Area residents and visitors interested in learning about spiritualism, mediumship, healings, religion, thought, philosophy and much more have an opportunity to experience a unique tradition which has resided in Chautauqua County since 1879, called the Lily Dale Assembly.
According to Martie Hughes, a member of the Lily Dale board of trustees and the advertising, marketing and PR committee, every year at Lily Dale is new and different. But, one of the things she always gets excited about every summer is seeing the new faces of those who visit, she said.
"For me, it's seeing the faces of people walk around and experience Lily Dale for the first time - it reminds me of my first visit," said Hughes. "Folks come with an expectation we'll be one thing, and they discover we're really something different."
The front gate entrance of The Lily Dale Assembly, located at 5 Melrose Park in Lily Dale, is shown.
Hughes said she is also quite excited about the lineup of world-famous presentations that Lily Dale will host this summer. Some of the presenters will make a return, while others are brand new to Lily Dale.
From July 7-12, the Tibetan Monks of the Dreprung Loseling Monastery will visit the Lily Dale community for the 12th time.
"They are one of our most popular attractions," said Hughes. "Colorful, peaceful, and believe it or not, very engaging, they will construct a mandala made of crushed, colored crystals."
The public is invited to watch the monks work throughout the week, free of charge. They will be working in the fire hall. Tickets are required for the opening and closing ceremonies due to space limitations.
From July 20-21, SyFy "Ghost Hunters" Jason Hawes and Steve Gonsalves will make a return to Lily Dale to share stories of the paranormal investigations of TAPS: The Atlantic Paranormal Society. Ten people, chosen at random, will be invited to attend a meet and greet following the events.
On July 27, James Van Praagh will appear in the auditorium, speaking on "Bridging the Gap" between two planes of existence. Participants of the three-hour event will discover the process of mediumship and experience a guided healing, enlightened group meditation. Tickets are nearly sold out.
On Aug. 9 and 10, Dee Wallace, best known for her role as the mother in "E.T. the Extraterrestrial," and being on the cast of "Cujo" as well as many popular TV shows, will speak on "The Clarity of Creation" and "You are the One You've Been Waiting For: The Power of Self-Creation."
On Aug. 16 and 17, internationally acclaimed writer, teacher and visionary Neale Donald Walsch, author of "Conversations with God," as well as more than 25 other books on spirituality and how it's applied to everyday life, will visit Lily Dale for the first time. The title of his workshop is "The Only Thing That Matters," and scheduled to appear with him is his wife, poet and songwriter, Em Claire.
"His presentations are truly non-denominational and will resonate with you, regardless of your own beliefs," said Hughes.
On Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, Gary and Cindy Renard will teach material contained in "The Course of Miracles."
"He's a fascinating, engaging teacher," said Hughes. "His presentation teaches folks to look at life through a different lens."
Hughes also expressed excitement for the "Victorian Weekend," because she said it is always fun. The event has staff members, volunteers and visitors dressed in Victorian-style costumes as they relive the early days of Lily Dale. The event is scheduled for July 12-14.
"For a very nominal ticket price, guests will experience the social aspects of Lily Dale," said Hughes. "Every year is different and special. That's why living here is such a treat. We never know what will come through the gates."
According to Hughes, part of what makes Lily Dale a special place in Chautauqua County is that it has a rich tradition of being on the cutting edge of religion, thought and philosophy.
"We're more grass-roots," said Hughes. "Not necessarily intellectual, but valid nonetheless."
Something many may not know about Lily Dale, said Hughes, is that when Susan B. Anthony traveled from Rochester to the Chautauqua area to speak on the subject of Women's Suffrage, and their right to vote, one of the only places she could find that would accept her was Lily Dale.
"Women were not allowed to speak on religious platforms, another example of how they were treated as second-class citizens in those days," said Hughes. "She and her entourage ... were welcomed to Lily Dale with open arms, and her message was delivered in our auditorium. For many years after, she returned to Lily Dale for rest, relaxation and a rejuvenation."
According to Hughes, Lily Dale also attracts celebrities as frequent visitors, including Dan Aykroyd, his father, Peter, and grandfather, who have all visited Lily Dale.
"When his dad (Peter) wrote his book, he visited with Lily Dale mediums for information about his family," said Hughes. "They love that they can walk around undisturbed - does it get any better than that?"
Scholars may also find interest in Lily Dale, said Hughes. The Marion Skidmore Library contains a large collection of Spiritualist writings, and Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote at great length about spiritualism, has works contained there.
"I can't predict what someone will take away from their experience, and their visit to Lily Dale," said Hughes. "But, what they should bring with them is an open mind, and no expectations of what might or might not happen. ... I personally believe a visit to Lily Dale will give a person what their soul most needs."
Children are welcome, too, she added. The newly repositioned Fairy Trail is easy to access, and one of their most popular attractions.
The Lily Dale Assembly is located at 5 Melrose Park in Lily Dale. For more information call 595-8721 or visit www.lilydaleassembly.com.