The Hamilton family loves York so much they drove three hours to find a golden ticket to the city's 275th Birthday Bash.
On a Saturday in mid-June, the Hamilton family piled in the car for a nearly three-hour road trip to downtown York – not to visit family or attend an event – but to buy a candy bar.
Yes, a candy bar.
That day, Heather Hamilton was on the hunt for one of 275 golden tickets hidden inside 3,000 Wolfgang candy bars throughout the city. The golden tickets are good for admission for two people to this summer’s 275th Birthday Bash for York – a family-style barbecue dinner held in the middle of a York city street.
And even though she’s not from York and has no family connection to the city other than a cousin in Stewartstown, Hamilton said she just "had to be able to go" to celebrate York's birthday.
The 37-year-old and her husband live in Howard, Pa., just on the other side of State College. But they’ve been visiting York at least once every other month for the last four years.
“There’s a great sense of community there that we don’t have in State College because we’re surrounded by college kids,” Hamilton said.
They started visiting the area after her husband, Al, stumbled across a YouTube video of York cigar box guitar player Shane Speal. Al builds cigar box guitars and offered to make one for Speal. A friendship was born, and soon enough, they were making trips to Holy Hound Taproom in the city to see him play.
Over the years, they made more York friends who introduced them to what are now some of their favorite shops, restaurants and events in the city.
“First Fridays, Creek Fires, we’ll find any reason we can come up with to come down there,” Heather said.
Sometimes she makes the drive to York just to get a haircut at DiDi & Smiling John’s Traditional Barber Shop and Salon.
“It’s just every time we come down there, we’re completely fascinated and in such a good mood,” Heather said. “We’re eager to be in an area and surrounded by all the people we love.”
That’s why it was so important to score a golden ticket to York’s 275th Birthday Bash on July 23, Heather said.
“I just think it sounds incredible,” she said. “They’re lining up tables in the middle of the street…It’s what I imagine the first pilgrim Thanksgiving to be.”
Organizer David Smith, of i-ron-ic, said the idea is to bring more than 550 members of the community together to join hands, share a meal in the city, meet their neighbors and bond with one another.
From 1 to 3 p.m., they’ll enjoy a family-style meal of barbecue chicken, seasonal salad, York City Pretzel Company pretzel nuggets and corn on the cob provided by the York Rescue Mission while enjoying live music and family-friendly entertainment at the 300 block of West Market Street.
And, of course, there will be birthday cupcakes for dessert.
“It sounds like a great sense of community and something we really want to be a part of,” Heather said.
The Hamiltons found their golden ticket at i-ron-ic on June 11 after opening six candy bars. Shortly after, the shop sold out of 23 cases of the Wolfgang bars.
But, there are still golden tickets to be found at other downtown locations, Smith said.
As of Thursday afternoon, 80 people had confirmed they’d found golden tickets, Smith said. If you found a golden ticket but haven’t confirmed your spot at the dinner, follow the instructions on the back of the ticket.
Heather said she hopes to meet more friends at the bash this summer and encourages others who live outside the city to plan a visit downtown, too.
“I know that (people) have a fear of the crime rate in York,” she said. “But I would say that downtown is one of my favorite places to be.”
She and her husband plan to move to the city in three years when her husband retires.
“I’ve never been too afraid to walk downtown by myself or as a woman with children,” she added. “Some of the best times I’ve had in York were literally on the streets of York in the city. It’s a great place, and there are a lot of great people. It’s so incredibly friendly and open.”
If you go
What: York's 275th Birthday Bash
When: 1-3 p.m. Saturday, July 23
Where: 300 block of West Market Street, downtown York
Cost: You need a golden ticket to attend. Find one in a Wolfgang candy bar or purchase one at i-ron-ic for $65. (Golden tickets are good for admission for two people).
More info: Visit the Golden Ticket York 275th Facebook page.