the season, to be sure, one where everybody—and that means everybody in the seven neighborhoods that make up “Mt. Gretna”—comes to renew old acquaintances and greet newcomers. The emphasis is on fun, friendship and fundraising—all to uphold that indispensable ingredient of Mt. Gretna life, the summer calendar. Arts Council.
Some points to keep in mind:
[] To list your porch sale on the Campmeeting maps, call 964-2319; for Chautauqua maps, call 964-1830. Sale hours: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
[] All those triathlon crowds soon scatter. Organizer Chris Kaag strives to keep commotion to a minimum. He hopes folks here remember that it’s all for a good cause. So far, the event has raised $90,000 for research into neuromuscular diseases like that which crippled the upbeat 31-year-old Kaag himself.
[] Swirling under a “Springtime and Flowers” theme, the Summer Premiere will offer live and silent auctions (including works donated by 2007 art show exhibitors), scholarship awards, wine, treats and treasures starting at 4 p.m., Hall of Philosophy. The $20 admission helps pay for the 10,000 calendars published by the Arts Council. The calendar’s cover artwork—inspired by a 1980s newspaper photograph that’s a favorite of artist Linda Allwein—will be presented for the live auction along with a (yet undisclosed) Dale Grundon stained glass original.

Here’s how to follow Mt. Gretna marathon cyclist Robin Smith on that upcoming 3,000-mile, seven day Race Across America: Log on to for live updates beginning June 11.
Robin is part of four-member team “Cycle Smart,” No. 414. (She is rider 414C.) They’ll ride round-the-clock in four-hour shifts over mountains, deserts, valleys and lonely highways while teammates sleep in an accompanying van. It’s an endurance test that is to cycling what Everest is to mountain climbing. In the process, they hope to raise $180,000 for local charities. See Robin’s online donation Website:
Her team’s been out practicing. One recent run started in Morgantown, Pa. and headed toward Annapolis, Md., where their seven-day ride from California next month will finally end. “Seeing the last several hundred miles and the finish line was a thrill,” she says. “But I have to say, trying to sleep in a moving RV is like trying to sleep on a roller coaster.”

It’s a gracious custom that spans more than half a century: Sharing one’s home with actors appearing at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse. The experience yields benefits for fascinated owners and their intrigued guests. After she’d spent a few weeks here several years ago, Sally Struthers announced, “I’m going back to Los Angeles and build myself a porch.”
This year, Gretna Theater’s “adopt an artist” program is again seeking rooms in private homes and cottages for people like “Anna,” who’ll appear in “The King and I.” “She’s a leading lady with a lot of class,” says producing director Larry Frenock. Also coming is a former Broadway actor who’ll direct “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
What they’ll need are private bedrooms and use of kitchen facilities. Says Mr. Frenock, “We’d love to hear from people in Mt. Gretna or nearby areas who have rooms to share—or maybe even a cottage to donate for a few weeks in return for a tax deduction.” Call 964-3322.

[] The Rte. 117 resurfacing project is on schedule, despite occasional bad weather delays. Contractor crews have already completed inlet and crack repair work, and a stilling basin along the stream a week ahead of schedule. Shoulder widening, leveling and mainline overlays are planned next week, with side roads and driveways to follow, says Dave Powers, who enjoys bringing his family here each summer. Then comes topsoil, seeding and guardrail work early the week of May 19.
After finishing work in town, his crews will move to portions of the roadway linking Mt. Gretna to Cornwall and Colebrook. The aim: finish the $2.1 million job by Aug. 27, ahead of PennDOT’s deadline, even after stopping operations over art show weekend, Aug. 16-17.
Meanwhile, Bill Care, the Mt. Gretna wizard who can fix darned near anything, is impressed with the road project’s efficiency. He nevertheless advises motorists to think about using Pinch and Butler roads more frequently this summer, when construction work moves east and west of town.
[] Figuring there wouldn’t be another chance to see it for at least several decades, photographer Dale Grundon captured a glimpse of the famous “concrete highway”—laid down in 1911, during Mt. Gretna’s encampment days. See what intrigued the ever-curious Dale as the highway project got underway:
[] Another opportunity to meet, talk and lunch with Mt. Gretna neighbors comes up again May 10—at the fire company’s block shoot, noon to 5 p.m.
Don’t know shotguns from shoofly? No matter. Alice McKeone’s ham and bean soup has no peer on the planet. Hot dogs and sauerkraut abound. Plus, you can win prizes. Just ask a competitor to shoot for you. Former U.S. Olympic team member Tom Baum often shows up. But even he can miss in a match where pellet marks are measured in millimeters. All part of the fun that helps pay for the fire station’s new $300,000 addition, now nearing completion.
[] What are the most unlikely questions visitors will ask at the Mt. Gretna Information Center this summer: “What’s going on here?” “Where’s the fairy garden?” “Do people really live in these cottages?”
Jessica Kosoff will provide answers May 24. That’s sign-up day for volunteers who’ll pick their time slots at the center this summer. She’s also offering free coffee and donuts, starting at 10 a.m.
[] Larry Frenock may soon be running out of space in his trophy case. The energetic and personable producing director of Gretna Theater is also a champion ice-skater. He’s just back from the U.S. Adult National Figure Skating competition at Lake Placid, where he won two gold medals. That’s on top of two he collected at the Keystone State Games earlier this season and a gold and silver medal at the Eastern U.S. Sectionals.
Larry skates in the Men’s Bronze IV division, a category he calls “Old men who worry about breaking a hip.” Maybe so, but those honors—which include 11 national skating medals to date—are fitting rewards for a man in his early 50s who, while most of us are still in bed, is already at the rink getting ready for next year’s challenge.
[] Insiders know why Phil Dirt and the Dozers (here Aug. 12) look spiffier this year. Striking a blow for sartorial standards, the Cicada Festival’s always nattily attired Ceylon Leitzel requested publicity photos in suits and ties. See: Festival details appear at Insider tip No. 2: Order now; seats go fast.

[] At least some of the Pennsylvania State Gamelands (including 174 acres closest to Mt. Gretna) will be getting aerial sprays for gypsy moths this month. It’s part of a statewide campaign to thwart the pesky caterpillars, which last year gobbled up half the leaves here. (Or so it seemed to startled visitors traveling up Pinch Road’s normally shaded corridor in unaccustomed sunlight.)
Mt. Gretna borough, South Londonderry, South Annville and West Cornwall townships are joining in the effort.
[] Timbers music director Andy Roberts, discussing his first solo CD, “Under the Radar,” says it’s a turning point. He told a Patriot-News reporter recently, “It makes me want to do more.” That’s already evident. The talented pianist and arranger has also been named assistant music director at Lancaster’s American Music Theater.
[] Summer impresario Ceylon Leitzel keeps adding to the allure surrounding another end-of-season Big Band bash at the lake Aug. 23. This year, he’s bringing the Hershey Big Band with tunes from the 1940s through 1960s, plus a few by current pop artists. Tickets ($18). Send checks to: “Music Under the Stars,” Box 202, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064. Proceeds (nearly $3,000 so far) support Mt. Gretna non-profit groups including the fire company, Heritage Festival and others.
[] Anxious to get your 2008 Mt. Gretna Summer Calendar? It’s already available online: (To order a printed copy by mail, send $1.90 to Mt. Gretna Arts Council, Box 513, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064). Copies will soon be available free at Collins Grocery, Gretna Emporium, the Hideaway, Timbers Dinner Theater, Jigger Shop, the Mt. Gretna Information Center, borough office, Penn Realty, Yale Electric, Lebanon Tourist Bureau, and about 60 other locations throughout the area.
To add your e-mail address to the mailing list for “This Week in Mt. Gretna,” a free summer bulletin of events, write:
[] Does outdoor learning foster better imaginations in children? That might help explain the attraction of Governor Dick Park’s Mission Discovery series and plans for a Summer Explorers Camp (third to sixth graders the week of July 28, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost: $100). For details, see:
Outdoor fun also stirs growing interest in Chautauqua’s eight-week summer playground program starting June 23. Cost: $50 or $10 per week. Details: Jessica Kosoff (
[] Greta in Mt. Gretna? Yes, July 2, in Cicada’s film festival. Ms. Garbo appeared in “Ninotchka,” the only 1939 film to gross more than “Gone With the Wind.” It replaces the previously scheduled “Wuthering Heights” (currently unavailable in DVD).
[] Our traveling laptop sometimes develops a case of “sticking d’s.” That’s why the e-mail address for those wishing to receive South Londonderry Township’s newsletter had a missing ‘d’ last month: It should be

1st Place award for the Jigger Shop, voted again this year as the favorite ice cream stop by WITF’s Central Pennsylvania magazine readers. That prestigious honor puts it alongside the Hotel Hershey’s Circular Dining Room (“best special occasion dining”) and Cornerstone Coffeehouse in Camp Hill, owned by former Mt. Gretnans Al and Sue Pera, who return often to her parents’ (Earl and Nancy Besch) Harvard Avenue cottage.
3 Trays abounding with brownies? It happens when talented but time-pressed volunteers offer to bring desserts to the Summer Premiere. That’s why dessert coordinator Jane Zellers encourages Mt. Gretna’s volunteer chefs to call before the May 24 gala, so she’ll know what everybody is bringing.
What to bake? Eleanor Sarabia favors a “Dump Cake” – with pineapple, cherries, coconut, almonds and butter tossed into a pan of white cake mix. Elaine Baum thinks peanut butter chews might be nice. And Carol Groce will bring “Mrs. Fields’ chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.”
But at the Spring Premiere, the emphasis is on fun and friendship rather than food. The gala starts at 4 o’clock, so you’ll want to bring your tasty treats—including those “never-fail” brownie favorites—to the Hall of Philosophy by 3:45 p.m. To catch up with Jane, whose weekly consulting and speaking engagements keep her hopping across the U.S.A., leave a message on her cell phone: (717-507-4607).
80 Actors, directors, designers and technicians hired for Gretna Theater’s two-month season, which begins June 5. All are “wonderfully talented Broadway veterans,” says producing director Larry Frenock, citing names like Mike O’Carroll, who starred in last year’s hit, “Fiddler on the Roof” and “loved Mt. Gretna so much he asked to come back.”
The box office opens Memorial Day weekend, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 964-3627 or go to
$500 Raised by Timber Hills’ 11-year-old Monica Ceresina. That’s more than three times her goal in a Cystic Fibrosis campaign benefiting her 6th grade teacher’s four-year-old granddaughter.
Whipping up support among neighbors, Monica also won the hearts of Mt. Gretna Pizzeria operators Damien and Mariano Orea, who helped lift her team to first place in a drive that netted $47,000. As the daughter of Mt. Gretna fire volunteer Mario and Teresa Ceresina—and also a black belt in karate, student government president and honor student at Palmyra’s middle school—the determined pre-teen makes one thing clear: she knows how to get results.

[] Why did the Patriot-News remove its newspaper machine from Mt. Gretna? It was a weekend ritual for me and my seven-year-old son to walk down to buy a Patriot.
<> Circulation director Kurt Howard said, “Sales from the Mt. Gretna rack were not supporting its continued existence, so the rack was removed.” He added that home delivery is now available in Mt. Gretna. However, after learning that our population nearly doubles in summer and that many folks are here only for short periods, Mr. Howard promised the rack would return to serve summer residents.

[] Is there a Mt. Gretna Newsletter to refer to, or telephone number for volunteering this summer? I missed out last year and want to be reconnected. Thanks so much.
<> There is now. Thanks to your question, we’re making “Volunteer Opportunities to Reconnect” an annual listing every year at this time. Here’s our first stab at it. Corrections and additions are cordially invited:
Art Show:
Linda Bell 964-3270 Director,
COORDINATORS OF VOLUNTEERS: Saturday admission gates: Sam Bonacci 964-3111. Sunday admission gates: Joe Shay 964-2209; Office staff: Doug Leiby 717-272-8871. Kids’ Art Show: Sue Loehr (717) 228-2225. Exhibitor traffic control: Fred Seltzer 964-3763. Soldiers Field & Philhaven area parking: Bob Dowd 964-1106. Booth sitters: (To be announced.)
Bible Festival:
Don Zechman 717-653-8588
Bruce Gettle 964-2319
Bird Club:
Sid Hostetter and Evelyn Koppel
Buzzard Busters: (Active communitywide Nov. – Mar.)
Max Hunsicker ( Despite their success, Max’s band of stalwarts ("The few, the proud, the Buzzard Busters") can always use new volunteers.
Campmeeting Community Gardens:
Deborah Hurst
Chautauqua Summer Programs:
Kathy Snavely 964-2191;, Jack Anderson 964-1975,, Peggy O’Neil 964-3333
Cicada Festival:
Dick Smith,
Concession stand at Playhouse:
Michael Murray 361-1508
Fire Company:
Karen Lynch, 964-3505, or Joe Shay, 964-1106
Garden Club:
Peg Smith (interim coordinator, 964-2101) says “we can use help in watering a few spots around town.”
Governor Dick Nature Center:
Janie Gockley 964-3808
Gretna Music:
Carl Kane 361-1508
Gretna Theater:
Renee Krizan 964-3322
Heritage Festival:
Pat and Mike Allwein 964-2352
Deborah Hurst
Mt. Gretna Triathlon: (May 24)
Music Under the Stars: (A fundraiser at the lake Aug. 23; See story this issue.)
Karen Leitzel, 964-1829 or 717-866-4274;
Organ Recitals:
Rhoda Long,
Jessica Kosoff
Police Community E-mail Alert Network: (Periodic advisories on how you can help local police; announcements of vehicle ID programs, safety instruction, National Nights Out, other events.). Add your name, address and e-mail address:
Mike Dissinger (717) 949-2367 schedules trail clean-up days; John Wengert posts e-mail bulletins ( for other tasks needing volunteers. They’re planning a new link that will stretch almost 30 miles, from Governor Dick Park to the Appalachian Trail. Next volunteer workday: May 10, 8:45 a.m. to noon, starting at the Cornwall trailhead east of town.

Summer Premiere: (May 24)
Janice Balmer, 964-3142
Visitor Information Center:
Jessica Kosoff, 964-1310;
Winterites: (active Sept.-April)
Donna Kaplan, 964-2174

Pat Attwood’s passing on April 10 leaves yet another crevice in the widening gap separating us from Mt. Gretna’s yesterdays. She and her brother Pete Light, who still lives atop Conewago Hill, were here in the 1930s and 1940s, when snows piled high outside the windows of their parents’ cottage at the corner of Princeton and Harvard avenues. Decades later, those cold winters kindled warm memories in stories she liked to tell, linked also to adventures of teenage summers at Midge’s stand, with such friends as Nancy Besch, Pat Pinsler, Peg Hicks, Marian Strickler and the "Coyle girls," Nancy and Pat.
She also enjoyed sharing memories spawned by Mt. Gretna pictures she discovered one afternoon when the owner of Harpel’s photography shop invited her to sort through long-ago photographs stored in his third-floor attic. She showed them at gatherings of the Winterites and, in more recent years, at talks sponsored by the Mt. Gretna Historical Society. Those pictures and other memorabilia she collected over a lifetime will be donated to the historical society, which is also receiving memorial contributions in her honor (P.O. Box 362, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064).
Feisty, practical and filled with purpose, Pat kept up a lively business practice—faithfully serving insurance clients until only a month or so before she died. What she enjoyed most, however, were grandchildren. At an April 16 Timbers gathering attended by some 75 friends and relatives, nearly every picture of Pat included at least one grandchild on her lap. “Tell me a story about what it was like growing up in Mt. Gretna, Nanna.” It was a refrain she heard often. One that brought smiles, joy and lasting satisfaction to the lady who was, and will always be, an integral part of Mt. Gretna’s heritage.

MARIAN A. HERR (1926-2008)
Her obituary said she died peacefully April 28. She lived life the same way.
Marian Herr, beloved widow of Heb Herr who passed away last year, was the gentlest of people. She held what might normally be considered one of the most onerous of jobs—Mt. Gretna’s tax collector. Yet no one in this community was more loved, more admired, and more sought after for her warm and welcoming presence.
She was an artist whose soul resonated with Mt. Gretna—even after she and Heb returned four years ago to their native soil in Southern Lancaster County. They came back often to help at the art show, always with smiles that evoked years of happy memories here with family and friends. Their departure occasioned a rare community tribute at the Hall of Philosophy—a well-planned “surprise” that both accepted graciously and modestly, even though one suspects that not many secrets escaped them. For the Herrs were strongly in touch with their community. He as a builder of sturdy porches, stairways and houses. She as a builder of uncommonly warm and sturdy friendships. Long after her passing, her legacy will reverberate: no one who ever met her will ever think of Marian Herr without also conjuring up the radiating smile that was her hallmark.
Contributions in her memory are being made to Hospice of Lancaster County, P. O. Box 4125, Lancaster, PA 17604.

Bears and coyotes roaming the forests? Yes, according to deer density studies just completed at the 1,105-acre Governor Dick Park. Officials noticed a dramatic drop this year in the number of deer: 9.75 per square mile, down from 18 last year and 32 per square mile four years ago. Reasons: Increased hunting, the spread of a yet-undetermined disease affecting deer in nearby forests, and what former biology teacher and park board member Chuck Allwein calls “an extensive coyote population.” Coyotes, as you know, are natural deer predators.
Meanwhile, Mike Bell reports that not one but two, mature bald eagles have now taken up residence nearby. He spotted one in flight recently, “a great and beautiful sight.”
And those reports of bears? It’s true. Governor Dick researchers found bear fecal chips this spring. Outdoorsman Tom Baum says he’s seen signs too. State game officials warn against leaving food outdoors, lest bears come to think of your backyard as the Mt. Gretna Diner. Nobody can yet say whether the bears are passers-through or permanent residents. But one thing’s for sure: Even the most sociable of Mt. Gretnans can have neighbors they bearly know.
Kindest regards,
Roger Groce
P.S. Readers occasionally ask why the Mt. Gretna Newsletter is soooooooooooo long. It reminds us of the lament sometimes attributed to Mark Twain: "If I'd had more time, I'd have written a shorter letter." Truth is, brevity in writing is among the toughest of challenges—especially in a town as busy as this one, filled with imaginative, engaging and engaged people.
We marvel at that paragon of terseness, the Kiplinger Letter. Punchy telegraphese condenses complex thoughts into a single, masterful sentence that sweeps across the page, finishing precisely within the final three stops of right-hand margins. A Gold Standard of journalism.
Yet we remember hearing a Kiplinger editor tell how that is done. His editorial staff for a four-page newsletter numbers well over 100 writers. Seated beside us in the audience was the editor of the Lancaster Sunday News with a staff of fewer than 30. His jaw dropped.
Boiling news down to its essence is a challenge. But our main goal is to convey information that informs, enlightens and occasionally amuses folks who also love this town. We'll continue to make that a first priority, doing our best to keep things brief.
Meanwhile, our appreciation grows for those who faithfully read this letter, send news, offer ideas, and nudge us when we err. Thanks also to the many who print copies for neighbors, tell others that a newsletter about Mt. Gretna is available via e-mail, and help each month with the joys of gathering, writing, editing and fact-checking these reports. And thanks to our friends at Gretna Computers, you'll find back issues at