The Hinkle family has only belonged to St. Michael’s Parish in Lyons for about two months, but already they’ve managed to become very involved in the parish. In fact, 9-year-old Katherine Hinkle recently took on the role of Miss Peppermint Pattie Cane, riding in a special throne on a float constructed by parishioners for Peppermint Days in Lyons.
During the July 9 parade, Katherine wore a red-and-white outfit and sat on her throne while several other children on the float threw small candy canes and York Peppermint Patties into the crowds gathered along the parade route.
“She was absolutely thrilled. She had a smile from one ear to the other,” said Katherine’s mother, Heather Hinkle. Participating in Peppermint Days was a nice way for the family to become involved with the parish, Hinkle said.
Peppermint Days began more than a decade ago, when a group of Lyons residents decided to re-enact the settlement of the village and hold a small festival celebrating the village’s history. In 1789 the first settlers arrived in what would eventually become Lyons, and in 1839 Lyons resident Hiram G. Hotchkiss founded H.G. Hotchkiss Essential Oil Co., according to the Village of Lyons Web site.
Hotchkiss’ business grew, and by 1860 he employed more than 100 people, produced more than 1,000 pounds of peppermint oil each year and produced one-third of the United States’ peppermint oil. Each acre of land on which Hotchkiss grew peppermint annually yielded between 12 and 15 pounds of oil, according to the Web site.
In 1989 the settlement of Lyons was re-enacted for the first time. A history of Peppermint Days on the Village of Lyons Web site states, “the event was so well-received that those same citizens were asked if they could continue the event and perhaps make it an annual festival. Looking back on our village’s history, it was decided that peppermint, thanks to Mr. H. G. Hotchkiss and his ancestors, had been one of the single most important products that had given Lyons its unique history.”
Although Hotchkiss’ company was eventually sold and stopped doing business in 1990, Anne D. Hotchkiss — a descendant of Hiram G. Hotchkiss — has allowed the family name to be associated with the annual festival and often serves as grand marshal of the Peppermint Days parade, according to the Web site.
This year’s celebration began on Thursday, July 7, with a concert and the Prince, Princess and Lady Hotchkiss Contest. Midway rides and food and craft booths were in place by the evening of July 8 and remained until July 10. The evening of July 8 also featured a street dance and children’s parade. A number of events took place on July 9, including a pancake breakfast, tractor show, bicycle-stunt show, the main Peppermint Days parade and a fireworks display over the Erie Canal.
St. Michael’s parishioners decided to put together a float at the request of their pastor, Father William Darling, said Joanne Gutschow, parish secretary. Peppermint Days 2005 marked the first time in recent years St. Michael’s produced a float for the parade. In the week before the parade, many parishioners helped to pull the float together, she said.
One parishioner loaned the parish a hay wagon on which to place the float and a tractor with which to pull it, Gutschow said.
After several men from the parish constructed wooden sides for the wagon, another team of parishioners took charge of decorating it, transforming the structure from a run-of-the-mill hay wagon into a rolling tribute to peppermints. One parishioner donated large wooden circles made from the tops of wire spools, and another painted the circles to look like peppermint candies. Four of these circles were then attached to the rims of the wagon wheels, where the red-and-white circles spun as the wagon moved, Gutschow said.
As the day of the parade drew near, more parishioners made large signs for the float so people would understand the theme of the float — Miss Peppermint Pattie Cane — and know it had been put together by St. Michael’s parishioners. Another pair of parishioners purchased 500 small candy canes for the children to throw from the float, and a local business donated 1,000 York Peppermint Patties for the event, Gutschow said.
“Everyone’s kind of doing their part. It’s fun,” she added. “Peppermint Days has really been a big thing. It’s worked out really well.”
So well, in fact, that the parish’s Miss Peppermint Pattie Cane float won third place in the float-judging competition during the parade. Father Darling announced this success to parishioners during Sunday Mass the next day, Gutschow said.