150th Anniversary of Epworth Park to be celebrated July 10 & 11
Celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Epworth Park at the 31st Annual Chautauqua Homecoming Days & Bethesda Festival on Saturday, July 10 & Sunday, July 11. Take a stroll down memory lane and relive the feelings of the days of yore at this historic Methodist Campground. Walk along the lake, enjoy the beautiful fountain and reminisce under the majestic oak trees.
Epworth Park or the “Garden of the Oaks” was established in 1870 as a place for spiritual fellowship, instruction and renewal. By 1875, weekend crowds arriving by horse-drawn wagons and trains numbered up to 15,000. The popularity of the park led to the erection of cottages between 1870 and 1900. Today, there remain 61 privately owned, Victorian cottages. A hotel was also built at that time near the current location of the concession stand. The open air auditorium and lake which exist today were also constructed during this time. In the early 1900s, the Camp Meetings were replaced by the Chautauqua movement which reached its peak in the 1920s. By the 1950s, new and modern forms of entertainment took over.
This 1908 postcard shows people enjoying swimming and boating at Epworth Park lake.
The history of the park and the Chautauqua movement are still celebrated with this annual event. Due to COVID-19 restrictions last year, the festival was cancelled. The celebration will commence this year with a two-day festival at Epworth Park, 215 North Main St., Bethesda. Events will include a parade, youth fishing contest, live entertainment, bicycle parade, car show, concessions, antiques and crafts, and fireworks.
Saturday, July 10 begins at 8 am with the ever-popular white elephant sale. Concessions also open at 8am at the park entrance with coffee, doughnuts, sausage gravy and biscuits and breakfast burritos. Registration begins at 8:30am for the fishing contest for children ages 2-14 at the auditorium. The contest, sponsored by Bethesda Hazen Lodge #251, begins at 9 am. Also beginning at 9am, Epworth Park souvenirs, memorabilia and delicious baked goods will be available for purchase. Visit the craft show along the avenue with over 25 crafters, vendors, antique dealers and peruse the Auction on the Avenue at Cottage #71 items for that one of kind gift. Visit more crafters at the gazebo on the hill. The awards for the fishing contest will be announced at 10am at the auditorium.
Lunch will be available at 11am with brat sandwiches at the auditorium and chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, Coney dogs or sloppy joes, along with potato salad and baked beans at the park concession stand. Also enjoy a root beer float, ice cream treats or an apple dumpling.
The parade line up begins at Virginia Street at 11am. Lineup for the children’s bicycle parade (ages 13 and under) begins at 11:30am on Virginia Street. The parade begins at noon and awards will be presented.
Also beginning at noon, enjoy a delicious chicken BBQ dinner at the Hazen Lodge. At 1pm “Interesting Facts About Abe Lincoln” will be presented at the auditorium, followed by a visit with Abe Lincoln as he strolls through the park from 1:30-3pm. The Shuman Family takes the concert stage at 6pm, performing country, folk and rock at the auditorium.
Chautauqua Days continue Sunday, July 11 at 10:45am with morning worship service in the auditorium led by Pastor Tom Detling from the Bethesda United Methodist Church. The concession stand opens at 11am.
From 11am to 2pm, registration is open for the Bethesda Car Show, sponsored by the Bethesda-Belmont-Morristown Rotary Club from 12-4pm. Registration fee is $8. There will be dash plaques for the first 100 entries. It is an open event, and a trophy will be awarded for each decade from 1910-2021. Trophies will also be awarded for Best: Convertible, Truck, Rat Rod, Import, Motorcycle, Special Interest and President’s Choice. Judging is by nonprofessionals. Music from the 50’s and 60’s will be provided by DJ Frank Prebeg. Food and beverages are available at the shelter, plus door prizes, and a 50/50 drawing. The car show will take place on the west side of Epworth Park at the corner of Lake and Virginia streets.
At noon a roast pork dinner will be served at the park concession stand, as well as sandwiches and other food items. Also at noon, browse the white elephant sale, antiques, crafts, items made by local artists, and the Auction on the Avenue at Cottage #71. Brat sandwiches will be on sale at the auditorium at 1pm. At 2pm in the auditorium, entertainment begins with the multi-talented bluegrass band, Almost Famous. All concerts go on rain or shine in the open-air covered auditorium.
The event concludes with fireworks at Shepherd Farm Barn & Events Center, 433 N. Main St. at dusk. You can also park at the Bethesda Christian Church (40601 Bethesda-Belmont Rd.) to view the fireworks.