NEWS

A COMMUNITY CELEBRATES

KAREN BITNER
Old Home Week president Ben Thomas Jr. has overseen the preparations and has put out the welcome mat for the 37th time. The Greencastle-Antrim community has celebrated a homecoming every three years since 1902. Old Home Week 2010 will run from July 31 to Aug. 7.

It begins with prayer, friends meeting, and group singing at midday on the town square, and it ends with fireworks, a parade, and a final raucous, late-night celebration on that same square a week later. In between is a community-wide festival that packs just about as much fun as humanly possible into the space of eight days. It's Greencastle's triennial Old Home Week, of course, and it's almost here.

The 108-year-old community tradition, set to officially kick off on Saturday, July 31, will once again feature a  plethora of activities, with contests ranging from a barkfest called the Fun Dog Show  at Jerome King Playground to a serene, lovely flower exhibition at the First United Methodist Church. There will be a climactic parade Thursday night, and  Friday evening, a fireworks display at Kaley Field will light up the sky. And of course, the Saturday night “unofficial closing” on the Square provides a glimpse of Greencastle's “high spirits” at perhaps their very highest.

During the week, class reunions, museum displays, bus tours, and a hometown history pageant celebrate the community's heritage, while reunions, nightly concerts, and dances  encourage enjoyment of the present.  Listing every event here would simply take too much space: check the official OHW program — it's  one big long whirlwind of events that seems like the best reunion ever. Greencastle-Antrim Museum director Bonnie Shockey says the feeling she associates with  Old Home Week always reminds her of the Christmas Spirit. “It comes along every three years,” she said. “And you enjoy it and you know it's going to come around again.”

The celebration was the idea of Phillip Baer, a Greencastle native who first toured the country just before the turn of the twentieth century as a vaudevillian singer, then received classical training and became a noted concert singer. In September, 1901, Baer wrote to the local papers proposing an “Old Boys' Reunion” to be held the following summer. The idea caught on, and the first celebration was held in August 1902, featuring a chicken dinner at Town Hall, speeches, and a band concert.  Residents liked the idea so much that they decided to repeat it in three years, with one crucial difference: women and children were welcomed to the 1905 celebration, and Old Home Week as a community reunion was born.

The tradition persisted through two world wars, the Great Depression, and the struggles of the 1950's and 1960's. It is self-funded, relying on individual and corporate donations as well as sales of badges that admit the wearer to all the events of the week. Badges, which cost $6, are available at local businesses now and may also be purchased at the official Old Home Week Headquarters, which opens Friday, July 30 in the Conn Building of  Tower Bank on the Square. All food vending is done by local Scout troops.

As the tradition continues in its 37th triennial, President of the Greencastle Old Home Week Committee, Ben Thomas Jr., credits over 45 subcommittees with putting the whole regional reunion together. “Many of these subcommittees have been meeting on a weekly basis for months now,” he said, exulting that, “When the clock strikes noon on Saturday, Old Home Week will be in full regalia.”

Frank Mowen, two-term Chairman of the OHW Board of Directors , agreed. “I think we're all ready,” Mowen said . “We've got a lot packed into eight days,”  he added, “Folks should just sit back, relax, and enjoy it — take in as much as you can.”