By Colleen Kulikowski
Situated halfway between Dunkirk and Jamestown, on Route 60 in Chautauqua County, is a hidden Western New York gem. Lily Dale, about an hour’s drive from Springville, is a place of natural beauty with colorful old Victorian homes nestled into the old growth woods. There are only two such forests in New York State, the other being in DeVeaux Woods in Niagara Falls. Lily Dale was recently certified through the National Wildlife Foundation as the second NWF Community in New York.
During the summer season, there are entrance fees, but Lily Dale is free and open to the public the rest of the year. A daily pass is $15 per person. The 2017 season is starting to be published on their website if you wish to wait for warmer weather.
Lily Dale is a special place of nature, but that’s not why most people know about it. Most people know it because of many of the residents’ ability to speak with the dead.
This is a walkable community with a loving heart. Don’t be surprised when people wave and say hello. You never feel like you are among strangers here.
Lily Dale is the longest running center for Spiritualism in the country, dating back to 1879 and is a private religious community that welcomes visitors. As such, only those members of the Lily Dale Assembly can own leaseholds of the many homes within Lily Dale.
Spiritualism is a religion that has a deep history and is based on the understanding that one is responsible for their own experience and as they live their lives per Natural Law. They believe in providing evidence of this and this is where many come to communicate with loved ones with one of the many Mediums that call Lily Dale home. You will not see palm readers, crystal ball readers or those reading Tarot. The focus of this community is that of mental mediumship.
For 10 weeks each summer, the grounds are full of people and there are things to do from dawn to dusk. Thousands of visitors come for the many lectures, classes and demonstrations of Mediumship, and take in the beauty of Lily Dale or schedule a private reading with one of the Registered Mediums.
Coming to Lily Dale off season (Labor Day through the end of June) means you must do a little planning if you want to have a reading by one of the many registered Mediums. Not all are in residence this time of year and most require appointments. Each of the four churches associated with the Lily Dale Assembly has a full schedule of classes that you can take— just check their websites for details.
Come late October, the Fairies (and several of the Registered Mediums) pack up for winter and head to warmer weather and leave the Fairy Trail, but don’t worry—they will return with spring, as they always do.
The many statues at the Pet Cemetery are removed before the snow flies and are lovingly put back in the spring. The museum is available by appointment only between November and Memorial Day.
The Marion H. Skidmore Library is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. The library is full of books you cannot find elsewhere on Spiritualism, metaphysical sciences and the vast history of the religion. This is not a lending library, but you are very welcome to sit and read in the space.
You can sit in the benches of the Forest Temple all year long, as you can do so at the Inspiration Stump. There is a wonderful playground called “Children’s Acre” for children to play.
Wednesday nights there is a Healing and Message service that takes place in the Healing Temple at 7:30 p.m. All they ask for is a love donation to help pay for the maintenance of the Healing Temple, which is sponsored by the four churches of Lily Dale. Each Church has a different Chairperson run the service, which includes an inspirational message, hands on healing and Mediums giving brief messages from Spirit. Bring a non-perishable food good for their food basket for the local Food Bank.
It is the off season that most people do not know about; September to June that you can come and enjoy this beauty without paying a gate fee, which is well worth a day trip the Second Sunday of each month.
Attend Church at Living Spirit in the Assembly Hall or Lily Dale Spiritualist Church in the Healing Temple at 10:30 a.m., then attend the community brunch immediately after over at the Fire Hall. For a small fee, get a mini-reading afterwards from one of the many members of the community after brunch. Spend the rest of day roaming the quiet streets, visiting the Inspiration Stump, and stop by the Bargain Shop that is open until 4 p.m. daily.
Alternatively, come for the brunch, spend the day wandering around and at 6 p.m., attend church over at Fellowships of the Spirit, which is just outside the gate of Lily Dale. City of Light has their services the last Sunday of each month, May through October at 5 p.m. All the churches welcome everyone to attend their services.
Upcoming events during the off season include the Holiday Bazaar & Craft sale by the Lily Dale Artisans Guild Dec. 1-4 at the Lily Dale Fire Hall 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day with lunch being served on Saturday.
A community-wide Christmas Eve service will happen on Dec. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Healing Temple where the four churches will gather together to celebrate the holiday spirit. On New Year’s Eve, there will be a service in the early afternoon focused on world peace.
A day at Lily Dale will reinvigorate you, and if you come with an open mind and heart, you may just find the answers you are searching for—just don’t be surprised from where they come.
To find more information about upcoming events at Lily Dale visit:
Lily Dale Assembly – www.lilydaleassembly.com/
City of Light Church – www.cityoflightspiritualistchurch.weebly.com/
Fellowships of the Spirit – www.fellowshipsspirit.org/
Living Spirit Church – www.livingspiritlilydale.org/
Lily Dale Spiritualist Church – www.livingspiritlilydale.org/