The Cake in the Chocolate Ballroom

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Today is our first full day in Pennsylvania. The wedding is at 2 pm and the dress is cocktail attire, so Natasha needs some time for grooming. We got up early so we could head out a see a little bit of rural PA before it was time to get ready.

Lancaster, PA

Our initial plan was breakfast and roaming around in Lancaster County, primarily know as Amish Country. After doing some online research, we decided we needed better planning and more time, so we have postponed that outing. The groom has just taken a position in Lancaster and told us where he and his bride want to move (the half-way point), so we thought as good friends we should explore those locations.

Lancaster County, PA

We set out for Lancaster PA and were rewarded for our early arrival by actually catching a glimpse (but not a picture) of an Amish horse and buggy in town. I suspect the driver was getting his errands done but the town was fully awake and activity picked up. Lancaster’s downtown is full of historic buildings and I was particularly struck by the wonderful row houses that line the street.

We circled by the Soldiers and Sailors Monument after our downtown tour. It stands in Penn Square at the intersection of King and Queen Streets. This is the site off an old Lancaster courthouse where the 1744 Treaty of Lancaster between the British and Iroquois was signed. It is also “the exact spot where the Second Continental Congress met during the American Revolutionary War on September 27, 1777.”

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Lancaster PA.

Before leaving the city we stopped at the historic train station. Although there has been a train station in Lancaster since 1834, the current Amtrak station was built in 1929. It is the second busiest train station in the state of Pennsylvania. Like the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the Lancaster station is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Amtrak Station in Lancaster, PA

Nothing was really open yet and we didn’t see a brunch location that we were both excited about. As a result, we took the Lititz Pike out of town in the hope that the road would lead us to Lititz where the new couple-whose wedding we are in PA for-plan to move. It was a very pretty two-lane drive pass wonderful farmhouses, barns, and silos. When I had searched for breakfast locations in Lancaster the night before, a couple of Lititz locations had popped up so I was pretty confident we would find something there.

Photo ©Jean Janssen The Tomato Pie Cafe in Lititz, PA

Right along the road was the Tomato Pie Cafe in a wonderful old home with an outdoor porch and courtyard seating. After parking in the lot for the Wilbur Chocolate Store, we walked across the train tracks to the cafe. After a short wait, we were seated inside. I love sitting outside; Boris does not.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. All the servers wear hats at the Tomato Pie Cafe in Lititz, PA. Even one of the patrons got into the spirit on this Saturday morning.

The cafe had an interesting menu, but we had to ask the server about the namesake tomato pie. They won’t disclose the recipe- not even to the servers-but it tastes like a quiche with tomatoes. As the server suggested, we got a small one as a starter to try it. It had a fabulous pastry pie crust and was the best thing we ate that morning.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Tomato Pie Cafe, Lititz PA

The servers all wear hats and the hostess reflected a turn of the century feel. The rooms of the old home are used as the interior serving areas. The tiny bathrooms reflect the feel of the older home. Boris had a sausage and egg breakfast to follow the tomato pie. I tried the seasonal special, blueberry pancakes with a lemon curd glaze. Yummy! I also tried the seasonal strawberry mint lemonade, also good. I could have gone for the coconut shake as well, but not after a tomato pie starter.

©Jean Janssen Lititz, PA

After lunch we crossed the street to the city park complete with fountain and gazebo. The park is next to the old train station, which serves as the town’s welcome center. It is an exceptionally charming city. In 2013, Budget Travel named Lititz “America’s Coolest Small Town”. It is only 8 miles north of Lancaster City and is also located in Lancaster County. While for some it may be a bedroom community for the city, it is also the home to major businesses like Johnson & Johnson.

Photo ©Jean Janssen

Lititz was named in 1756 and incorporated in 1888. The Lititz Borough, which covers an area of 2.3 square miles, has a population of less than 10,000 residents. Next to the train station is a wonderful Rolex Clock presented to the city on the 250th anniversary of the city’s naming. “Lititz was founded by members of the Moravian Church in 1756 and was named after a castle in Bohemia…For a century, only Moravians were permitted to live in Lititz. Until the middle of the 19th century, only members of the congregation could own houses; others were required to lease.”

Photo ©Jean Janssen

Having parked in their lot, we thought we should at least make a stop in the Wilbur Chocolate Store. The Wilbur Chocolate Company is headquartered in Lititz. It was founded in Philadelphia in 1865 by Henry Wilbur and Samuel Croft. For 125 years, production of most of the Wilbur Chocolate products was in Lititz at their historic factory located along the train track. The factory was closed in 2016 and it 2018 the building was impressively converted in condos. There is also a market and shops on the ground floor.

Photo ©Jean Janssen

Interestingly, as we are here to celebrate in Hershey, Wilbur Chocolate’s most popular product is the Wilbur Bud. It was introduced in 1893, 14 years before the Hershey’s Kiss, which looks a lot like it. However, the Bud is not individually wrapped and has the word Wilbur on the bottom of the chocolate. The companies are headquartered only 20 miles apart.

Photo ©Jean Janssen

Our drive back to Hershey was a beautiful one through roads canopied with trees and beside picturesque farmland. We were glad we had a full breakfast. Restaurants at the Lodge transition at 11:30 am and if you wanted to eat then (which is what most of the wedding guests wanted to do before the 2:00 pm wedding) you were out of luck. We made it to the ceremony at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. It was very touching. Both bride and groom teared up during their vows. After sentimental vows, the end featured a joyful kiss which started with a chaste version, went on to a passionate one, and was followed by the much shorter bride pulling down the groom for another. I counted three, but the mother of the groom said there were at least five. Boris said she was the happiest bride he had ever seen.

Photo ©Jean Janssen

After the ceremony we returned to the Lodge for the reception in the various rooms which make up the Chocolate Ballroom. About now you might be wondering if I was ever going to get to tying in the name of this post. We started with a cocktails and appetizers and later the wall separated to reveal the dance floor and tables for a seated dinner. The groom told us the night before that theirs was the first post-Covid wedding the Hershey Lodge was hosting. The week earlier and there would have been no dancing.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. The cake was already struggling as we entered the ballroom.

There were so many wonderful moments at the reception. Seeing friends we had been isolated from during COVID, seeing the joy of the couple and their family and friends, and enjoying a really nice meal. The highlight for me was the “Grand March”, a tradition that was part of every wedding I went to as a child but which I rarely see any more. My paternal grandparents were from large German families in central Texas. You simply didn’t have a wedding without a grand march.

traditional wedding march song

“A Grand March is a procession that opens a formal dance or a wedding dance. Although its origins are not quite clear, Texas Czechs have embraced the tradition for generations. While being led by an experienced couple, this dance promenades participants in various formations. At weddings, the dance symbolizes the bride and groom beginning their new life together with family and friends.” THE GRAND MARCH: A CZECH AND GERMAN INSTITUTION Texas Polka News.

Photo ©Jean Janssen A little bit lower now

The groomer’s maternal grandparents led the march, a position of great honor. The groom is from a Czech family. His grandparents were competitive polka dancers in their earlier years. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to dance with his grandfather later in the evening.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Using the Force to hold up the cake.

From my seat one of the things that occupied my time during the reception was the cake which was already struggling when we entered the ballroom. Throughout the reception, it continued to tilt. We all willed the couple to cut the cake. At one point, the groom’s mother joked that it was intentional as they had hoped to see the leaning tower of Pisa on an Italian honeymoon. Finally it was cut and enjoyed by the guests, not without the staff trying to figure out how to do it without a disaster. The couple put their hands out, appearing afraid to cut it for fear it would fall on them. It was taken to the back, outside of the guests’ view. I texted Rocky the picture. Ever the Star Wars fan, Rocky’s reply was “Oh good, they are using the Force.”

Photo ©Jean Janssen. The cake in the Chocolate Ballroom.

After the reception, we stopped at the lobby bar and were rewarded with a visit with the couple and the groom’s story of how they met. After a full day, it was off to bed before the farewell breakfast in the morning and our visit to Gettysburg.


About travelbynatasha

I am a retired attorney who loves to travel. Several years ago I began working on a Century Club membership achieved by traveling to 100 "foreign" countries. Today, at 49 years of age the count is at 82. Many were visited on land based trips. Some were cruise ports. Some were dive sites. Most have been fascinating.
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