'Mr. B' to serve as Old Home Week parade marshall

June 11, 2004|by RICHARD BELISLE

GREENCASTLE, PA. - He'll be riding in an open convertible waving to folks lined up on both sides of the parade route. People will call out, "Hi, Mr. B," as he passes.

Richard Besecker, known by former students, neighbors and friends as "Mr. B," will be the grand marshal of Greencastle's Old Home Week parade.

This year marks the 35th time the community has held the triennial weeklong celebration.

The first was held in 1902 when Philip Baer, an opera singer, became homesick for his hometown of Greencastle. He came up with the idea for an organized reunion with old friends back home. Were he still alive, Baer may be surprised at how faithful townspeople have kept up the tradition for more than a century. The only time it changed was in the midst of World War II when an abbreviated weekend celebration was held.


It runs July 31 through Aug. 7. The three-hour parade begins at 6 p.m. on Aug. 5.

Besecker, 71, of 508 E. Baltimore St., has been involved with Old Home Week for 31 years. His participation, being a public school music teacher and vocalist, has always been music-related.

Born in the Greencastle area, Besecker graduated from Lebanon Valley College and taught in the Greencastle-Antrim School District for 34 years. He retired 15 years ago.

He teaches piano and voice to private students in a studio in the home he and his wife, Susan, have shared for 42 years.

He's been arranging and performing the music for the traditional Old Home Week Pageant for years. To be held Aug. 3 and Aug. 4 this year, the pageant is written, produced and acted by local residents. It follows a local historic theme.

Aug. 4 is also the day of another Old Home Week tradition, the big photograph. Hundreds of patrons line up in the Center Square to pose for the photographer and his rolling camera.

The highlight of the week for Besecker is the Sunday night cantata, this year to be held Aug. 1

Besecker lines up the more than 180 adult and young singers who perform in the ecumenical worship service.

The service is based on the story of the Creation, he said. It includes a slide presentation, narration and hymns. The music, which Besecker directs, is provided by an orchestra made up of local musicians who he recruits.

The worship service has become so popular that this year, for the first time, two productions will be held, one at 5:15 p.m. and one at 7:45 p.m.

Old Home Week officially opens July 31, with speeches in the Center Square, but things don't really get rolling until midnight Sunday with the "unofficial opening."

More than 500 people will begin moving into the square around 11:30 p.m. that night, many coming from parties all over town. When the town clock strikes midnight, people start singing "The Old Gray Mare," and other standards that hark back to the time of the first Old Home Week in 1902.

Greg Hoover, director of elementary education for the Greencastle-Antrim School District, is president of Old Home Week this year.

The official Old Home Week badge this year features the Old Brown's Mill School and Museum on Brown's Mill Road in Antrim Township.

A one-room school, Brown's Mill School served the community north of Greencastle until 1922. In 1935, it was restored and deeded to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

The official badge costs $5 and entitles its owner free entrance to all Old Home Week events. It will be for sale during Greencastle's annual Sidewalk Days promotion to be held July 9 and 10.

"To me," Besecker said, "Old Home Week is a celebration of community spirit. It's getting people to come back to Greencastle for family and school reunions and for church services. It's settling back into our roots."

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