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Queen for eternity Weidemoyer joins the ranks of Lititz history
DONNA WALKER Record Express Correspondent
, Staff Writer
Greta Weidemoyer, newly-crowned queen, lit the candles of her court with her own and then began what may become a new tradition.
For 72 years, Lititz’s Queen of Candles glowed in honor of her coronation just before the Grand Illumination along Lititz Run. Traditionally, hers is the first flame ignited for a ceremony that is even older – 170 years.
"But it was a symbolic lighting," said Tina Reedy of the Lititz Women’s Club, sponsor of the pageant. This year, the queen actually lit the first candle.
Rather than remaining on the stage during the illumination, Weidemoyer and her 11 attendants walked to the stone bridge that spans the creek in Lititz Springs Park. There, assisted by Lititz Boy Scouts, they passed the fire that lit 5,000 candles along the stream.
The scouts also distributed small candles to spectators and helped light them. As the court and the crowd moved toward the stream, glowing candles surrounded them. Steeped in tradition, yet always adding something new, Independence Day festivities in Lititz continue to draw ample crowds. They come with family and friends to celebrate the country’s independence and to see fireworks at the end of the day.
As Basil Washchysion sat on an aluminum bench in front of the stage waiting to see the royal crowning, he said he’s never missed a local Fourth of July celebration. Hired by Armstrong as a young man, he moved here in 1956. In those 57 years, he’s seen two daughters and three granddaughters on stage as part of the candle court. Most all of them were there Thursday taking pictures with Washchysion’s granddaughter Taylor Lee Calta, the 2012 queen who crowned her successor.
Former court participants continue to attend the event and stay involved. Audrey Risser Cochran, queen in 1953, helped the Lions Club on July 3 at the park.
"I went from being a queen to selling glow sticks," she laughed, 60 years after her own coronation.
Janet Reubman Hill, on the court in 1950, said in a phone interview it was fun back then to see the girls again after a month out of school. They had all attended Lititz High School on Orange and Cedar streets. Now, the girls of the court are graduates of Warwick High School.
"At that time, the home economics teacher and different people helped make the gowns," Hill recalled. "They were all the same except different colors, shades of pastels."
The gowns this year sparkled and flowed, fitting accompaniments to the suits and ties worn by the fathers who escorted their girls to the stage.
"It makes wearing this suit and tie in the heat worth it," joked father-of-the-queen Jim Weidemoyer, whose tie sported red, white and blue American flags.
Turning serious, he added, "I’m very proud of her. As a dad, it’s a great feeling to know her classmates voted for her for this." He also recognized the hard work that went into it.
"I really want to thank the Cathy Gelatka and the Lititz Women’s Club for what they did to make this a special week for all of the girls. I doubt any of them will forget this week anytime soon," Weidemoyer said.
Shortly after 9 p.m., the park began to settle down. Workers packed up the stage equipment. The crowd moved toward the fireworks viewing area. Volunteers walked along the wooden framed structure built over the steam, extinguishing the flames with battery powered leaf blowers.
Judging by the cars lining Broad Street, the final illumination of the day, the fireworks, was viewed by thousands. Cars were parked end-to-end up to Second Street. More of them moved bumper-to-bumper to Sixth Street, and traffic flowed into Lititz in a steady stream, finally thinning out in Neffsville.
More QUEEN, page A4