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C&O Canal Days 'like a homecoming'

August 28, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

WILLIAMSPORT - Like many area fairs and festivals, C&O Canal Days has country crafts, funnel cakes and fund-raisers for local charities.

But mostly, it's a place for people to meet and catch up on old times.

"It's like a homecoming," said organizer Elissa Slayman.

People who have moved away from this small town along the Potomac River plan their vacations around the celebration, which continues today at Byron Memorial Park and the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

Linda Seiple, 38, of Hagerstown and Tracie Weaver, 31, of Clear Spring, who used to work together at Washington County Hospital, hadn't seen each other in more than a year when they ran into each other at Canal Days on Saturday.

It was a nice day for seeing long-lost friends, Weaver said.

Everyone in town contributes something to the festival, whether it's money, equipment or their volunteer time, Slayman said.

"The main reason we work so hard is because we want the community to have something to enjoy and be proud of," she said.

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Slayman couldn't estimate the crowd, but said past festivals drew 10,000 people if the weather was as good as it was Saturday.

A spinoff of the town's Bicentennial celebration in 1976, Canal Days features 120 craft vendors set up under tents at the town park selling dolls, dried flower wreaths, handmade jewelry and woodworking.

Capitalizing on the Beanie Baby craze, a Maugansville crafter made a wooden stand with holes to display the stuffed animals.

Joyce Maurer, 33, comes to the festival every year from Baltimore to start her Christmas shopping.

"It's good to get away. It's beautiful and I love it," she said.

From the craft show, festival-goers can take a 50-cent trolley ride to the C&O National Historical Park, where there is music, historical displays and Civil War re-enactors.

Joan McCusker, 59, of Clear Spring, enjoyed a snowcone on a shady hillside along with her sister, niece and great-nephew, who all live in Pittsburgh.

"I look forward to this every year. I get to see neighbors and friends I go to bingo with," McCusker said.

The craftspeople seem to have fun as well.

Susan Weaver of Front Royal, Va., and Sandy Renner of Stephens City, Va., were lucky to have their booth under a shade tree.

"The people are very friendly and it's a large crowd," said Renner, who makes lapel pins and other crafts.

It was the first big festival they've done and they spent 12-hour days last week preparing their inventory.

Each year, Canal Days organizers pick a charity to receive proceeds from tip jar sales at the festival.

This year, the money will go toward the purchase of a camera that will allow Williamsport Volunteer Fire Co. firefighters to find people in smoke-filled rooms.

At this summer's carnival, the fire company raised about $9,000 toward the $20,000 purchase, Slayman said.

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