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Rain or shine, Hanover Dutch Festival a 'family day'

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Sitting in a beach chair behind his black 1957 Cadillac Fleetwood, Richard Shelleman quietly observed a decade-long tradition: admiring classic cars during the last weekend in July.

Shelleman, of Hanover, wondered if the rain would hold off during the 33rd annual Hanover Dutch Festival as he sat surrounded by rows of cars, part the event's antique car show in the St. Matthews Lutheran Church parking lot.

The rain arrived shortly after noon, stymieing the thick crowds of people that came out to celebrate the local tradition known as "Dutch Days," the Hanover Chamber of Commerce event, which drew more than 300 vendors to the Center Square in Hanover on Saturday.

Couples young and old, parents and their children as well as local politicians like Rep. Kate Klunk and Hanover Mayor Ben Adams attended to taste the regional treats, purchase crafts and listen to area musicians.

People strolled through the streets casually, with the only cars appearing in the event's staple car show, as they stopped to greet friendly faces. Some walked around carrying political signs and others sat down to snack on artisan grilled cheese sandwiches.

Amy Despenis, of Hanover, left work around 7 a.m. on Saturday so she could come out to the festival with her mother Fay Swartz. Despenis and Swartz said they have attended the festival "ever since they been having it."

With their arms occupied with purchased items, the duo joked about the diverted traffic that likely causes headaches for motorists.

"It's only one day a year. Get over it," Despenis quipped.

She noted the crafts are just a "side thing," and the best part of the festival is catching up with friends and neighbors, and her mother agreed.

"It's good to go around," Swartz said.

The Center Square served as the hub of the festival, featuring music from local bands like the Emil Schanta band, which kicked off Dutch Days with polka tunes.

Sitting on a bench nearby was Peggy Moul and her son Ken Moul, who estimated they have attended the event since it started 33 years ago.

They commented on the "good food" and "nice crafts" that keep them coming back, but mostly it's the opportunity to watch the Hanover community at its finest.

As the muggy morning turned into a drizzly afternoon, the closed-off streets depleted of visitors, and the vendors took cover. The shoulder-to-shoulder traveling of the morning became intermittent wandering patrons, most armed with umbrellas.

For Lee Dixon, of Dillsburg, it was her second year as a vendor, selling crafts and jewelry from Lunarlady Bead and Glass Designs. Joining her in the booth on the corner of the square was her daughter Alexa Dixon.

Lee commented early in the morning that business was slower than last year, but strived to remain optimistic.

"Day's young," she said.

Lee added that she attended Dutch Days previously as a patron and appreciated that it wasn't too far from where she lived. Although Alexa does not work in her business, Lee brought her along anyway, keeping with the theme of the Hanover tradition that spans more than three decades.

"It's a family day," Lee said.