Bethesda’s normally quiet Epworth Park will come alive this weekend as the Epworth Park Cottage Owners Association stages the annul Chautauqua Homecoming, an event since 1989.

Take a stroll down memory lane and relive the feelings of the days of yore at this historic Methodist Campground.

Stroll along the lake, enjoy the beautiful fountain and reminisce under the majestic oaks.

A schedule of events for the two-day celebration includes:

Saturday, July 14

8 am -Concession Stand Open (sausage gravy & biscuits, doughnuts & coffee)

8 am - White Elephant Sale

8:30 am - Fishing Contest Registration (Ages 2-14) at Auditorium, Masonic Lodge #251 of Bethesda, Sponsor

9 am - Antique Vendors & Craft Vendors (all day)

9 am- Bake Sale & Epworth Park Souvenirs

9 am - Chinese Auction

9 to 2 pm - Craft Vendors at Epworth Center

9 to 5 pm - "Spirit of America" miniature train rides

11 am - BBQ Chicken Dinner at Methodist Church

11 am - Food (brats/hot dogs) at Auditorium

11:30 am - Parade of Decorated Bicycles — ages 13 and under (at Virginia Street)

12 Noon - Festival Parade (11:30 am line up at Virginia Street)

2 pm - Wheeling Symphony Orchestra (Brass Ensemble) at Auditorium

6 pm - The Shuman Band (Country, Folk, Rock) at Auditorium

Sunday, July 15

9 am - Concession Stand Open (chicken & sausage sandwiches, hot dogs, Coney or kraut dogs, sloppy joes, baked beans, potato salad, apple dumplings, root beer floats, ice cream treats, and more)

10:45 am - Morning Worship — Auditorium, Pastor Tom Detling, United Methodist Church, speaker

11 to 2 pm - Bethesda Car Show registration (corner of Lake and Virginia Streets)

12 Noon - Lasagna Dinner at Park Entrance

12 Noon - Antique Vendors & Craft Vendors

12 Noon - White Elephant Sale

12 Noon - Chinese Auction

12 Noon - "Spirit of America" miniature train rides

12 to 4 pm - Bethesda Car Show — Bethesda-Belmont-Morristown Rotary Club, sponsor; Food, Music by DJ Frank Prebeg, 50/50 Raffle, Door Prizes (corner of Lake and Virginia Streets)

1 pm -Food (brats/hotdogs) at Auditorium

2 pm - Almost Famous (Acoustic, Bluegrass) at Auditorium


For readers unfamiliar with the venue, Epworth Park, or the "Garden of Oaks", was established in 1870 as a Methodist Camp Ground — a place for spiritual fellowship, instruction, and renewal, the organization’s reveals.

"The Camp Meetings were immediately successful, and by the year 1875 the weekend crowds arriving by horse-drawn wagons and trains often numbered 10,000 to 15,000. Along with the popularity and success of the camp meetings came the need for meeting accommodations and housing for the attendees. The cottages were built between 1870 and 1900, by people from nearby towns, as a weekend retreat from city life. A hotel was also built during this time, near the current site of the concession stand, which provided inexpensive room and board for the growing number of guests. The auditorium was built around this time, on its present site, and the lake was also constructed, adding to the beauty of the park, and providing water activities such as swimming and boating.

"In the early 1900's, the Camp Meetings were replaced by the Chautauqua movement — a huge, national movement which began at the Methodist retreat on Chautauqua Lake, New York. The Chautauqua assemblies were grand affairs, attracting the most famous actors, musicians, and lecturers of the time. The roster of talent was a "Who's Who" including William Jennings Bryan, Billy Sunday and many others. The Chautauqua movement reached its peak in the mid-1920's, but by the 1950's, it was replaced by new, more modern forms of entertainment. Today, the park celebrates the Chautauqua Homecoming during the second weekend in July."