Canal Days pay off in Williamsport

August 24, 1997


Staff Writer

WILLIAMSPORT - Luxurious weekend weather brings success to the 20th annual C&O Canal Days at W.D. Byron Memorial Park.

A plethora of vendors - 104 to be exact - sold the standard and popular crafts of handmade rag dolls, hobbyhorses, yard art, small cabinetwork, quilted pillows and much, much more.

"It's a yearly celebration for people of the town and fund-raiser for nonprofit organizations of the town," said Elissa Slayman, the C&O Canal Days organizer.

She said both Saturday and today are designed for entertainment and serious community business.

Local nonprofit groups are selling things like raffle tickets, fried dough and sweatshirts, aiming to raise money for different community causes.


"Last year our club gave $28,000 in materials and goods to the school," said Mark Andrews, president of the Williamsport High School Athletic Boosters.

He and a team of volunteers sold royal blue and white WHS sweatshirts, T-shirts, boxer shorts and other school paraphernalia to raise money for athletic equipment, uniforms and transportation.

Andrews said the booster club is trying to fill a funding gap created by recent school budget cuts.

The Williamsport Lions Club raised about $2,000 Friday night at the ox roast that kicked off the Canal Days celebration and another $1,500 was expected in fried dough sales, said Gene Farley, club president.

He said the 450 people at the ox roast really ate roast beef. It's called an ox roast because years ago the club owned a spit and roasted an ox, Farley said, until it broke.

"We never did get that spit fixed. But we still call it an ox roast," he said.

Farley said the club will use the money to help people pay for eye exams, eye screening and to get glasses.

He also said the club will help the elderly by buying them groceries and doing repair jobs on their homes.

Country and funk

A variety of entertainment was thrown in to the mix of vendor-style commerce and local community groups raising money for good deeds.

In Byron Park, disc jockey Mike Rohrer played country and funk as members of the Hagerstown Country-Western Dance Association performed different steps and line maneuvers in the park gazebo.

Just down from Byron Park, at the bottom of Potomac Street, was a different Canal Days atmosphere. There, Williamsport Mayor John Slayman oversaw live blue grass bands, tours of the C&O Canal Visitor Center and Museum and Civil War re-enactors who set up tents along the Potomac River.

`Everyone benefits'

Slayman, who has been mayor since 1985, said his wife has organized the annual Canal Days event since the two of them, along with a small committee of citizens, petitioned the Williamsport City Council to allow the annual event.

He said the very first Canal Days started as a 1976 bicentennial celebration. It was such a success, Slayman said the committee kept it going, renaming it C&O Canal Days beginning in 1977.

"Everyone benefits from Canal Days - businesses, yard sales, crafts in the park," he said, noting that as many as 12,000 people will attend before it ends tonight.

Bluegrass seekers also benefited Saturday. Along the last hilly block before Potomac Street meets the canal, a small audience sat in sidewalk folding chairs listening to the Baxter Holler Bluegrass Band.

"They got modern stuff up there, but down here we got these boys, and they're good," said Stanley Bryson, of Marlowe W.Va., making the distinction between the DJ's music and that of the Baxter Holler band.

It escaped Bryson that the string quartet's bass player, Libby Files of Hedgesville, W.Va., was a woman.

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