Sunday, November 29, 2015

HERR'S: Bright lights, and lots of them

The spectacular Christmas light display at Herr's in Nottingham is well worth the trip down the Route 1 bypass. Hundreds of shrubs and trees throughout the potato-chip factory's large campus are decorated with lights. I felt like I was in downtown Who-ville as we drove through (the route is very well marked; at one turn a huge gingerbread man points the way). It's enchanting, and odds are good we'll be making a second trip.
And in the non-Christmas department, I chuckled when I saw a pedestrian-crossing sign in which the pedestrian stick figure was carrying -- you guessed it, a bag of Herr's potato chips.

FATHER DENNY: Kennett loses a downtown fixture

Downtown Kennett Square has lost one of its beloved fixtures: Dennis Van Thuyne, better known as Father Denny, died on Saturday, Nov. 28, at age 64.
Father Denny outside his State Street second-hand store in 2011.

Father Denny organized a bike helmet drive for kids in 2009.

A former priest at St. Patrick's in Kennett many years ago, Fr. Denny suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2005 when he was mugged in Philadelphia. He returned to Kennett and opened his second-hand store, the Kennett General Store, so that he could raise funds to help support fellow victims.
On Sunday, as word spread about his unexpected death, tributes to Father Denny poured in. People shared stories about what a kind and pleasant man he was, always ready with a gentle smile for children and a treat for dogs. It seemed that whenever I walked or drove past his shop, he was standing outside in an apron, doing little chores, puttering with the plants in his windowboxes and ready to strike up a conversation with anyone who passed by.
"Kennett Square won't be the same without him," commented one friend. "He always gave me hope when talking to him about my health issues. Our niece was in a horrible car accident several years ago and suffered a traumatic brain injury; my husband and I were in the store one time and he told us his story and we told him about our niece. He was so helpful in explaining the effects of a TBI and really helped us to understand better what she was going through."
Hal Lewis, who used to own H & R Auto in town, recalled that he "had many good talks with Father Denny at my shop, he stopped by every day...he will be missed."
Said another friend of his:."Look for flowers from Saint Theresa, he loved Saint Theresa! Told me lots about her. He was really smart about a lot of things. Never minded giving him whatever was in my purse/pocket for his cause." 
May he rest in peace.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

LIGHTS: She doesn't love a parade

So there I was at the Kennett Y on Friday evening, looking out the windows forlornly and watching tractors and farm equipment festooned with strings of lights getting lined up for Kennett's annual Holiday Light Parade down State Street.
I opted to miss the parade only because the Friday night gym class is one of my absolute favorites. It caused me pain to see Chris Barber's wonderful photos of the parade online (doubtless you'll see them elsewhere in the paper this week, too).
One woman in my gym class had no such regrets, though: She hates parades, she announced.
I stared at her, speechless at this heresy. She explained that as a child, she and her family went on vacation to Disney World, and her older siblings got to ride the rides but she was only allowed to watch the parade. Ever since, she has loathed parades.
"What's the point?" she said, with great animation. "You stand there and wave at people. 'I don't know you, but hi there! Hi!'"
I told her she really needs to come and watch one of Kennett Square's blockbuster Memorial Day parades. If that doesn't change her opinion, nothing will.

OLEN GRIMES: Let's help out a really nice guy

Odds are really good that you know Olen Grimes. He's a pillar in the downtown Kennett Square business community, a super-friendly, high-energy guy who owns the ArtWorks gallery and its Union Street neighbor, the My Polished nail salon.
Olen was in a bad car accident on Nov. 11 and broke his left hip, leg, ankle and foot. He's going to need multiple surgeries and an extended period of physical therapy. Besides the health implications, this is catastrophic news for someone who's a small business owner.
We pride ourselves on our close-knit community and how we pitch in to help others in trouble. Here's your turn to join me in walking the walk. Support Olen's businesses while he's out of commission, and donate to the online GoFundMe account that his fellow Rotarian Matt Grieco has set up to help Olen and his family with their medical bills and lost income. (As I'm writing this, 33 people have donated in the four days the site has been active.)
I miss seeing Olen at My Polished, which is where I get my nails done. He pops in, sits down in a pedicure chair for split second to talk to me (usually town politics, or what I think of his latest improvement to the shop), then jumps up to answer the phone or ring up a customer before rushing back down the street to his gallery.

Olen Grimes at his ArtWorks Gallery on Union Street.

THE HUNT: A Unionville tradition

The traditional Thanksgiving morning hunt of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds could not have gone better had it been stage-managed. It was a remarkably warm morning (good for us spectators but not so good for the hunt; it seems the hounds have an easier time picking up the fox's scent when it's cold). Dozens of cars filled the Kennel Lawn. Many people set up tailgate parties, and folks were walking around carrying beer bottles, red plastic cups with celery sticks, Champagne flutes, or coffee cups as they greeted their friends. I talked to lots of wonderful people I hadn't seen for ages and just hope I didn't mess up too many people's names.
As the time approached for the foxhunters and hounds to move off, Anne Moran, one of the Masters, said a few words of welcome and thanked the spectators for coming and the landowners for allowing the Hunt on their properties.
And then just as the field was heading down the hill toward Plantation Field, a fox raced along the crest of the hill in full view of the crowd. Perfect timing; it was almost like he knew he had an audience! The hounds soon followed, and the perfectly turned-out riders and horses streamed behind, making for a gloriously colorful scene straight out of a vintage English hunting print.

FRIENDS HOME: Goodbye to Renna

Best wishes to Renna Van Oot, who left her position as Executive Director of the Friends Home in Kennett to take a new job as chief operating officer at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Dana Smiles will serve as interim director of the 117-year-old senior citizens' home until the board of directors hires a replacement for Renna.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

BUCKS COUNTY: A short road trip for dinner

I went to a wonderful Thanksgiving feast up in Perkasie, with ample food, three little kids and two large dogs. The host is a marvelous gardener; in fact, his backyard garden is big enough that I could plainly see an aerial view of it on Google Maps. He grows his hardy crops in a plastic-covered tent with heat lamps, so the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and coleslaw on the table came straight from the garden.

Ron's sheltered garden, where hardy crops like cabbage can overwinter.

Milk in old-fashioned glass bottles from Pennview Farms.

Another highlight was the milk, which came in old-fashioned returnable glass bottles from Pennview Farms in Perkasie. The chocolate milk was so thick it was like drinking a milkshake.
This wasn't my biological family, so a lot of the family members were new to me. I come from a small family, so trying to sort out siblings, cousins, nephews and companions was quite a challenge. I got absolutely nowhere asking my date to identify everyone around the table (he is SO not a reporter!), so I just gave up and thanked everybody for their extraordinary hospitality.
I had a great time driving to Perkasie. Because of an accident on the Northeast Extension, my GPS (my new best friend!) rerouted me through Worcester and Hatfield. Bucks County has a lot of highways that end in the number "63," and I think I was on all of them, in addition to a short stint on "Unionville Pike" (that was a surprise).
On Bustard Road I passed a Century Farm owned by, of course, the Bustard family. I also saw some entertaining signs: a barn that promises "A Spiritual Walk With a Horse"; "Mrs. Benner's Homemade Slap Jack Candy"; "Good Time Rentals" (offering a winter discount); "The Rockhill Filling Station" (a restaurant; get it?); and a lounge billing a special holiday performance by "Bobby Himself"!
I enjoyed the slow-lane trip so much that I was actually sorry when the GPS directed me onto Route 309 for a while. On the way home, though, after sundown, I just got onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike at Sumneytown Pike and cruised nonstop all the way to Coatesville.