The Maytown 250 Event, which celebrated our town’s remarkable history is now, itself, history. The period embracing April 29 through May 2, 2010 was a real high-point in our communal history—and many are wishing it was yet to be.
The weather, which had earlier been a concern, turned out to be nearly perfect. Thursday and Friday were cool and temperate, spring days, with temperatures in the 70’s and bright blue sky under a kind and gentle sun. Evenings were pleasant and comfortable. Saturday and Sunday were summer-like, with temperatures in the 80’s, increasing humidity, and, at times, a relentless sun…especially during the Sunday morning worship service on the square. But the rain held out until the very end, and it felt wonderful to get just a bit soggy after so hot a day, as we watched a great display of fireworks either from the American Legion Park or from the “dryness” of many a town porch.
No major problems occurred, although there were a few glitches with a shortage of food supplies and vendors and a total lack of press coverage during the event …but Doug Allen gave three of us event leaders our “15 minutes of fame” with interviews on channel 8 the night before the event started–with many people seeing Pat Vogel, Jack C. Frank, and myself—and coming out, because “it looked like a nice affair” and the food situation improved as the event wore on. (Barbecued meats, steak sandwiches, ice cream cones, hot dogs, chicken corn soup, Nell breakfast sandwiches, desserts, milk shakes, hamburgers, funnel cakes, puddings, baked goods, chocolate covered pretzels and many more things were for sale and eagerly consumed to the delight of both consumers and vendors.)
The profit and total revenue picture is not yet completely certain but it looks like souvenir sales were excellent—with some items selling out—and sales of “‘Round the Square” were quite brisk. The initial lot of 370 copies of the book sold out long before the event; 100 more copies were sold out by the start of the event; and 100 more books have been ordered with an expected arrival date of Tuesday, May 11. (All of the latter have been purchased also….meaning that the Historical Society presently has no inventory to sell in its gift shop. There are only about 100 copies still available to order from the publisher in Indiana, and orders are presently be taken for that!) Feedback on the book is excellent and many people have told the author that they can’t put it down.
The square was beautifully decorated with both the green and white “maypole” streamers of every Mayfest, but also newly-fashioned boughs of artificial flowers affixed to arches, and other floral arrangements gracing the 8 posts. The huge professional stage—which created quite a “wow” factor in all who viewed it driving or walking through the square, was adorned with flags and bunting—as was the entrance to the headquarters in the former Shenk’s Store, and many were the town doors, porches, windows, and yards that were festooned with flowers, bunting, flags etc.
Kudos to the Arrangements Committee for setting up and taking down lots of heavy equipment and providing toilets, signs and other helpful items. Thanks also for keeping things so clean, with wonderful trash and recycling containers that were constantly well-maintained.
The six exhibits were all well displayed and well attended. At St. John’s, the general historical display filled half the social hall and displayed not only archives in the MHS’s possession but also wonderful stuff from Jack H. Frank, Deb Gepfer, Bob Lescallette, and St. John’s. The room was decorated with bunting and a banner from 1910 that were in great condition, and one highlight of the room was the 1910 pump. Records show 322 visited the exhibit and signed the guest book.
Rave reviews were also heard about the School exhibit at Arnold’s showroom, which combined a large collection of archives from the MHS with the decorating/displaying skills of the exhibit’s mounters.
Of course, probably the biggest crowd visited the museum, with its superb display that detailed the history of the building’s restoration over the past 8 years. The place was near the square, near the food, and it held the gift shop!
The exhibit on previous exhibits was viewed by at least 525 who signed the guest book….and actually, the number was probably twice that. Most people probably came into the site, however, less to view the exhibit than to order or pick up a history book or buy one of the 120 walking tour brochures that were being sold for $1.00 each. They also got information and purchased some Hermansader prints or event note cards etc. The quilt was also on display, and, on Saturday, was sold to the highest bidder for $500!
As usual, the student art on display at the Reformed Church was quite popular, and so was the magnificent art gallery which was set up in the fine venue of the Old Whiskey Distillery. A woodcarver, potter, glassmaker, and painters displayed their art and created pieces during the event.
Thursday night’s opening ceremony was a delight. The 65-voice chorus performed the national anthem and “This Land Is Your Land”, I gave an emotional and well-received “key note” address, politicians were present, and Amy Chapman “knocked our socks off” with a wonderful song she had written for the occasion and which she both sang and played on the piano. (She is truly Maytown’s “Celine Dion”!) And through this program and all the successive programs, Jack Frank did a magnificent job of keeping things going and the crowd informed.
Thursday night’s entertainment, the “Rock and Roll Time Machine” attracted a crowd of perhaps a thousand who enjoyed a walk down “memory lane” with almost two hours of everything from Elvis to Janis Joplin—songs that we all know.
Friday proved to be the slowest of the 4 days, but, until all was “said and done” police estimates of daily crowds of 2,000 were probably accurate. Especially enjoyable was the Maytown School children’s inspired and enthusiastic enactment of a 10 scene “Pageant of Maytown History” whose script I had written. Kudos to Linda Good for heading that project and securing the help of so many others. Costumes and sets were creative and the miming and reading of actors was wonderful. Best of all—the kids really seemed to learn something and enjoyed doing it!
Of course, the big event of the day was the evening’s performance of Thornton Wilder’s great American play, “Our Town”…which was directed by Jim Johnson and acted by a cast of wonderfully-gifted amateur actors from the area. The play was perfectly suited for the occasion and caused all the hundreds who attended to reflect upon the importance of the ordinary every-day people, places, and things that fill our lives…and how all things are ultimately lost. “Give thanks to what God has given you in this small but great town!” seemed to be the message.
Saturday saw lots of crafters display their wares and skills on the perimeter of the square, and many fine groups perform on the stage—including our wonderful historical re-enactors and impersonators—Selin’s Rifle Company from the Revolutionary War era and greats like Simon and Mrs. Cameron, Capt. Henry Haines of the Civil War, Presidents Buchanan and Lincoln, Ben Franklin, Thaddeus Stevens, and Sally Hastings. The York Kilty Band and Boy Scout Troop 53’s musicians were likewise superb.
True to our heritage, dancing also filled the stage and square, as later in the afternoon, square dance and interpretive dance entertained us all…and then there was the traditional Maypole dance, danced by alumni of previous Mayfests…..followed by delicious and ample birthday cake. (The only worry of the day occurred when our Food Committee chairman, Sara Gutshall, had too much heat and sun, and had to be taken to the hospital to be checked out. Happily, she was back in town before long, and has already been spotted setting up things for her next event….Memorial Day!!!!)
In the morning, much of the action had occurred at Fuhrman Park, where the MYO had charge of a series of athletic activities, sky-diving delighted the crowd, and the canine agility demonstration was very well-received. A leadership vacuum was again filled by our man on the spot…Jack Clifford Frank…and all went well.
I am no expert on crowd estimates, but to my eyes, the crowd that filled the square on Saturday evening to witness Stan Tucker’s disc jockey show seemed to be the largest of the entire event. It was certainly the most active! What a glorious thing to see so many teenagers and senior citizens ….and everyone else….up and dancing on the stage or in the square! It was a real intergenerational party, the like of which one seldom if ever sees today.
After the program, many of us toured the Revolutionary War re-enactor’s camp by lantern and fire light.
Sunday morning witnessed 600 or more in attendance at the ecumenical worship service that was sponsored by the four Maytown churches, and which featured the giant chorus, who performed pieces by Mozart and Natalie Sleeth with enthusiasm , skill, and great beauty—and a popular, and brief, sermon by Maytown’s own soon-to-graduate-from-Wartburg Lutheran Seminary- Amanda McConnell Ghaffarian. Special guitar and sung solo music also enlivened the worship, and 5 lay leaders gave talks on the four congregation’s long history. The offering, which was collected to benefit the Donegal-Conoy Area Christian Food Bank, amounted to almost $2,000! Quick action on the part of some of the event leaders, out in the crowd, averted problems due to the blazing hot sun—as water and ice were passed out among the masses as fish and bread had been distributed on the hillsides of Galilee!
The middle part of Sunday featured constant action on the stage, including a wonderful session by the Matt Goss Band and a fine magician–plus more historical personage stuff. Children’s programming was held, and there was lots of activity at all the exhibits and the Rev War camp.
The closing program was bittersweet, as we anticipated the end of an incredible four days…but it was fine nonetheless. More politicians showed up from the county, state, and congress; historical personages’ true identities were revealed; leaders were introduced; the chorus sang one last song–“America the Beautiful”; a time capsule was presented; and children were given wooden nickel souvenirs and the charge to “keep the flame bright” for the next town celebration, over which, they, not us, would have charge.
The Lancaster Pops Orchestra played a two-part program of popular music before a crowd of about a thousand, and the conductor entertained us with a variety of puns and corny jokes. Everything from Leroy Anderson to John Philip Sousa to Gilbert and Sullivan were on the program–which was not so much theme oriented as it was general.
In a sad, but satisfied mood, the massive crowd wound its way down to the Legion grounds past a phalanx of vendors, one last time, for the final act in the drama. At 8:30 PM, the rain began to fall lightly, and the fireworks began to rise. The program was not long…lasting about 15 minutes…but it was very entertaining, and the crowd often erupted in spontaneous applause as Brian Bachman and friends performed their pyrotechnical art. The height attained by the fireworks was phenomenal, and they were visible for miles around.
By 8:45, the Maytown 250 Event was over. Ground fog and fireworks smoke, rolled across the landscape suggesting the conclusion of a great battle in the Napoleonic Wars, and crews of workers began the task of moving picnic tables, emptying trash cans, dismantling the stage etc.
For days now, the “loose ends” of the celebration have absorbed the energies of many event leaders, as money is counted and recorded, exhibits are taken down, and books continue to be ordered and distributed. A question that will have to yet be answered is:”What happens to all those memories….all those photographs….all that video…that recorded the event?” Is there a DVD or soft-bound book on the horizon? Mike Wolfe and Bob Lauver did superb work in that area that must not be ignored.
What a time it was for Maytown! Already one hears voices that ask: “Why do we have to wait 25 or 50 or 100 more years before we do this again?” We shall see. We shall see.
– Bob Lescallette, Vice-president and cub reporter
May 9, 2010