GREENCASTLE - Few, if any, towns can claim that they have held an event every three years that has endured, without interruptions, since the beginning of the last century. And it is one that has drawn people from all over the world - Europe to South America, not to mention the United States - to attend.
The weeklong celebration of Old Home Week in Greencastle, starting Saturday, August 6, is filled with so many activities that it is hard to know where to start listing them - there is music, dance, visits to local businesses, races, baseball and basketball, food, art, a parade and, of course, fireworks. Throughout the week, there are multiple class reunions, each with their particular gathering sites (all listed on the website).
A highlight of this year's events will be the appearance of Peggy Ann Bradnick, who was kidnapped from Shade Gap, Pennsylvania, in a frightening incident which made national news. Now, 50 years later, she will recount her experience.
How did Old Home Week come about? It all started with a letter to a newspaper written on Sept. 5, 1901, by Phillip Baer, a Greencastle native and graduate of Greencastle High School. He suggested that an "Old Boy's Reunion" be held in the town in August of the following year. The venture was simple: fellowship over meals, a few speeches by local dignitaries, and a concert by the Citizens Band.
Baer had made a name for himself in the years between leaving Greencastle and returning. After studying music and voice in Italy, financed by Father Gillespie of St. Aloysius Church who recognized his talent, he achieved fame as a concert singer on the national stage. His Steinway piano which accompanied him on tours and his tuxedo can be seen in the Allison-Antrim Museum.
As a refuge from his constant travels, he and his wife, Jeanette Dubbell of Michigan, decided to settle in Greencastle and bought a property in the borough in 1891,
His idea of a reunion was so successful that it was decided to repeat it three years later. No one then ever suspected that it would become an ingrained tradition.
This year the cover of the program is the Old Boys' Memorial Fountain, which will be rededicated on Wednesday, August 10, at 3 p.m. at the Jerome R. King Playground.
The fountain was originally placed in the southeast corner of the Center Square, and had three sanitary bubblers. It was later replaced with a single fountain head to deal with water pressure issues. In 1950, it was moved to the Jerome King Playground. For the 2016 event, the bronze plaque which was on the fountain has been restored and re-mounted on the fountain. The image of the fountain is featured on this year's badge.
"This badge is important for several reasons," said Ed Wine, this year's president of Old Home Week. "It is required for entry into several events. We ask people to register at the headquarters, located in the Conn Building to the left of BB&T on the Square. It costs $6. We also ask people to register at the headquarters so we can keep them informed for the next Old Home Week," he said.
"There is a spirit, a pull, that many people have for this Greencastle tradition," added Wine. "Even if they have only spent a short time here, it seems to draw them to return."