‘Unofficial’ hails in 37th Old Home Week

PAT FRIDGEN
At the stroke of midnight the 37th Triennial Old Home Week celebration was unofficially official. The crowd joined together in a rousing rendition of ‘The Old Grey Mare’.

Everyone had their own reasons for standing or sitting in Center Square Sunday night. The crowd gathered before the 10:30 p.m. Unofficial Opening of Old Home Week, and didn't disperse until past 12:30 a.m.

"She made me come," said Brian Ramer of his wife Deb.

"To see old friends," said Marvin Shaefer, who with his wife Judy was chatting with his sister, Linda Graham, and her best friend from high school Edna Hammond.

Hammond intended to look for former students she chaperoned on band trips.

"I married into it," said Steve Kinn, standing with his daughter Kaylee, 8. The Michigan man married Kimberly, who was Greg Hoover's mom's granddaughter, or as he explained it another way, Hoover's sister Kay was his wife's mother. The Kinn family makes the trip every three years to visit Greencastle for the whole week.

Louella and Ken Burkett were in lawn chairs in the Tower Bank corner, set apart from the madding crowd. "I'm people-watching and comfy here," she said. "We'll go out there when they start singing," he said.

Mike and Rose Pine and their daughter Nancy Robinson admitted they were from Mercersburg originally, even graduating from James Buchanan High School. Their son Tyler Pine was a Greencastle-Antrim High School grad, however. Residents for the past 17 years, Rose said she had always been a Greencastle fan and liked the festivities, though her husband said they were "crazy" to be out so late.

June and Bob Miller and Karen and Randy Van Sickle, sitting together on a bench, said, "We do this every three years to talk to friends."

Music and mayhem

Emcee Russ Clever opened the popular event with the proclamation, "There's no place on God's green earth that I'd rather be right now than this place. How about you?"

Cheers arose from the merry crowd. The Greencastle-Antrim Alumni Band, poised on the stage, performed toe-tapping music for an hour. People lined the Boy Scout concession stand for hot and cold treats, giving the volunteers little time to rest. "It's an absolutely crazy madhouse," declared Laura Gallagher as she rang up sales. "We've been really busy all day."

With Carlisle and Baltimore streets barricaded a block away in both directions, people were safe to fan out across the square. They hugged old acquaintances, laughed and talked up a storm.

Robert Lightfoot, Waynesboro, operating the sound system for the unofficial opening, as well as many other events during the week, was impressed with the turnout.

"This is probably the biggest I've seen yet. It gets bigger each year." He guessed 1,000 people were present.

Back in Greencastle for the fourth OHW, he noted how his services expanded. Nine years ago he provided amplification for the speakers and band with just a public address system. In 2010 he was up to 10 speakers, five on each side of the platform.

People began to watch the town clock, preparing for the midnight sing-along, the highlight of every OHW for many residents and visitors. At 11:55 p.m. many of the people witnessed a step back in time. A nude man ran through the crowd, from south to north Carlisle Street, accompanied by gasps, laughter and exclamations. He wore sneakers and a dark cloth on his head, the first streaker to grace the festivities since 1974.

"I saw everything," exclaimed one teenage girl. "It was horrible."

Clever had a vantage point from the stage. "That wasn't even in the program," he joked. "No extra charge."

Out of view from most of the celebrants, James Slabik, 43, Hedgesville, W.Va., was apprehended by off-duty police chief John Phillippy, then turned over to on-duty officers. Still unclothed, he was charged with disorderly conduct and public drunkenness.

And then it was midnight.  The clock chimed, a siren blared. The crowd erupted.

Clever and Frank Mowen, longtime songleaders, started the signature tune, The Old Grey Mare. For the next half hour, singing filled the square. The songs were old favorites, often committed to memory: Home on the Range, She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain, Do Lord. When Clever held on to a note too long, Mowen would walk over and push up his chin to close his mouth.

At long last, the night had to end. The duo led the assembly in God Bless America and folks headed home.

First-time visitors to Greencastle, staying with a friend, were impressed with the occasion. "I liked the hometown feel," said Nicole Weaver, 21, Orlando. "You don't get that in other cities."

Samantha Nunez, 19, Chicago, added, "Usually people forget their history and culture. This town remembers it and has a blast all week."

At the stroke of midnight the 37th Triennial Old Home Week celebration was unofficially official. The crowd joined together in a rousing rendition of ‘The Old Grey Mare’.