All the way to Lancaster? What?! When I first moved to Lititz from Lancaster about 18 years ago I was surprised to hear that phrase over and over again. All the way to Lancaster? What does that mean?
People seemed amazed that I would drive such a great distance for things such as a restaurant, live music, a theater show, a store, a business, an activity with the kids. That great distance I travelled was 8 miles. All the way to Lancaster - just 8 miles.
Granted, I grew up in Lancaster and its culture is part of me. But this “all the way to Lancaster” thing just sounded weird. “Don’t people from Lititz go into the city at all?”, I wondered. Turns out the answer to that question was mostly “no”. At least with the people I knew. And some of these people were my new neighbors and friends! They know it’s only 8 miles, right?
So I asked some folks why they treated those 8 miles like 8 thousand. Turns out it wasn’t just about the miles. It was also about perception. Fear of the unknown. And in some cases, fear of the different. I love Lititz, but let’s be honest- it’s not a treasure trove of diversity. And that sets some people up to misperceive things.
Over the past 18 years since the “all the way to Lancaster” epidemic, the city has grown in some cool new ways. The restaurants are still great. There are some fun nightlife spots. The live entertainment, music and theater is top notch. The art houses are nationally recognized. The shopping is unique. There’s a lot of interesting history too.
Admittedly, I don’t hear that “all the way...” phrase as much as I used to, but I still get the impression that some of us Lititz residents still resist going into Lancaster.
That needs to change! Those 8 miles are as short now as they were when I first moved here. If you’re not sure about this whole “visit the city” thing, the only way to figure it out is to go in there and see for yourself. And I don’t just mean going to the crowded, strip- mall-choked, outer-rim in Manheim Township. I mean actually crossing over the bridge, beside the train station, past Clipper Magazine Stadium and getting downtown. All the way downtown- the full 8 miles!
Of all that Lancaster has to offer, the best event to take advantage of, in my opinion, is coming up this month from February 22-24. Lancaster Roots & Blues. Roots & Blues is a festival of live music taking place over 3 days at a variety of venues throughout the downtown area. The artist list includes national, regional and local acts of many styles. It’s cliche to say it has something for everyone but it really does. Loud, hard- rocking blues. Mellow singer-songwriters. Country & bluegrass. Jazz. Lots more.
Having performed at the festival several times and attended each year as a music- lover, I can vouch for the quality of the whole experience. You hop from venue to venue within a several block area of the downtown, listening to great bands and stopping by Lancaster’s array of interesting bars and restaurants as you wish.
As a musician, Roots & Blues weekend is like a professional development seminar. As a music fan, it’s just plain fun. As a native Lancastrian, it’s an exciting way to experience the city I love. And as a Lititz resident, it’s a great opportunity to encourage my fellow townspeople to make that 8 mile journey into a city that has much more to offer you than you may realize.
So go ahead. Give Lancaster a try. Go to Roots & Blues if you can. Drive all the way in to Lancaster. Those 8 miles isn’t that far.