LOCAL

Old Home Week headquarters sees registration double

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
The Old Home Week headquarters was a busy site all week. People viewed Town Photos from celebrations past, filled out registration cards, purchased badges and other items, asked questions, and enjoyed food from the outdoor stand of Boy Scout Troop 99. Registrar Bob Johnston had to notify visitors a couple times when badges ran out, and he let the sign do the talking.

Old Home Week headquarters was busy before it even opened. The first person came in to register Friday, Aug. 2, at 9 a.m., three hours before the center of OHW business was ready for visitors. That excitement to get the triennial celebration going carried through the next eight days. And it was probably the root of a first time problem.

Headquarters ran out of badges.

Registrar Bob Johnston, his wife Jeannie, and a bevy of volunteers greeted guests; took registrations; sold official badges, programs and other merchandise; answered questions; collected lost and found items; and were the go-to people on anything to do with the 2013 festivities.

Johnston was particularly interested in beefing up the registration list. The database was useful so he could extend invitations to visitors to the next Old Home Week and also solicit donations to help fund it. Though OHW is famous for providing free activities and entertainment, the cost is ultimately picked up by individual and corporate donations and in-kind services.

"Friday was just nuts," Johnston said. "Old Home Week hadn't even started. We had 272 registrations because of the gift bags. Last time it was 37."

Daphne Murray, who also spent time at HQ, believed the heavy foot traffic was because of the free bags jointly distributed by the Echo Pilot, FastSigns and Susquehanna Bank. The bag contained a 156-page glossy magazine called “Old Home Week — Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, a project of the Echo Pilot.

"They loved the bags," she said.

"That doubled our registration," added Johnston.

Sunday, always the biggest day, saw 460 cards turned in. Over the course of the week, 1893 registrations were received, compared to 905 in 2010.

Some people thought they had to register and buy the $6 badge/official program, but Johnston said the two transactions were entirely separate. The badges had also been on sale at many locations throughout town. They gave admittance to four particular events, and the booklet was a handy guide to the daily activities. Both were popular as souvenirs.

Because of the run on registrations, there was also a run on badges. HQ started out with 1,000 of the 3,000 ordered.

"Sunday we were pretty well wiped out," Johnston said. "Bill Little bought our last one."

Johnston gathered up leftovers from the stores.

"Tuesday I could see we weren't going to make it."

He had to put out a sign, Badges Sold Out, on Thursday.

HQ volunteers Doug and Jan Hirneisen even sold the badges right off their shirts.

"And the money did go into the cash register," said Doug Hirneisen with a smile.

Another dilemma

With the influx of people, merchandise sales were also up. Many sizes of the t-shirts were gone on Sunday. A refill order was quickly placed.

Johnston said, "Del Martin stood on his head to get them here by Tuesday afternoon."

Even that batch was depleted. The week ended with just two shirts remaining, both size small.

Though people were considered to be very upbeat all week, "They were disgruntled when we didn't have their sizes," said Jeannie Johnston.

They sold 283 shirts, up significantly from 149 last time around.

The remaining shirts, hats and visors are now being sold at the Chamber of Commerce, and orders for T-shirts will  be taken through Aug. 31.

Interesting days

The HQ volunteers got to visit with people from near and far, and encountered interesting situations. A foreign exchange student from Russia, attending Chambersburg Area High School, wanted to buy a shirt. She had trouble getting cash from the bank for her type of credit card, and hoped to return later to make the purchase.

One woman came in looking for boxes in which to bury her dog. She later reported they were too small.

Gary Murray went the extra step for one visitor. Theo Kyriakidhes from Greece sought a 1959 OHW badge, the year he lived with a local family and attended Greencastle High School. Murray rummaged through his own collection at home and found the vintage button.

"He was more than happy."

HQ was open many hours every day, so by Saturday Johnston and his clan were ready to pack it in. They had the office dismantled well before the closing bell, after taking the last registration, which was Sandy Bowman of Greencastle. When they walked out the door at 5 p.m. Aug. 10, Susquehanna employee Katie Myers locked it behind them.

Johnston has several lost and found items: an old badge found Wednesday at Evangelical Lutheran Church, an umbrella from the Fun Fair, a Bluetooth at Saturday's bike ride, a hat, beads on elastic, sunglasses and a hair bow. People may claim by calling him at 597-2336.

His work is not quite done. He will organize his data and submit it to the Old Home Week committee. However, technology was a friend this year, as he dictated information into his computer using  voice-recognition software.

Johnston thanked everyone for their patience and cooperation, the committees for the hours and hard work. It made for an enjoyable week for everyone, he said.