History of the Fairyland of Candles (Part 2)

By on May 23, 2018

This is the second in a three-part series of historical vignettes leading up the 175th Fairyland of Candles celebration on July 4th in the Lititz Springs Park.

Below is a historical timeline of the Fairyland of Candles:

1844
In only one year’s time, the Fairyland of Candles show grew from 400 to 1,000 candles. That year, one observer remarked “A serenading party of young men, Lancastrians, sang for us in place of our band who had given offense by deserting us and accepting an engagement in Lancaster.”

1893 (50th anniversary)
That year, the illumination of the candles began at 8 p.m. Held at the headend, it was a “splendid” sight to behold, with thousands of lights twinkling and sparkling in the darkness of the night. The revolving water wheels, each containing several dozen lights, was an especially impressive sight to behold.

In an ironic twist, in 1918, it was decided by park organizers to cease the fireworks portion of the 4th of July celebration that year. While no fireworks show took place that day, the fireworks did return the following year.

1894 (The premiere of the Ferris Wheel)
That year, the June 22 edition of the Lititz Record reported “It is the aim of the committee of arrangements to introduce new features, among which will be an imitation of the great Ferris wheel, which is to be operated by water power, and illuminated with colored fairy lamps. A light-house is to adorn the island in the stream opposite the Park House, and many colored fairy lamps will also ornament various parts of the grounds. The fireworks this year are to be composed of more set pieces, which are far preferable to the skyward shooting rockets and lights.”

1896 (The Harvest Home Celebration)
Because of the heavy rain and thunder that took place that year, the Independence Day celebration was postponed that year to July 8th. Once that day arrived, the sight of nasty weather continued to loom, but the town didn’t give up. Rather, they did something that year that has never been done before (and records indicate not since) the celebration would move to a third date, and take place Aug. 1. Due to the change in month, organizers decided to rename the event “The Harvest Home Celebration”. When the day arrived, the fireworks as well as the candle illumination took place to the delight of thousands who finally, after almost a month of waiting, got their 4th of July fix.

1900 (20th century millennium celebration)
Thunder and rain showers put an early end to the celebration that year, as the 4th of July was marked for the first time that century. The high winds coupled with the heavy rains washed away the candle fixtures, reducing them to useless pieces of twisted and broken lumber. Before the storm, it was reported that some unknown trickster set off a stick of dynamite near the Lititz Springs Hotel (now the General Sutter Hotel), which caused several of the glass window panes to shatter. After the storm passed, the committee members gathered and began to plan the postponed event which occurred the following Saturday. The illumination of the candles began at 8 p.m., with colored fairy lamps adorning the headend of the springs, but the electric light display which represented a star in red, white, and blue near at the head end at the pool was the highlight of the show. This new feature was constructed by M.M. Souders, a local electrician in Lititz.

1918 (75th Anniversary)
In an ironic twist, in 1918, it was decided by park organizers that the fireworks portion of the celebration would be eliminated that year. However, the illumination of the park was conducted as usual. At about 9 p.m., the grand lighting of the park with thousands of candles and Japanese lanterns began to light up the night. The candles were situated on wooden lattice work over the stream and above the grounds on the Ferris wheel. Additionally, the stream boasted a tower containing revolving pyramids. Every inch of the park was jammed with families eager to view it. A striking effect at the head end that year was 100 or more imitation water lilies with candles in the center of them which beautifully dotted the water. Despite having no fireworks show that year, the iconic display would return the following year, in 1919.

The Ferris Wheel 

Originally conceived and constructed by Frank B. Buch in the showroom of the S&H Grosh carriage shop, the famous structure made its debut on July 4th, 1894. Set up near the head end of the springs and powered by the stream’s flowing water, it carried 64 multi-colored glass cups containing specially-made small candles. Unfortunately, these cups seemed to be a bit TOO popular, as most of the original cups were stolen or vandalized, and the Ferris wheel was discontinued before long. However, during Lititz’s Bicentennial celebration in 1956, the Ferris wheel was restored and would make a comeback, and was placed in its old location along the stream. However, time was not good to the structure, and it eventually deteriorated. Utilizing the same pattern, Carl Martin would construct a new Ferris wheel, which was placed once again towards the head end of the park in 1992. Today, one cannot help but think of the Ferris wheel as an integral part of the Fairyland of Candles.

Making its debut on July 4th 1894, the Ferris wheel was conceived and constructed by Frank B. Buch inside the showroom of the S&H Grosh carriage shop in Lititz.

Stay tuned next month for the third and final installment in this series.

Cory Van Brookhoven is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your comments at cvanbrookhoven@lnpnews.com or 717-721-4423. 

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