Fort Ritchie hosts holiday party

July 05, 1997


Staff Writer

FORT RITCHIE - Michele Showe arrived at the Army base at 8:30 a.m. Friday to make sure they got a picnic table near the grill and the lake.

Showe, of Hagerstown, along with her friends and family spent the day at the fourth annual Fourth of July Open House at Fort Ritchie. This is the third year they have attended.

"I'm having a great time. I sent the kids to the pool," Showe said. "What's important is to get a parking spot and a grill. Last year, the fireworks ended at 10:30 and I didn't get on the road outside the base until midnight."


She said it was packed when she arrived, and that the table she got was one of the last left near the grill and lake.

"It's a prime spot near the lake because then you don't have to move for the fireworks," Showe said.

The fireworks were set to go off at 9:30 p.m. over the lake, said Harry Geesaman, community recreation director for the base. He said the base expected 3,500 to 5,000 people to celebrate with them.

"Since it's a lovely day, we're hoping to go more to 5,000," Geesaman said. "The only disappointment we've had is that we don't have boating on the lake this year. It's because of the lack of rainfall - there is a high bacteria level."

It's a tradition for one Hagerstown family to attend the event.

"We always look forward to Fourth of July at Fort Ritchie," Jan Hiett said. "We come for the fireworks, the picnic, the car show - whatever they have."

Although many who attended thought this would be the last year for the event, Geesaman said the base has planned for another celebration next year, but it depends how many people will be left on the base before its October 1998 closing.

"The new commander, Lt. Col. Francis Klepper, would like to have another July Fourth celebration, and we're planning to have one," he said. "It's planned on paper and we have budgeted for it. Maybe it won't be of the same magnitude, but we'll do the best we can."

In addition to the picnics and the fireworks, there were pony rides, a dunk tank, face painting and a car show. The classic car show featured vintage cars and hot rods that had been modified.

One Hagerstown resident, Bernie Moleskie, has been showing a car at the celebration for the past three years. He said that for the last two years he brought his 1962 Corvette, but this year he brought a restored red 1957 Corvette that he bought a few months ago.

"This was the first year in fuel injection for the Corvette. This car has never been hit and has 68,000 original miles - not bad for a 40-year-old car," said Moleskie, who works at Mack Trucks Inc. "I love to come to talk to all the other owners, especially the street rod guys, because what they do is amazing."

Although the car show is unusual and the fireworks amazing, this year's celebration had an even more unusual and amazing twist called Cow Chip Bingo, Geesaman said.

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