Exploring Your Freedom on the History Front: July 4th at Waltz Golf Farm
It isn't immediately apparent that Waltz Golf Farm represents a slice of our Colonial past, but in reality, the property dates back to 1743. In fact, according to Lisa Waltz, who helps manage the 300-acre golfing wonderland, the plot was once part of the original William Penn land grant.
Waltz is a third-generation pro, both at operating the courses and playing them. "I play the mini-golf course every day," she says, as we tour the property. "The castle course is fun, but I prefer the farm course. That's the one I was raised on." Watch out for the hole with the corn-crib obstacle, Waltz warns. "It's the toughest one; the ball has to go through an opening only six inches wide."
We watch as a duffer gives it a try. Clunk. The ball misses the opening. Try again. Clunk. Waltz is right.
Waltz takes me to the original mortar-and-fieldstone farmhouse. She grew up here, and her family still lives onsite. "My room is right up there," Waltz says, pointing above the front door, to the right. "It was my room growing up, and it's still my room. But living in a historic house, I wasn't allowed to hang anything on the plaster walls. So as a teenager, I used to prop up pictures and posters on the chair rails."
Waltz Golf Farm is aptly named. It was indeed a farm, owned and operated by her "Grandpa Sandy" whose Black Angus cattle used to roam the fields now dotted with sand traps and water hazards. The present-day clubhouse was the site of the original barn.
The first step away from agriculture and toward recreation came in 1964, when Grandpa Sandy opened a miniature golf course.
Throughout 2014, the golf farm is marking its historic 50 years of operation. But the culmination of the milestone is the July 4th fireworks.
"Our first fireworks display wasn't on July 4th at all," Waltz recalls. "It was for our 30th anniversary on June 25, 1994. We had no intention of repeating it, but the next spring, people started asking if we were doing fireworks again. So we started scheduling it every year. We've only had two cancellations for rain over all those years."
Waltz promises that the 2014 show will be unlike any other. First, it has been nearly doubled from the usual length of 17 minutes to a full 25.
Second, the colorful explosions over Limerick Township will get off to a different start.
"This year," Waltz explains, "we're having a live Elvis impersonator. He'll sing ‘Happy Birthday,' and when he's finished, we'll send out golf carts with cake for the crowd. Then, when it's show time, he'll sing ‘America the Beautiful.' On his final note, he's dropping to one knee to signal the start."
The other change for 2014 is a closer view for spectators.
Pulling that feat off spectacularly but safely is the responsibility of D&M Fireworks Company of Bally, Pa. When it comes to the Waltz Golf Farm show, however, they are old pros.
Skip Markacs, D&M technician, has handled the Waltz show for years. "This is one of our ‘pet' shows we do every year," he says. "We've worked with Bill and Bobbie [Waltz] for years, and they are one of our favorite clients."
The fairway that usually serves as the fire point will house only the largest shells. The other pyrotechnics will be set up in the driving range, where the crowd can watch safely while enjoying the added excitement that comes with close proximity. "It's going to bring the thrill that much closer." Markacs says. "People should be able to see them even better and feel them even better."
Markacs and his crew have worked hours on packing the shells, some whose diameter is eight inches, and loading them into a truck. Early the morning of July 4th, they will drive across the fairways to hole #10 and begin the long process of setting up. Efficiency is a concern, but safety is primary.
"The added length of this show will mean a 12-hour prep time," Markacs says.
To enable them to work, golfers on the 18-hole, regulation play Turtle Creek course will be redirected before the course is closed and cleared. "Play will proceed ‘backward,'" Lisa Waltz says. "We'll send foursomes to the back nine first, then the front nine."
Although the event is days away, Waltz is as excited as if it were tomorrow. "July 4th here is a phenomenal day," Waltz says. "It's like being at a really successful party and you're at the center of it. It's a long day, but our staff looks forward to coming in."
Independence Day on a Friday creates a great opportunity to get away for a three-day weekend. Book yourself into a room in one of our recommended accommodations and venture "fourth" to our other historic treasures, such as Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennypacker Mills, Pottsgrove Manor or Peter Wentz Farmstead. Wherever you go throughout Montgomery County, Pa., be sure to share your social media postings using our #MakeItMontco hashtag.
And happy Independence Day!