To welcome our new advertiser The Lily Dale Assembly we chatted with their Marketing Manager Christopher Shepp about their long and rich history, visiting Lily Dale, and their 2017 season.
Lily Dale is the world’s largest center for the religion of spirituality. Located in New York State it is celebrating its 138th year and offers series of events and experiences ranging from lectures, demonstrations, and classes.
When asked how he’d sum up the Lily Dale Assembly in one sentence, Christopher Shepp says, “a bucolic Victorian town built upon the belief and practice of mediumship, spirit communication, and free thought.” Lily Dale has a long history which Shepp goes on to tell us saying, “the primordial stages of the Lily Dale Assembly begin with the Laona Spiritualist Society, organized in 1855 in a small town near Lily Dale. This early group of pioneers became interested in Spiritualism, magnetism, and social progress and declared themselves both Spiritualists and Liberals. After many years of meetings and hosting lectures from nationally prominent speakers in the fields of Spiritualism, Freethought, and equality, the group began to realize that it needed a larger space to call home on a permanent basis. Land was purchased, and in 1879 the Cassadaga Lakes Free Association began. This early group of progressives embraced the non-dogmatic beliefs of Freethought, a social movement calling for human equality, education, and self-development, and has held tightly onto them ever since. Although the Assembly has changed its name several times (to the City of Light Assembly in 1903, and finally the Lily Dale Assembly in 1906), the core values of progress and equality have remained the same and really ring true today, when it seems like it matters more than ever to embrace humanity.”
Lily Dale is located on Cassadaga Lake in New York State. “There is an entire village that all put in their love and attention to make Lily Dale the place it is, from the over 50 registered mediums, to the dedicated volunteer event staff. We are governed by a board that changes yearly, by election from the town assembly, it’s a very democratic process, and it makes sure everyone has a voice here.” Continuing Sheep explains, “The Lily Dale Assembly has gone from a secluded haven for Freethinkers and early Spiritualists to meet in peace and openly discuss progressive ideas, to a strongly respected historical institution that values the progress of humanity and encourages guests to improve the world around them. Spiritualism is a nondogmatic belief system and does not support evangelizing. If you visit you will find our residents, guests, and mediums are friendly, open, and nonjudgmental. We are and always have been a place of equality and a safe space for people of all kinds. Religion can be a bit of a four-letter word now a days and although Spiritualism is a religion, it is unlike any other that I have encountered and does not put any claims on exclusive truth. No one is here to recruit you, or persuade you to think in a certain way, so don’t let the R word dissuade you from checking us out.”
Lily Dale is as much about the modern world as it is about history. Shepp goes on, “today as always we are hosting a myriad of lectures and workshops on spiritual and psychic development, offering hope and comfort to those suffering from grief or loss, and striving towards a better, more equal, and sustainable tomorrow. We also now carry the mantel of preserving the history of Spiritualism and all its Victorian splendor for future generations.”
“Right now we are gearing up for our 2017 season. It runs from June 30th to September 3rd, and that’s when everything happens. Once the gates open there’s so many things to choose from, and they are different every day. Until then we are mostly in preparation mode. We do still host multiple Sunday services that feature live demonstrations of mediumship and hands on healing if you would like to get a taste of what we offer off season. Our Library and our museum are also open year round for visitors and researchers. Those two institutions hold the largest collection of spiritualist literature and artifacts in the United States, and have hosted research appointments with a litany of high profile authors, researchers and musicians including, most recently, Jill Tracey.”
Lily Dale makes for a great place to visit whether it’s a day trip, a much-needed vacation, or a longer stay. Shepp tells us, “there’s a plethora of new things coming for our 2017 season. We were certified as a ‘National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitat’ at the end of 2016 (we are one of only two such places in New York State) and have been able to add some new conservation spaces including bat houses, a purple martin house, and a new butterfly habitat to our grounds.”
“We have a bigger line up for this season than ever before. We have more daily and weekly events that are included in your gate fee, more classes and workshops available to take, a lineup of speakers that includes the polyphonic singing of the Tibetan monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery, Lily Dale resident and TV medium Lisa Williams, and Mentalist and frequent guest on the Johnny Carson show, The Amazing Kreskin. We also have a series of all day events, like our ukulele jamboree day on August 19th and our Woman’s Day event on August 18th in honor of the centennial anniversary of women’s right to vote in New York State. That’s a pretty big one and will feature horse drawn carriage rides, a women’s suffrage parade, speeches by famous suffragette reenactors, an all-girls barbershop quartet, and a Victorian cosplay contest.”
You can find information about planning a trip to Lily Dale on their website. It has the full schedule of workshops, classes, and special events, as well as their daily and weekly schedules which are all available to view and book online. Plus information on what else you can find within their gates.