Yesterday a photo was circulating around the Facebooks… a little blurb from USA Today which showed that Lancaster natives are pretty darn happy about where they live. This was a national thing, so it’s kind of a big deal to us – and the whole concept of ‘us’ is interesting to me because Eric is a Lancaster native but Mike is originally from Perry County. So one day after, Eric and Mike are going to talk a little about Lancaster, what they like about it, and why they feel like the award is deserved.
My dream when I was in high school (Warwick) was to go somewhere far away. Back then, it was “Lancaster sucks. There’s nothing to do around here.” So when it came to college applications, I searched for colleges out of the area (WAY out of the area). I applied (and was accepted) to the University of Tampa in Florida. I was super stoked to get the you-know-what out of here. My plans fell through, however, when I realized it didn’t make sense financially to move to Florida + pay the expensive tuition at a private, out-of-state college. I decided to be realistic and applied to colleges closer to home. I ended up going to college at Millersville University. It was the greatest experience of my life! I met some of my best friends there (Mike being one), solidified my relationship with my wife (who also went to Millersville) learned so much in terms of my major (which inspired me to enter Grad school), and even had my wedding reception there.
While in college, Lancaster started becoming cool, especially after I turned 21. There’s so much to do around here and the best is First Fridays in the summer. The bar scene is great, there’s a funky arts/music vibe, there are great restaurants and most of all (as cliché as this sounds) it’s a place I would love to raise a family. So when everyone on my Facebook shared the newspaper clipping about Lancaster being #1, I wasn’t surprised. I’m happy to be a native Lancastrian and am excited for the growth and prosperity of this awesome city/county.
I’m from Perry County, originally. I loved it there and I love going back when I can – it was a really cool place to grow up. It’s pretty rural – definitely off the grid of major commercial areas, but still within driving distance to a WalMart or two. I spent my first year of college at Clarion University – slightly closer to major shopping centers, but still extremely cold during the winters and very rural. I still basically felt at home. So when I transferred to Millersville over the summer of 2004, coming to a place that seemed really ‘built up’ was kind of a culture shock to me.
Believe it or not, I felt like Lancaster was ‘Big City’ compared to what I grew up with. The major shopping complexes lining the ‘Pikes’ were intimidating, and the only place I really felt at home was on the Millersville Campus where things moved a little more slowly, a little more quietly. As I got older and started travelling to more major cities with my girlfriend at the time (wife now), I realized how big cities can be, and how Lancaster, even though it might have seemed big to me at the time, was actually closer to ‘bite size’ than anything else. Seemed cozy by comparison. That was the first revelation.
The Second Revelation was how awesome the art scene is in Lancaster. Not just the live music scene, but the ‘First Friday’ scene, the art studio scenes, everything. You can spend an day downtown in Lancaster on foot and literally get your fill of art, food, shopping, and anything else you can think of. And the city’s clean!
The Third and most lasting Revelation to me was taking in Lancaster on foot as a runner, up and around the countryside. Running to Eric’s house and back during the summer exposed me to 10 miles of country road that just seemed to roll off into the horizon. I fell in love with the landscapes, the farmscapes, all of it. It was awesome. I don’t know how long Jenny and I are going to stay here – years – decades… who knows. I think Lancaster would be an incredible place to raise a family and I think anyone who grew up here and has seen Lancaster County evolve is lucky.