Party like it’s 1818!

By on January 11, 2017
Fourth of July celebrations in Lititz Springs Park date back to 1818, making the local tradition the second oldest in the nation behind Bristol, Rhode Island. Perhaps these park loungers from yesteryear are reminiscing about the homemade fireworks from the summer of '18.

Fourth of July celebrations in Lititz Springs Park date back to 1818, making the local tradition the second oldest in the nation behind Bristol, Rhode Island. Perhaps these park loungers from yesteryear are reminiscing about the homemade fireworks from the summer of ’18.

Memories of summer days in the park may seem frozen in time while we bundle up against the chill of January, but the warm embrace of Lititz’s Fourth of July is closer than you think.

This year’s Independence Day celebration marks the 200th for Lititz Springs Park, the second longest running tradition in the nation, and one day isn’t enough to honor a milestone of this magnitude.

Six major events have been planned for what is being dubbed “Independence Remembrance 200,” starting in March, a mere two months from now. Here’s the run down:

  • Lititz 200 Gala – March 4
  • Lititz Wine & Whiskey Fest – April 29
  • Lititz Arts Fest – May 27
  • Lititz Family Game Day – June 18
  • Lititz Patriotic Parade – July 3
  • 200th Fourth of July – July 4

“Community” is how Tim Reedy summarizes this series of celebrations.

Reedy has been chairing the Fourth of July for the past several years, as his father, the late Ron Reedy, had done prior to him. Ron was working on a series of historical vignettes about Independence Day celebrations in the park when he passed away in November. Now this year’s remembrance will be as much about his dedication to Lititz as anything else, and it will be Tim’s last at the helm.

When asked what drives him to make this the best Lititz Fourth of July yet, which is no easy task, Tim simply said, “My love for Lititz and for my father. Then I’ll be ready to pass the torch.”

Each event, some of which could become annual, is a contemporary commemoration of history, slowly building up to the big day on July 4.

200 Galaat Rock Lititz

Co-chaired by Reedy and Kristen Loose, this is shaping up to be the social event of the spring, taking place at the Rock Lititz campus. The party, which is a fundraiser to buy a Gator utility vehicle for the park, will feature two bands, a special craft beer created by Appalachian Brewing Company, wines from Waltz Vineyards, and a “Lititz 200 Pour” with the Stoll & Wolfe whiskey distillery. Tickets will go on sale at the end of this month, so stay tuned for more information.

Wine & Whiskey Fest

Set amid the botanical oasis of the Mary Oehme Memorial Gardens behind the Lititz Historical Foundation, three local wineries will be showcased along with Lititz’s Stoll & Wolfe in this toast to the town and its revered Independence Day tradition. The event is being organized by the Lititz Woman’s Club, co-chaired by Tina Reedy and Patricia Kline. Ticket sales will be advertised soon.

Arts Fest

Lititz Springs Park becomes Art Park during Memorial Day weekend. Easels will line the banks of Lititz Run, and the tending artists will fill blank canvases with their latest inspirations while the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra performs in the nearby bandshell. The Lititz Community Band will also take the stage. There will be a Kid Zone full of crafts and other creative opportunities for the young ones, and mobile drama troupes will meander the grounds throughout the day. Oh, and there will be fireworks! The park opens at 2 p.m., and the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra plays at 7 p.m. There will be a $5 admission, and children under age 12 are free. Reedy and Bill Dussinger are co-chairing this event.

Family Game Day

Leave your cell phones behind and enjoy some old-fashioned family fun on Father’s Day in Lititz Springs Park. This is a free event from 2 to 6 p.m., co-sponsored by the Lititz recCenter. There will be a scavenger hunt, lawn darts tournament, kickball, wiffle ball, quoits, and much more. Food trucks will be on hand to help fuel the competitive spirit.

Lititz Patriotic Parade

This is the traditional pre-July 4 parade through downtown run by the Lions Club, followed by free entertainment in Lititz Springs Park. The big change in 2017 will be the absence of Flamin’ Dick and the Hot Rods at the park bandshell after having been the closing act of this evening for many years. This year’s band, which comes highly recommended by Clair Global, will be Rick K. and the Allnighters from Ocean City. It promises to be a fun family show featuring popular music from the 1970s through the ‘90s.

200th Fourth of Julyin Lititz Springs Park

All the fun that starts in March culminates with Independence Day in the park, which will be celebrated on Tuesday, July 4 (there is a July 5 rain date scheduled).

Reedy said the event will have a USO feel throughout the park, but there will be plenty of variety too. A bluegrass festival runs from 1 to 4 p.m., local singer Chris Poje will perform, and popular party band Mama Tried is the headliner before the Queen of Candles pageant. The traditional Grand Illumination of Lititz Run follows the pageant, which leads to the spectacular fireworks show (with lasers) in the field behind the park.

Sprinkled in between the main events will be lots of games, food and fun. And Reedy said there are a few more surprises that have yet to be revealed. Stay tuned.

Most of the events scheduled for the the first half of the new year serve as fundraisers for Lititz Springs Park, which is a non-profit, privately-owned facility open to the public. The park, which receives no public funds, is one of Lititz’s main attractions.

By the way, the longest running Fourth of July celebration in the nation is in Bristol, Rhode Island, dating back to 1785.

There’s no shame in second place, Lititz (1818).

As for what Reedy will do after the dust settles on July 5, he may be taking a break from running the Fourth, but he’ll still be active in the community. He even hinted at taking on one of his father’s dreams, the return of the Lititz Farm Show.

In the meantime, he’s hoping everyone will join the fun this March through July, which should be a run of celebrations for the history books.

Stephen Seeber is the associate editor of the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes reader feedback and story tips at sseeber.eph@lnpnews.com or 721-4423.

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