I did not intend to make my Lancaster visit a two-part post, but comments from Lancaster and blog friends led to a decision to expand on my observations. After all, I do not want to disappoint Lancaster friends over a misunderstood remark about the town we know and love.
I received some heat from the fact that I mentioned the KKK. The organization is so extreme conservatives get incensed when grouped with the KKK. I did not mean to insinuate conservatives and the KKK are the same, but attempted to emphasize the point that Lancaster has traditionally been a very conservative area. County voters have not voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate since 1964, when Barry Goldwater lost the county to Lyndon Johnson.
Lancaster City, on the other hand, is a Democratic stronghold (full disclosure: there are a handful of Democrats dispersed throughout the county!).
Moving on, Lancastrians - natives and transplants - are a generous group. One example: a recently created local chapter of the non-profit organization 100 Women Who Care attracted 170 members, far exceeding the authorized 100 women roster.
Young people flock to the creative energy and cultural scene Lancaster city generates, but they are not the only demographic group attracted to Lancaster.
A combination of city amenities, suburban conveniences, rural landscape and reasonable cost of living (compared to nearby cities) lure transplants of all ages. The county is within driving distance of major metropolitan areas along the East coast. Folks visit over the years, searching out the Amish, dining at family style restaurants, shopping in quaint country villages, exploring farmer’s markets, staying in friendly B&Bs, and eventually decide to make Lancaster their home.
The county has become a retirement mecca. Willow Valley is the largest retirement community in the county, a lifecare center opened in 1984 (the company recently removed the word retirement from their official name). From the beginning Willow Valley defined a resort lifestyle. Restaurants, indoor pools, a state-of-the-art gym, cultural center, a clubhouse and more sprawl over 200 acres and two campuses. Residents purchase a residence in an independent living section, and if needed transfer to onsite assisted living or nursing care facilities. The place is a self-contained oasis of about 2,500 residents hailing from 37 states. The business is Mennonite-owned but non-sectarian.
Many of the more than 55 active adult and retirement communities, assisted living and nursing facilities in the county are church-connected but non-sectarian.
Hub and I witnessed a lot of changes in our ex-hometown over the past four decades. Population growth explains much of the transformation. County residents numbered 319,600 in 1970. We moved to the area in 1972. Estimated population in 2014 was 533,300.
Growth has been punctuated by a transition from a farming-oriented community to a vibrant, cosmopolitan destination in the growing east coast BOWASH megalopolis. Anchored by tourism, agriculture, and a diverse service economy, Lancaster’s future is bright.