Get your dancing shoes ready, because Hilltop Playground will once again be “rocking around the clock” next month with a 70th anniversary reunion dance.

The reunion dances, which began about a decade ago, tapered off with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are back, just in time to celebrate 70 years since the much-loved Lebanon tradition of playground dances began.

Read More: Lebanon’s nightly playground dances of the 1950s-1970s

The dances harken back to a time when the playground was more often than not abuzz with activity, the center of neighborhood happenings. Former Hilltop Playground Association president Charlotte Stout started the dances back up in the 2010s to help the community relive its nostalgia for an era when it took more than a quick FaceTime call to catch up with your friends.

“Hilltop was very, very busy,” said Lori Weise, longtime secretary for the Hilltop Playground Association and an even longer resident of the neighborhood. “It was a typical neighborhood playground where the whole neighborhood was involved with it.”

Weise spoke about the students who were paid over the summer to keep activities running, and even the dances themselves were an all-age extravaganza for local youth with a carnival-like atmosphere.

“Everybody went to them,” said Weise. “It didn’t matter what age you were.”

The dances, Stout said, were “wonderful.”

“Back then, that’s what teenagers did – you got together, talked, communicated, danced, had a good time.”

Recalling that joyous feeling and catching up with old friends are the main items on the agenda for the reunion dance, to be held June 11 at Hilltop. The dance will run from 5 to 9 or 10 p.m., depending on turnout and weather.

“People were having so much time the first year (we did a reunion dance), and the weather was so beautiful, we passed the hat around to get the DJ to play an extra hour,” said Weise.

Music will be provided by DJ Jim Payne. Weise said she hopes he plays some slow songs, as in the past couples have particularly loved to make their way to the dancefloor when a classic track with a lower BPM hits the turntable (even if today that turntable happens to be a digital one). As for her personally, she’s looking forward to hearing “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps. Music is likely to span the same decades as the dances were originally running, from the 1950s into the ’70s.

The dance is free to attend, but food will also be available for purchase. Hamburgers and pulled pork will be on the menu, as well as the famous William Penn hot dogs, donated along with the homemade sauce by owner Michael Levendis. The kitchen will be staffed by volunteers from the playground committee, which has about 10 to 15 active members.

The association is currently headed by Bill Eckenroth, who’s been in the position for about a year now. Eckenroth, whose mother told him stories of the original dances, said that attendance for the reunion dances has varied over the years but no matter the turnout, it should be a fun night. The committee takes care of the upkeep at the playground, performing tasks like painting and maintaining equipment, and generally works to make sure the playground keeps serving its community. The playground building is handicap accessible as well, with a ramp that can be used for access.

Stout said she’s looking forward to reuniting with all those who used to come out to the original dances, as well as younger people who are enjoying them for the first time. No matter the age, Stout said, people still come and want to get up and dance.

“I think it’ll be nostalgic,” said Weise. “It will remind people of younger days when they used to do this.”

For more information about the reunion dance, check out the Facebook event and follow the Hilltop Playground Association for more updates about the playground. If you want to help out or volunteer/donate, you can get in touch with Eckenroth by calling him at (717) 821-4673 or emailing eckenrothwilliam@gmail.com.


Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using the contact form below and we’ll do our best to get back to you.

Do you support local news?
If you believe that Lebanon County needs independent, high-quality journalism, consider joining LebTown as a member. Your support will go directly towards stories like this and you will be helping ensure that our community has a reliable news source for years to come.

Learn more about membership and join now here.