A Family Reunion held in the same place for 100 years should be celebrated. My husband’s family, the Swanks, have met at the Ralpho Township Park (or someplace nearby) in Elysburg, PA since 1914, give or take a few years during World War II. Two cousins, Allen and Percy Swank (originally spelled Schwenck), began the tradition, and this July over 130 souls attended the noon potluck/barbeque, epic picture-taking and 5 pm supper. My husband and his three brothers are directly related to Allen Swank and have been attending reunions for at least 50 years. (http://newsitem.com/news/swank-family-gathers-for-100th-reunion-1.1721960) There were T-shirts, many photos and, for families with kids, an afternoon trip to Knoebels Groves, a nearby amusement park.
Knoebels Grove is a special place. First of all, the name is never used with an apostrophe. It’s a family name, and it’s tradition. Set in a heavily wooded area around Roaring Branch Creek, the park opened in 1926. The Grand Carousel (my favorite ride) replaced an earlier, smaller model, and is from Riverview Park in Rahway, NJ. It was built by Kremers in 1913, and is one of the few which still offers a brass ring. Outside horse riders vie for large rings, which are hand-fed into a arm-like contraption that falls into place when a bell rings about half-way through the ride. Grabbing the single brass ring, not one of the many steel rings that come sliding down the arm yields a free ride.
Oh, an important fact–you only pay for the rides you want, there is no overall admission fee at Knoebels. You can walk around for free. Try that at The Mouse. (Florida slang, you can figure it out)
We rode the carousel, and enjoyed the shady ambiance of the park. There are about 60 rides, a beautiful pool (called the Crystal Pool) and multitudinous picnic pavilions. For wooden coaster riders, the park is a mecca. No alcohol is allowed, and if you eat in the restaurant you might choose chicken and waffles for Sunday dinner.
Knobels is a throw back. It’s rumored that Malcolm Forbes took Elizabeth Taylor to Elysburg once–on his Harley. We drove a rental car, but it was well worth the ride.
Stay tuned, we shall speak of still other things…we haven’t even crossed the boarder into the Empire State.
I forgot the champagne. Hot air balloons and champagne have a long and colorful history. When we finished our balloon ride, we packed up the balloon and basket and drove back to Intercouse, PA. Nevermind, that’s where we took off.
Then our pilot and his partner whipped out a small portable table and poured us all champagne and told us this story…
A long time ago, in the 1700s, two men invented the first known hot air balloon. Made of a variety of materials pieced together, it rose because they built a bonfire on a platform underneath the circular material they had rigged up. It went up, but then it came down…in a village where the terrorized local inhabitants ripped it to shreds. The villagers thought it was from the devil–some THING from the sky that must be destroyed. So, as the men perfected their balloon, they reasoned that if they were actually on the platform, feeding the fire, they would also be ripped to shreds. Hmm…what to do?
Why, just take some bottles of champagne and throw them out as they dedscended. The villagers caught the champagne, and nobody ripped anybody to shreds. Champagne is champagne. Veuve Clicquot is my favorite brand, but whatever they served in the parking lot after our balloon ride was just fine. A toast to that wonderful story.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes–and ships–and sealing -wax–Of cabbages–and kings–And why the sea is boiling hot–And whether pigs have wings.”
We went on vacation recently. How’s that for a first sentence? I can follow it up with…wait for it…I saw a lot of sculpture. Fascinating, you say? I went up in a hot air balloon, attended a 100th reunion, spent time with adult children and with good friends. We also contemplated FDR as President and Rockefeller as Lord. (The last two are related, via the Hudson River.) I did some birding at Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, a really cool place, and spent time in Washington, DC, the Blue Ridge, Lancaster County, and upstate and downstate New York. We took in such hot spots as Skaneateles, NY, and Intercourse, PA. Modes of transport included plane, metro train, foot, automobile and kayak. Photographs were taken.
We lived in Washington for over 35 years, so it’s home. The National Gallery of Art and the sculpture garden on Constitution Avenue across from the Archives are long-time favorites. Imagine a cool, clear day. Low humidity, which to Floridians is manna from the gods. Throw in an Andrew Wyeth exhibit of windows, and some Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas and you’ve got me shivering.
Then, stroll up to the sculpture garden and amble by the big typewriter eraser, the even bigger spider and more old sculpture friends and you’ve got me stopped cold in my tracks.
Next, we had a tasty lunch, good conversation under the trees, and then walked over to the Hirshhorn sculpture garden. On the way we peeked at a new tree –wrought in stainless steel–wavy and tangled on one side and smooth and serene on the other. I think it’s symbolic, but beautiful anyway. I wanted to see it with snow in winter…NOT!
It was a most fantastic day topped off with a wonderful meal at the Capital Grille (motto: “We wine. We dine”) with interesting, thoughtful and exciting people. Here’s to you, Kathy, Bill, Anne, Bob, Harriet, Steve, Judy, Michael, Julie and Henry. We love you all. Museums, sculpture and friends. DC at its best.
Next day, we cleared our minds and headed for the Blue Ridge where we attended Shiloh Quaker Camp. First there were Work Crew Skits featuring a running salad skit (name all the salads YOU can think of) and a campfire. I had a flash back to Girl Scout Camp, but I was completely wowed by the songs sung at Shiloh. My favorite was “I Like Tasty Italian Desserts,” written and directed–in three part harmony–by a 17 year-old counselor named Diego. Favorite line: “Serve me some crispy cannoli.” The camp director, Hope, our daughter, was also in fine form. For over 20 years, she has never missed a summer at Shiloh, except when she attended other BYM camps like Teen Adventure. We are very, very proud of our Director Daughter. Thank you, thank you Baltimore Yearly Meeting for your camping program.
After wandering around in Shenandoah National Park for awhile and visiting a couple of wineries, which are popping up all over Virginia, we headed for Lancaster County, PA., and something completely different.
A big black, red, yellow, green, orange and purple balloon awaited us in Intercourse, a small dot of a town in Amish Country, most famous for it’s “welcome to” sign.
Travelingaround in a balloon is a dream. As suspected, the Amish and Mennonite farms from above are beautiful.
The ride is quiet, except when the burners whoosh hot air to make us rise, and rise we did–high enough to see the Chesapeake Bay, and buildings in Philly and Newark. (For a video go to: http://youtu.be/24i4e99RoDk) Takeoff and landing is fun, but here’s a truth: YOU CANNOT STEER A HOT AIR BALLOON–our pilot could only make it go up or down–a hot air balloon is not like a sailboat. (How could be as old as I am and still have that notion?) About sunset, we swooped to land a couple of times only to be thwarted by a tiny breeze blowing in the opposite direction. Finally we alighted in a housing subdivision, where no less that 50 residents gathered to watch, including the local police and our chase vehicle. I heard someone say it was the most exciting thing that ever happened in that neighborhood. For more great pictures, see my husband’s photo blog of our adventure at: http://johnswankphotoblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/hot-air-ballooning-in-pennsylvania-dutch-country/ Many thanks and recommendations to New Horizon Balloon Team and our pilot Todd Plank. And to Nancy, who seems at home after moving back to where she began
Obviously, there’s more of our vacation to come. Sculpturely speaking, we’ve just touched the surface. Coming up–Storm King and Kykuit, and a visit to Stone Barns. Birds! More family! More friends! We will not speak of cabbages and kings–but of many other things.