HOUSE TOURS are a unique American tradition. Nowhere else in the world will ordinary people open their homes to strangers who buy a ticket. Yes, some of the castles and manor houses of England and France can be toured for a fee. But they are not regular people's homes.
This is the season of house tours and a nice one is coming up. Six Uniontown homes and several other buildings can be toured from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The admission is $10 and all proceeds go to community projects.
"We hope to raise several thousand dollars," tour organizer Barbara Childs says. "Half of that will go toward new street lights."
When Uniontown folks talk about street lights, they do so with a passion. Some years back, they fought hard against modern exterior lights. They argued that such fixtures would be inconsistent with the community's character. Eventually, Uniontown won and got old-fashioned lampposts.
The quaintness of this hamlet will be apparent to all visitors Sunday. Horse-and-buggy conveyance will be offered from one end of town to the other.
Uniontown candlelight tours were started in 1982 to raise money to maintain two local landmarks, the old Uniontown Academy and the Victorian bank. Among this year's tour houses are two belonging to fairly new residents. Both have been painstakingly restored.
"The way we have been doing this, it feels like you're walking back into another century and I wanted to share that feeling," one homeowner said. "We wanted people to be able to see what can be done to an old house."
Uniontown is a close-knit community where everyone knows most everyone else. It takes care to maintain such traditions as a Memorial Day parade and an annual Christmas caroling party where residents gather for music-making, food and good cheer.
The candlelight tour means lots of work. "It takes almost everyone in town to pull this off, from the ticket takers to the cookie bakers, the hostesses and parkers," reports the organizer. Dividends for the community are great, though. Outsiders can see Uniontown at its best. And residents can feel proud of their hometown -- and raise some badly-needed funds for community projects in the process.