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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 94, May 7, 2009

Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter

"A Bulletin For Folks Who Love Mount Gretna. . . Wherever They Happen to Live"
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No. 94                                                                                                                   May 7, 2009


Unmistakable Stirrings
he days leading up to Memorial Day weekend give scarcely a hint of all that lies ahead for Mt. Gretna's grand summer season. The streets are still quiet. The town's tempo muted. The snowbirds absent, many still squeezing out a few more sunny days in spots like Sarasota, Scottsdale or Palm Springs.

So even
Fresh from the Hernly Garden as May begins in Mt. Gretna, summer's unmistakable stirrings may seem elusive. But that is deceptive. A closer look reveals immutable signs of rebirth, renewal and resurgence.

Brightest by far was a signal last weekend: the return of Mary Hernley -- for a 44th consecutive year -- to her flower stand along Route 117. She showed up with a dazzling array of tulips, fresh from her gardens at the Manheim farm that has been in her family since the days of William Penn. Vibrant yellows, purples, reds and multicolored tulips, all befitting Mary's role in what she calls "the cheer-up business." She hopes to be here most weekends, except for a brief trip to Maine later this month for a granddaughter's wedding.                                                                                           
Elsewhere, a persistent, yet barely perceptible buzz permeates cottages and century-old buildings where people are putting final touches on productions that will take place this summer at the Playhouse: First, starting on June 4, comes Gretna Theater with performances that will continue until July 29. In mid-summer, the freshly energized Cicada Festival emerges for its week-long run. And then, from July 31 through Sept. 6, Gretna Music's 34th imaginative series, echoing folk music's influence on both classical music and jazz. In all, a spectacular lineup that will offer -- for Gretna Music and Gretna Theater audiences -- the convenience of advance ticket purchases online.

Adding to summer's allure is a lively Chautauqua series that includes talks by astronauts and theologians, Tuesday afternoon chess fests by Scotland's national chess team captain, talks by a renown authority  on the writings of St. Francis, and another University for a Day program. There's also an authors' lecture series that will feature Elizabeth Wein (who spent summers growing up in the Heights and now writes children's adventure novels from her home in Scotland), an Auschwitz survivor  whose experiences underscore what happens "when good people do nothing," and speakers on the "Last Lecture" theme made notable by the late Dr. Randy Pausch, who counseled his students, "Brick walls are there for a reason: to show how badly we want something."

Summer's brightest beacon? It's still a few days off, May 23 to be exact. That's when a morning triathlon, a community-wide porch sale and a gala Summer Premier will officially launch the opening of another season at Mt. Gretna.

The race:  Mt. Gretna's 6th annual triathlon -- a competition challenging 600 athletes from around the nation who will swim, run and cycle in quest of higher personal achievements and funds for a disease that crippled the race organizer, a courageous former Marine named Chris Kaag. To date, the event has raised about $100,000 for medical research into causes and cures for the degenerative nerve disease.

The sales: 300 to 400 other visitors combing the town for bargains at the annual community-wide porch sales in the Chautauqua and Campmeeting, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Underway at the same time will be a breakfast at the fire hall, a pay-what-you-will book sale at the library, and a bake sale at the church.)
To list their porch sales on visitor maps, residents should contact Bruce Gettle (in the Campmeeting, 964-2319) or Barney Myer (in the Chautauqua, 964-1830).

The gala: A gathering that helps underwrite Mt. Gretna's 75-page summer calendar, the single most widely-read book in town. This year's Premiere planners, Jessica Kosoff and her mother, Deborah Clemens, devoted much of the winter to devising fresh attractions for the event. In addition to music by Ryan Brunkhurst -- perhaps the youngest organist/choir director in the country (he delayed choir practice one Halloween to squeeze in a trick-or-treat outing) -- will be both live and silent auctions. They will include artworks donated by last year's art show exhibitors, a Prairie lamp by stained glass artisan Dale Grundon, a studio session with Pea Pod Photography's Heather Leed (the celebrated Ephrata photographer of newborns and children), and a jewelry raffle -- a freshwater pearl necklace, bracelet and earrings set-donated by Leitzel's Jewelry of Myerstown.

Yes, the sound of spring echoes throughout America at this time of year. At Churchill Downs, it's the invitation to sip a mint julep. At Indianapolis, it's the call to "start your engines." And in Mt. Gretna, it's the cheery greeting from atop the steps to the Hall of Philosophy, "Welcome to the Summer Premiere."
(Dale Grundon photo)



 At Gretna Theater, Things are Looking Up

While theaters elsewhere across the country struggle to stay open, Gretna Theatre's subscriptions, group sales and individual contributions are growing, says producing director Larry Frenock. He told the Lancaster New Era la
Larry Frenockst month that although he keeps "a large jar of Tums on my desk," the outlook this season is good -- with six shows scheduled this season. Last fall's benefit gala raised more than $100,000-a record-breaker, he says.

One reason for the gains may have been Larry's decision to move here three years ago. Other producers "never made the commitment," he says. "When I decided to work in Mt. Gretna, I moved here. I have a house. I have to make a go of it. It's a simple equation. If I keep the theater succeeding, I keep my job."

The season begins June 4-7 with "1959 Dance Party," a tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritche Valens and the Big Bopper with stars that include John Mueller, who played Holly on Broadway, and the Big Bopper's own son.

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" follows June 11-21, with a cast of 36. Next comes "Almost Heaven -- The Songs of John Denver" June 25-28, "George M!" the story and songs of George M. Cohan July 2-5, "Cheaper by the Dozen," a "warm and loving family comedy" July 9-12; and the season-ender, "Hello, Dolly!" (July 16-26), the story of a matchmaker who sets her sights on a grumpy millionaire.
In Other News:

Public hearings on the proposed water park at Cornwall may be held next month, possibly as early as early as June 1 or 8, says Borough manager Steve Danz.  The 570-acre development (about four miles from Mt. Gretna) -- to be built around what was once the largest iron-ore mine east of the Mississippi -- calls for 645 homes, a 250-room hotel and a main street of shops and stores.  The H&K Group of Montgomery County could begin work on the $300 million project in 2011 or 2012, the Lancaster New Era reported
Fastest 60-year-old on two wheels?  No, but Mt. Gretna borough chief Bill Care proves that getting older doesn't mean that you can't keep getting better. Already this season he's grabbed a first-place prize at a bicycle race in Fawn Grove, Pa., placed second in other Maryland and Pennsylvania races, and finished third behind national champion Scott Haverstick in last month's Tour of Battenkill in upstate New York. Haverstick and another national champ, Barry Free of Spring Hill Acres, are Bill's teammates. They've been racing together for the past nine years. 

Gretna Emporium will preview "many new surprises for a great summer" in a just-for-Mt. Gretnans advance showing on Friday, May 22 from 5 to 8 p.m., just before the regular season opens on Saturday. Among new items that owner Stacey Pennington will introduce this year is a line of Life is Good clothing and accessories, new distinctively Mt. Gretna items, "yard art" and a tasty assortment of dips, teas and wine slushies

Rug hooking, an art that has fascinated Americans for at least a century, will be taught here this summer. Campmeeting resident Cindy Irwin will offer classes on the front porch of the 610 Fourth St. cottage that she has owned for the past 18 years.  A juried member of the PA Guild of Craftsmen and a McGown certified traditional rug hooking teacher, Cindy says it's the most rewarding, yet challenging, creative endeavor that she has ever tried. She loves "determining a pattern, finding just the right colors to bring it alive, dyeing the wool and then hooking and finishing a rug that is utterly unique."  Details: Call (717) 284-6318 or drop a note to:

Sample a bit of Mt. Gretna history when you stop by the Visitors' Center this summer. Volunteers will be showing small displays from the Historical Society museum, located just up the hill on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Visitors Center will also offer Mt. Gretna historical publications and CDs.
Now you can buy Playhouse tickets online for summer theater productions as well as jazz and classical music concerts. Click here  to purchase Gretna Theater tickets (telephone 964-3627). For tickets to Gretna Music concerts, call (361-1508) or click here.
Ah!, a collection of photographic images by Alan Harrington, has just made its appearance on the Web. The son of Chautauqua residents Bill and Leane Harrington, Alan spent summers growing up in Mt. Gretna. His photographic interpretations of everything from nature to children and everyday objects reveal, as the Website suggests, "a wondrous mystery concealed in the guise of the ordinary." His more than 170 images also reflect the photographer's widespread interests and extensive worldwide travels. After living on the West Coast for several years, Alan and his wife and son will move eastward next month, stopping briefly in Mt. Gretna before continuing to their new home in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts

Good Things Happen When You Follow Your Heart
The judges selecting this year's entries for the Mt. Gretna art show included a Hummelstown artist who was working as a mail carrier when she first discovered, nearly a decade ago, a college exhibit of glass art. A few years later, after saving up sufficient vacation time at the post office to devote one day a week to a full semester of classes, she began the study of glass-blowing. In 2005, having created a collection of stained and fused glass artwork, she summoned the courage to submit a first competitive
A place for canoes at Lake Conewagoentry to the Mt. Gretna art show. 

"I had been coming to the Mt. Gretna show long before I ever considered myself an artist," says Linda Billet. The acceptance letter she received a few weeks later both stunned her and launched a new career. "I was fed up at the post office. I had been there forever. I quit that job in March 2007. Now, I can't wait to get up in the morning," she told a newspaper reporter.

Her selection as a Mt. Gretna art show judge this year not only completes the cycle -- from show visitor, to exhibiting artist, to judge -- it affirms another enduring truth, she says: "When we follow our hearts, something wonderful happens."

Events at Gov. Dick Park this month include a nature walk May 9 with Ron Laughlin, 9 a.m.; an orienteering class in map and compass reading May 16 with Mark and Mary Frank, 11 a.m.; and naturalist Audrey Manspeaker leads a Warbler Walk May 19, 4 p.m.  Questions: 964-3808; click here for a list of park programs.

Gretna Computer Consulting has added a new service to transfer family videos and slides to DVD. "It's for people who'd like to show home movies and slides on their TV, without having to set up movie or slide projectors. Or worrying whether their favorite video tapes will survive another playback in their VCR or camcorder," says Joe Shay. All work is done locally: 964-1106.

Police bike rodeo June 2 (Cornwall Elementary, 6:30 p.m.) For children up to age 12. Bring a bike and helmet for the safety and skill course. Prizes galore.


In Mt. Gretna, there's a resident expert for just about everything. So when a press release arrived announcing a composting workshop this month, we sought out the town's top authorities. One name that came immediately to mind: artist Shelby Applegate, whose Valley Road lawn bursts with color every summer. "I've been composting for years," she says. "It makes lovely soil."     

In Mt. Gretna Heights, gardening enthusiast Pat Pinsler has been composting for 35 years, using a dehydrated bacteria starter kit that speeds the process.
Another authority, Neely Spicer, who has lived on Sixth Street in the Campmeeting for 11 years, is a master gardener. She invites questions on the topic (964-2378 or drop her an e-mail note). She's just getting started with composting, but with over a decade's experience of gardening in the shade of Mt. Gretna, she should have solutions for even the thorniest problems.

If  you're among the first 100 persons to sign up for one of the four $15 workshops on May 16, you'll get an 80-gallon composting bin free. Register by May 8 for one of four sessions (9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon) at Lebanon Valley Agricultural Center, 2120 Cornwall Rd.  Tel. 270-4391.


Scott C
A place for canoes at Lake Conewagoooling and Joey Wise installed new canoe racks at the lake a few weeks ago, so they'll be ready for use this summer.
You'll need a $10 annual permit; any canoe without one will be removed (even if it's chained to a tree). 
A total of 60 permits are available (limit: one per household) for Mt. Gretna residents only. 
Pick up your permit from Linda Bell at the borough office (Tel. 964-3270), Mon.-Fri.                 
Oh, and if you left your canoe at the lake last fall and now can't find it, ask Linda. She'll probably know where it is.            
Dale Grundon photo
She may be a minister, but, when it comes to church breakfasts, Janet Steger has the unerring touch of a master marketer. Mt. Gretna's United Methodist Church's pastor says that even though grilled hot dogs aren't normally on anybody's breakfast menu, the wafting aroma from Bray Brunkhurst's grill near the church's side door is a sure lure for shoppers during the annual Memorial Day weekend porch sale. "No matter how many we grill up, they're usually all gone by 11 a.m. People like them for breakfast," she says. Visitors will also find bake sale items and used treasures on sale at the church May 23, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Pastor Steger also tells us that her final service here will be June 21. She has accepted a call to St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Mountville. Her successor has not yet been named. 
Soon to become full-time residents when they move from a summer cottage in the Campmeeting to an extensively remodeled home in Timber Hills, Ceylon and Karen Leitzel have been committed contributors to the Mt. Gretna community for many years. In addition to Ceylon's role in heading the Cicada Festival, the Leitzels also sponsor the annual Big Band dance party at the lake.
Now in it's 6th year and providing funds for groups like the Heritage and Bible festivals, the fire company, men's club, Lawn Ambulance and Mt. Gretna's United Methodist Church, "Music Under the Stars" will continue Aug. 22 with the Hershey Big Band, 7:30 to 10 p.m. (Tickets: $18 in advance, $20 at the door; call 717-866-4274 or 964-1829; e-mail

Artist Shelby Applegate opened a month-long solo show this month at the Lebanon Gallery (third floor above the Farmer's Market). She also helped jury a three-month show ("Make Your Mark"-- a display of everything from cave paintings and tattoos to post-impressionistic pointillism), now at the Susquehanna Art Museum.
Finding clean, usable spring clean-out items in your garage, basement and closets? Cornwall's police department wants them. Administrative assistant Stephanie Burris says five local families -- all living in Cornwall police coverage areas -- benefited last Christmas from the $2,300 raised in 2008's Adopt-a-Family yard sales. The next sale comes up May 8-9 (rain dates: May 15-16). Schools, churches and Cornwall police officers themselves suggest each year's recipients. Call or e-mail Stephanie (274-2071) to arrange for drop-offs. 




For more than a century, the summer cavalcade of events that unfolds in Mt. Gretna each year has been largely the work of volunteers. That tradition continues this summer. Here's a partial list of opportunities for those who'd like to share in recreating the magic:  
           Please send corrections and additions to Editor:

Art Show:

Linda Bell 964-3270 Director, e-mail:

Art Show 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: Faith Mummau  964-2212. Exhibitor traffic control: Fred Seltzer 964-3763.  Soldiers' Field and Philhaven area parking: Bob Dowd 964-1106. Booth sitters: Julie Bucher, 717-872-6127.

Bible Festival:
Don Zechman 717-653-8588 or Bruce Gettle  964-2319

Bird Club:
Sid Hostetter and Evelyn Koppel

Buzzard Busters:  (Active Nov. - Mar.)
Max Hunsicker (click here to e-mail). Despite their success, Max's band of stalwarts ("The few, the proud, the Buzzard Busters") needs volunteers who can encourage migrating turkey vultures each fall to choose other roosts. 

Campmeeting Community Gardens:
Deborah Hurst, click here to email.

Campmeeting Playground Refurbishment Project:
Organizers need volunteers for a concert and carnival June 5-6 to raise money for Campmeeting playground improvements. Rachel Schmalhofer, 717-606-9845.

Chautauqua Summer Programs:
Kathy Snavely 964-2191;, Bob Moritz, 964-2348;, Peggy O'Neil 964-3333;

Cicada Festival:
John Smith, 964-2101 

Concession stand at Playhouse:
Michael Murray  361-1508 or Carl Kane (

Fire Company:
Karen Lynch, 964-3505, or Joe Shay, 964-1106

Gardening Volunteers:
No, there's no "garden club" any longer. So who makes the Playhouse grounds burst with color each year? Peg Smith and Betty Miller, with mulching and watering help from Peg's husband John.  Tending to plants around the post office are Bill Care and Linda Bell. Shirley Miller and Louise Doney nurture flower boxes at the Information Center and also help with those hanging baskets around town. Carol Morgan and Kay Hetrick maintain that children's favorite, the Fairy Garden. In Mt. Gretna Heights, Charlie Harris (click here to e-mail) often organizes volunteer gardening projects. And in the Campmeeting, Debra Barnhart and Jane Zellers care for the Butterfly Garden between First Street and Markwood Avenue. Like to join them? Call Peg at 964-2101, or click here to drop her an e-mail note.

Governor Dick Nature Center:
Janie Gockley 964-3808

Gretna Music:
Carl Kane 361-1508 ( Sign-up forms also appear online. Gretna Music will also be at the post office on several Saturday mornings this month to talk with prospective volunteers.

Gretna Theater:
Renee Krizan 964-3322

Heritage Festival:
Pat and Mike Allwein 964-2352

Historical Society:
Fred Buch 1-800-242-3901, e-mail:

Deborah Hurst

Mt. Gretna Triathlon: (May 23)
See; Needed: Volunteers to help with pre-race setups May 22 (12 p.m. - 6 p.m.) and post-race cleanup, starting 11:30 a.m.

Music Under the Stars: (A fundraiser at the lake Aug. 22.)
Karen Leitzel, 964-1829 or 717-866-4274;

Organ Recitals:
Rhoda Long coordinates refreshments at these recitals; tel. 717-304-0248; or; contributions appreciated.

Kim Beiler is this summer's playground coordinator.  Telephone: 964-1830.

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.

Summer Premiere: (May 23)
Jessica Kosoff and Debbie Clemens, 964-3825

Visitors' Information Center:
Deborah Hurst, 964-3481 (email)  Fred Buch, 1-800-242-3901

Winterites: (October - April)
Donna Kaplan, 964-2174, who notes that their next meeting (Oct. 6) is already planned -- a luncheon catered by Chef-on-the-Go Becky Briody.


An honor on the ice for a man who ignited a spirit
In Portland, Me. a few weeks ago, they honored Tom Ebright. The many Mt. Gretnans who knew him will readily understand why. His posthumous induction into the Hall of Fame by the Portland Pirates ice hockey team recognized not merely Tom's role as the team's exuberant owner, but also leadership qualities that ignited zest, integrity and commitment in the team, in the town and throughout the entire American Hockey League.

Those same qualities were also widely known and appreciated in Mt. Gretna, where Tom Ebright revived the tradition of fireworks displays on the Fourth of July, recreated authentic models of the trains that once ran on Mt. Gretna's narrow gauge railroad, and led the privately funded campaign to rebuild the Playhouse after it collapsed in 1994. He died three years later while awaiting a heart transplant at Hershey Medical Center.
Joyce, his widow who now lives in Timber Bridge, attended the ceremony with her family, including three grandchildren. They each wore No. 50 jerseys, the number Tom himself had worn as the Pirates' owner. It is the only number ever to be retired by the Pirates organization. Tom never had a chance to see his grandchildren nor they him. But the ceremony on the ice in Portland March 27 gave them "a sense of the type of man Tom was and the legacy that he left behind," says Joyce. "They will know he was someone extraordinary."