FAYETTEVILLE >> Spin along for turn-of-the-20th-century adventure Sept. 5 at Caledonia State Park, as the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor celebrates nearly 100 years since the Lincoln Highway — the early cross-country road from New York to San Francisco that followed U.S. 30 in Pennsylvania — became a paved highway.
The event hearkens back to 1921 and a tumultous celebration in the park that involved a motorcade of automobiles driving along 113 miles of newly-paved highways. There will be enough variety throughout the day to entice the entire family to turn out for a parade of Model A Fords, swing dance entertainment and more.
The advent of the automobile revolutionized society, offering independence and opportunity to many. The freedom to come and go without depending on a bus, trolley, train or carpool expresses the essence of the open highway.
Once automobile production got into full swing, the nation faced a rapid growth in the number of automobiles. At the same time, governments realized that the washboard, rutted roads which were serviceable for a horse and buggy no longer provided a sufficient surface for either business or pleasure traffic.
"Then, many of the roads were privately operated toll roads, as was present day Route 30," said Tom Davidson, LHHC board member.
When paving of the Lincoln Highway was finally finished, as part of a state road improvement initiative from Harrisburg to Gettysburg to Chambersburg and back to Harrisburg, it called for a celebration — the Good Roads Jubilee. Caledonia was picked as a good mid-point to draw motorized celebrants together for the Oct. 4, 1921, occasion. A marker at the entrance to the Park commemorates its role in the establishment of the Lincoln Highway.
"Some 400 cars started out in Harrisburg and by the time they reached Caledonia, there were over 6,000 in single-file stretching to the horizon," Davidson said. "They traveled over 113 miles of roads improved with concrete and macadam in what was said to be the longest automobile parade in history. The accompanying pageant featured forms of transportation throughout U.S. history, including a Conestoga wagon, and ended with the presentation of a brand new, $15,000 automobile. It was estimated that up to 30,000 people turned out that autumn day."
This year's Lincoln Highway Jubilee is being sponsored by the newly organized Friends of Caledonia State Park.
"We are going to have fire trucks that kids can climb on and have their pictures taken," said Karen Moose, a 25-year volunteer with the park. "In the blacksmith shop we will have a man dressed as Thaddeus Stevens (owner of the shop that was burned by Confederate soldiers on their way to Gettysburg) and Wesley Foltz, storyteller, will enliven the past with his tales."
Area Model A clubs will be in attendance with about 15 of their extraordinary cars — the Susquehanna Valley Region Model A Restorers Club and the Hub City Model A Club. Ken Adams, president of the Susquehanna Valley Club (now celebrating its 60th anniversary) has two Model A's — a 1929 four-door Phaeton convertible and a 1928 sports coupe; the latter will be at the Jubilee. His coupe, which cost a whopping $375 back in the 1920s, still gets 16 to 20 miles to the gallon.
"We will all be wearing vintage clothing with flat-brimmed straw hats. This an important occasion to show people what these vehicles looked like."
Throughout the day, the Shippensburg Community Band will play and the retro swing Tri-State Jitterbugs will perform period dances in costume.
There will be two educational programs — one about Depression-era gangsters, who were eager for good roads to make a rapid get-away — and another about the historical Good Roads Jubilee and the Good Roads Movement.
Food will be available or families can bring a picnic and the swimming pool will be open.
"We hope this will become an annual event," said Davidson, "so we can remember how important our roads are."
For information about the LHHC, call 717-879-4241 or visit www.llhc.org. For information about Friends of Caledonia State Park, call Karen Moose at 717-360-9221.
If you go
WHAT: Lincoln Highway Jubilee
WHEN: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 5
WHERE: Caledonia State Park, 101 Pine Grove Road, Fayetteville
COST: Free (There is a fee for use of the swimming pool)
DETAILS: 717-352-2161 or www.lhhc.org