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Concert, poetry reading to be held at Antietam

April 06, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

SHARPSBURG - A national conservation group will hold a public concert and poetry reading at Antietam National Battlefield in June that could draw as many as 6,000 people, officials said Tuesday.

The Orion Society will hold its millennium conference at the National Conservation Training Center northwest of Shepherdstown, W.Va., on June 21-24, said Laurie Lane-Zucker, the society's managing director.

Lane-Zucker said 20,000 invitations to the "Fire & Grit: Working for Nature in Community" conference have been distributed.

Pete Seeger, the Paul Winter Consort and songwriter David Mallett are among the possible performers, but they haven't been confirmed, Lane-Zucker said.

Speakers during the week-long conference will include Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt; Robert Hass, Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry from 1995-97; Wendell Berry; Barry Lopez; and Stephanie Mills.

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The Great Barrington, Mass.-based nonprofit group hasn't received its special use permit to use the battlefield yet, but the event will take place, said Park Superintendent John Howard. The group's application complies with U.S. Park Service requirements, making permit approval an administrative formality, he said.

The theme of the conference is "Community, Spirit and Sacrifice." The theme of the June 24 concert will be "sacrifice."

"The whole idea is to come to a place that represents what the theme is that evening. The idea of sacrifice, what better place to come than Antietam?" Howard asked.

The concert and poetry reading will be held behind the visitors center less than two weeks before the Maryland Symphony Orchestra holds its Independence Day concert in the same spot on July 3, Howard said.

The area can rebound from heavy foot traffic quickly with grass growing back in one to two days, he said.

The Orion Society formed in 1991 out of the ideas generated by Orion Magazine, one of two environmental magazines the group publishes, Lane-Zucker said.

The society has 7,000 individual members and 150 organizational members. Its web site is at www.orionsociety.org.

The society is a network for grassroots environmental groups and an environmental education organization, awarding fellowships to teachers from grade school to college, Lane-Zucker said.

While several of the conference's events will be for members only, nightly outdoor readings at the training center Monday through Thursday, and an art installation on Monday, June 21, will be open to the public, Lane-Zucker said.

Those invited are being asked to bring a stone from home to put in the art installation at the training center as a symbol of gathering, he said. Training center and society officials haven't decided if the art installation will be permanent.

The outdoor reading schedule has not been finalized, but participants will include Berry, Hass, Lopez, Rick Bass, Peter Matthiessen, Terry Tempest Williams and Ann Zwinger, Lane-Zucker said.

Society officials are asking those invited if they are interested in extending the conference through Friday by holding an outdoor music and reading festival at the training center, Lane-Zucker said.

Seven hundred registered participants are expected to attend the conference at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's training center, said Steve Chase, chief of facility operations.

Since the 540-acre residential training campus along the Potomac River can lodge only 150 people, about 400 participants will stay at Shepherd College and the rest will stay at area hotels, Chase said.

This will be the biggest event yet for the training center, which opened in 1997, he said.

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