Getysburg College is rated one of the most beautiful campuses in America. It is set on the edge of town with turn of the century brick and stone buildings, a chapel and magnificent sprawling lawns. A fountain adds to the tranquility of any stroll among sculpture and outdoor art. Not far away, on a knoll overlooking town, is the Lutheran Theological Seminary. There is plenty of parking and visitors are welcome to stroll the beautiful grounds.
Summer is a magic time in this Pennsylvania town that was a crossroads for commerce during the Civil War. The momentous battle fought here in the brutally hot summer during three days in July 1863, forever changed the hamlet’s future. The July 1 to 3 battle turned the tide of the war of secession when General Robert E. Lee retreated across the Potomac River leaving a terrible toll of dead and wounded.
History books recount Pickett’s charge across a farmer’s field toward Union forces entrenched behind a stone wall. As the Confederate troops surged forward they were cut down by unrelenting cannon and rifle fire. While some brave soldiers made it to the wall, they were beaten back and retreated.
The American Civil War bled on for another two years until the South surrendered at Appomatox Courthouse, Virginia on April 9, 1865. Gettysburg was left to care for the wounded and bury the dead. A nurse attending the wounded wrote a book called A Sea of Misery describing the aftermath of the battle. She relates that it required 300 surgeons five days to complete amputations. A doctor had orderlies chop holes in a church floor being used as a hospital so blood could run down into the basement. So much blood had flooded the room that they were ankle deep in it.
Gettysburg has returned to what it was, a peaceful hamlet in Adams County. It is host to tourists that visit to learn about history, to follow the path of the battle and to enjoy culture and beauty of the surrounding countryside.
There are events all summer long. Concerts at memorials on the battlefield and in town, plays, shows, music, art and food. The annual Gettysburg Fest brings together a music festival that features several outdoor stages where brass bands play patriotic music, rock musicians hammer away and country music stars enthrall audiences.
There are food venues that combine art galleries on the Gettysburg College campus. There are in town venues with gourmet foods prepared by area chefs. Local wineries supply their best vintages. Ticket holders venture from venue to venue sampling food and enjoying extraordinary art. Crafts people offer their wares. Hand made Kentucky rifles and power horns, true to American artistry in wood, metal and horn are displayed. Accomplished knife makers invite visitors to watch, learn and ask questions while they work.
There is an overall friendliness and camaraderie in town. Drivers gracefully stop in mid-block to allow pedestrians to cross streets. Boutiques welcome tourists with fresh brewed coffee and snacks or free bottled water. Street musicians and buskers in period costume entertain.
Museums in town offer everything from military history to a unique simulated train ride in President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral car. The Lincoln Train Museum on Steinwehr Avenue has been newly renovated by veteran licensed Battlefield Guide and historian Jim Kralik and his wife Michelle. The model train museum retains displays of antique electric trains and railroad memorabilia. It houses an actual size railroad parlor car that simulates a trip along tracks during the Civil War. The Kraliks have enhanced displays with a vision of Lincoln. Inspired by his words and deeds, displays include Americas past, present and inspiration for the future imbued with the ideals of freedom and liberty for all people.
A separate train board takes visitors on the voyage across country describing the thirteen-day trip that carried the dead president from Washington, DC to his final resting place in Springfield, Illinois. There is great fun in the Lincoln Train Museum for young and old alike. The main train board has buttons to push, railroad whistles to blow and scenery to turn on and off.
A miniature Diorama in town likewise sets the stage for any visit to the battlefield. Each day of fighting is explained. Vignettes are set on a grand display that authentically reproduces the geography of the place at the time of the battle.
Two dynamic women in town, Louise Garverick and Judie Butterfield, with help from a group of dedicated volunteers, co-founded the Adams County Arts Council’s Annual Juried Art Exhibition. Gettysburg College’s Schmucker Art Gallery becomes the venue for painters, sculptors and mixed-media amid a gala reception. This year food samplings were provided by chefs from One Lincoln, a new restaurant, part of the historic Gettysburg Hotel.
Chef Joseph Hughes and Gettysburg Hotel General Manager and veteran chef Chuck Moran prepared savory Soba noodle salad with sesame crusted Ahi tuna, custard of parsnips in Feta cheese with cajun spiced shrimp and ranch style beans and brisket with banana barbecue. One Lincoln’s Sous Chef and pastry chef Sarah Gearhart made raspberry and blueberry fruit tarts, banana crème brule and a Tiramisu parfait. The food was as delicious as it was pleasing to the eye. Perfect compliment to the fine art on display inside the gallery.
In a grand auditorium on campus Wyndham Gettysburg Hotel’s master chef Claude Rodier and their Restaurant Manager John Mejias cooked pork bellies and served them over a cauliflower puree. While service was with plastic knives and forks, just a few steps away from the elegant food table Steve Auvenshine, a knife maker from Paris, Kentucky displayed his master works in steel, horn and brass.
Steve is one of the world’s most talented knife makers. He uses hardened steel bars to create artistic and functional knives cherished by collectors, sportsmen and hunters. “When you know what metallurgy is you can’t do it yourself. That’s why I buy sticks of steel. I like 1084 and 1075-80. There is 84.84% carbon tolerances, I get between 75 and 80…” Steve related fine points of his trade describing the best steel for its intended purpose.
“It took me six weeks to make this one. It folds. The decorations are all sterling and cow bone. Bone was pretty common in the 18th and 19th centuries. Ivory was less common in the U.S. Late in the 18th century cow leg bone was more prevalent,” Steve said. He added, “I work about three weeks to get ready for this show. I did a seminar here in town. I also make the cases of tanned leather. Acid tanned leather is not good on knives, it causes them to rust. These cases are vegetable tanned. In the old days they used the animal’s brain to tan hides. The hide has to be scraped, tanned in smoke for two days, beaten. Vegetable tanning works well.” Advice from a craftsman at the top of his trade, respected for his artistry in metal and leather.
Nearby Tim Sanner sat working his art in horns. Powder horns, shakers and convenience boxes decorated with scrimshaw in authentic patterns from years gone by. “I’m making this one for my son. I gave him one before but my work has much improved. I want to make him another one now,” Tim said modestly. Looking at his fine art it is difficult to see anything other than the ultimate in the craft of working horns,
The College’s Musselman Library housed youth art and student-barn art. Chef Ed Weikert from the Eisenhower Hotel Complex offered up amazing pastries and chocolate treats. There were dark chocolate cups with berry filling topped with large blackberies. Chocolate petit-fours and delicious temptations to enjoy while appreciating displays by area youth.
The Historic Farnsworth House Restaurant and Inn offered up their famed game pie, peanut soup and traditional fare at Gettysburg College’s Alumni House. It was a Civil War themed menu prepared by Chef Alexander Slagle. Art was prepared by Plein Air artists that painted and drew in venues around Gettysburg.
Under a wine tent offerings from local wineries provided guests with free tastes. The Blue Parrot Bistro in town offered succulent ribs and barbecue to complement art and artists. Chairs on the lawn and picnic tables fostered an old-fashioned country picnic atmosphere.
Not to be missed is the Blues and Barbecue sponsored by the Gettysburg Festival. The most delicious chicken, brisket of beef, grilled shrimp and country fare is served up family style. Performers on the Festival’s main stage play rhythm and blues. It is a country picnic grand style with delicious vittles and entertainment.
In town proprietors Anthony Kylor and Amado Mesa at their A & A Village Treasures poured Hauser Estates wine and offered visitors a chance to hear Brittany play her guitar and sing. Joan Lenker painted on porcelain. She explained how she used feathers and even a mesh bag that once held clams to create her art. Joan painted on stem-ware, china boxes and porcelain plates. In another room artist Brownyn Jean Hughes painted on mirrors.
“I call it my ‘Crazy Love’ show. I dreamed I would be intuitively painting on mirrors. I use a combination of acrylics. I sit with people. I draw a card from my angel book. I give them a mirror once they are relaxed and they look into it,” Brownyn explained. The artists were friendly and willing to share their insights and inspirations with visitors.
Not far away Timbrel Wallace, owner of Lark Gift Shop on Baltimore Street, displayed the photography of Keith Emmerich. “He just moved here and teaches photography. He lived in Detroit. He came into my store and started talking. Keith started going into abandoned buildings in Detroit taking pictures. They call it Urban Exploration. He went into the old Packard automobile plant and took this picture,” Timbrel said.
It was a photograph of a chair in the abandoned Packard plant. Timbrel asked the photographer to bring some of his work to display in her shop. She offered cold bottled water or fresh brewed coffee to visitors that came to enjoy the photo exhibit.
Gettysburg is a summer festival. It can be enjoyed as a historic tour or an American cultural heritage visit to antique historic Pennsylvania barns. There might even be a tethered balloon ride with Pilot Kyle Laxton, of Pottstown PA’s U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team, weather permitting. The Hauser Estate Winery on a knoll overlooking mountains and the historic Round Barn offers dance lessons, parties and events. No matter when you visit Gettysburg a warm welcome awaits as does fine food, outdoor concerts, shows and fun.
For more information visit www.gettysburgfestival.org or contact the Gettysburg Visitor Bureau at 1-800-337-6274 or go to their website at www.gettysburg.travel.com.