Sharpsburg loves a parade

May 24, 1997


Staff Writer

SHARPSBURG - Flags were waving, bagpipes were playing, and traffic was bottlenecked shortly after noon on Saturday as visitors descended on Sharpsburg to join residents in the town's 130th annual Memorial Day Commemoration, the oldest in the nation.

For hungry patriots, the town served up a parade featuring retired U.S. Navy Adm. C. J. Rorie as grand marshal, a band concert followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the War Memorial in Town Square, and a memorial ceremony at Antietam National Battlefield.

On Saturday, Sharpsburg was a melting pot of old and new. Civil War soldiers who walked the streets were videotaped by people in modern garb. Main Street was lined with vendors. Some sold war memorabilia, while others from as far away as Baltimore hawked everything from balloons to cotton candy.


The streets were also lined, with adults and kids waiting for the annual parade to begin.

Gene Rowe, of Hagerstown, attended the memorial commemoration with his 25-year-old son, Sean Rowe, of Boonsboro.

"I've been coming here to the parade since I was born," Gene Rowe said. "It's a strong tradition."

"I've been coming to this all my life," Sean Rowe echoed. "Like my father said, it's just plain tradition."

Jeff Merriman, who lives south of town, said he has been coming to the parade for four years. "My daughter plays ball here, and my wife helps do the float for Sharpsburg Elementary School," he said. "I'm a T-ball coach. This is for the kids. You've got to do it for the family thing."

Pam Barnhouse was walking toward Main Street with her daughter and grandchildren. "We're going to find a place on the street to sit for the parade," she said. "We've been coming here for seven or eight years. I like the parade itself. And the grandkids like the parade."

Debbie Artz of Hagerstown was armed with a video camera. It was her first time at the parade. Her 12-year-old daughter, Megan, was marching with the rifle unit of the Springfield Middle School band. "I guess you could say this is a Kodak moment," she said.

A half-block away, 88-year-old Charlotte Davis sat on her front porch on Main Street, dressed in Civil War era garb. She would be riding in the parade.

"I made this dress in 1963 for the 100th anniversary of Sharpsburg," she said. "I was teaching school at the time. They told me I had to have a centennial outfit on, so I made this."

U.S. Army Col. Larry Crockett of Springfield, Va., who works at the Pentagon, was heading back from Antietam Battlefield with his Doberman, Emma, when he noticed the traffic jam at Sharpsburg and stopped to see what was going on.

"I never miss a good parade," Crockett said.

George Spielman, of Pleasant Valley, said he has been coming to Sharpsburg on Memorial Day for 25 years. "I wouldn't miss the parade," he said. "I love the bands."

Spielman wasn't disappointed. It was a beautiful day for a parade.

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