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'Old Home Week' 1998 will be 33rd celebration

November 29, 1997

'Old Home Week' 1998 will be 33rd celebration

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - If Philip E. Baer, the founder of "Old Home Week," was still alive he could revel in the knowledge that the "Old Boys Reunion," he started in Greencastle in 1902 has faithfully reappeared every three years throughout the 20th century.

Next year will be the 33rd edition of the triennial celebration Greencastle holds to bring folks who left town together with those stayed.

Women were invited to participate in 1905 and Antrim Township was included in 1908, said Greencastle Mayor Frank Mowen. Mowen, 68, is president of next year's celebration.

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The 1998 edition will be the last one for the 20th century, but Old Home Week will pass into the new millennium like water over a dam.

Key to the celebration's longevity is its life vice presidents, a group of eight members, mostly past presidents who are replaced only at death, serious illness or if they move. Their chief responsibility is to elect the president of the subsequent celebration three years hence. When the final bell sounds on the 1998 festival they will elect the president for the celebration in 2001.

Old Home Week officially opens with a Saturday morning ceremony on the square, but it never really gets going until the "unofficial" opening midnight on Sunday, Mowen said.

"Come to the square at midnight that Sunday night and there'll be a couple thousand people seeing people they haven't seen in years, renewing old friendships and making new ones. It dredges up a lot of old memories," Mowen said.

The Sunday night revelry is a Greencastle version of New Years Eve on Time Square although it's toned down since the borough passed a law banning open drinking.

"Before that there were always a few arrests for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct," Mowen said

"You should have been here 12 years ago. We had a streaker," said Dick Fisher, 77, a life vice president.

"He started at the hotel and ran right through the square. He went to the police department first and asked what they would do if he did it. They said `if you're crazy enough to do it we won't bother you'," Fisher said.

"Hundreds of people come back to Greencastle for Old Home Week. A lot of homes fill up with guests ," Mowen said. "In the 1920s a group of people from Greencastle living in Chicago use to run an excursion train here for Old Home Week," Mowen said.

"It's the one time when you can ask anyone to do something and you won't be refused," said John Wine, 75, another life vice president.

Festival week, the first full week in August, is filled with daily events like concerts, dances and plays in the park, road races, breakfasts, lunches and dinners, bus tours of the community, school class reunions, picnics, contests, a big parade, fireworks, a pig roast, and an ox roast.

A highlight of the week is the group photo, Fisher said. Hundreds of people line the square six and seven deep so a moving panoramic camera can take their picture. The photos, more than a yard long, sell for $6. The money goes into the $30,000 budget used to put on the celebration, Mowen said.

Another fund-raiser are campaign-style Old Home Week buttons carrying the image of local landmarks. They sell for $5 and allow wearers free entry to most festival activities.

The button for the 1995 celebration depicted Martins Mill Bridge. Next year's image will be a 400-year-old oak tree in Greencastle, one of the oldest in the state, Wine said.

The celebration, for the most part, is commercial free. The only food concessions are run by local boy Scout and Girl Scout groups, Mowen said. We try to discourage yard sales too. We don't want people to make money off of this. There's a lot of civic pride during Old Home Week. That's one reason why it continues," he said.

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