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County has much to celebrate this year

November 30, 1999|By Tom Riford

Special to The Daily Mail

This is a year of Washington County anniversaries! The Maryland Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 25th season July 1 at the Celebration of Independence at Antietam National Battlefield. Also, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts celebrates with its 75th anniversary during the weekend of Sept. 16.

Fort Frederick will observe its 250th anniversary during the weekend of May 26-28. The Fort Frederick event will include musical performances, historical re-enactments, and fireworks! Also, there will be a special groundbreaking ceremony for the Officers Quarters reconstruction project.

Our office has completed gathering information for the Washington County Calendar of Events brochure for April through September. I was truly amazed to see so many hundreds of events (these are also listed on our Web site). I learned from Kevin Moriarty. the executive director of the Washington County Arts Council, that Washington County has more "arts" events per capita than any other Maryland jurisdiction. That's impressive, and one reason why so many people come to Washington County to visit.

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The CVB has seen a real growth in the number of arts events in our county ? concerts, exhibits, shows, museum events, and more. Along with the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, there are galleries including the Contemporary School of the Arts and Gallery and Benjamin's Art Gallery, which consistently put on exhibits and shows. We've also enjoyed seeing a healthy number of other events ? including the National Pike Festival, the Museum Ramble, new hands-on exhibits at the Discovery Station, new recreational events, and many other things which attract people to our communities (and also provide diversions for our residents).

The other day, I attended a renovation ceremony for the former Schindel-Rohrer Building on South Potomac Street. This multimillion-dollar project will be finished this fall, and plans were revealed for the opening of TWO new restaurants in downtown Hagerstown. Demcore Development is investing millions more into helping Hagerstown enjoy a real renaissance, and there will be more announcements of new businesses coming to downtown very soon.

As discussed previously, tourism is up ? and hotel occupancy is at an all-time high. With two new hotels under construction now in Washington County (Springhill Suites and Homewood Suites), we'll be able to attract even more visitors. The increased number of restaurants, businesses, and attractions also means that there are more opportunities and amenities for residents, as well.

I also want to mention wonderful hotels already here. I was chatting with the venerable Nick Giannaris this week. I was thrilled at all the wonderful renovations that have been taken place at the Four Points Hotel by Sheraton Inn-Hagerstown. In February, the hotel finished a complete renovation of 69 rooms, plus an upgrade of all 108 rooms. Our hats are off to owner Nick Giannaris, General Manager Michael Callas, and the entire Four Points team!

The new rooms look great ? and the movie crew that has been here for several weeks say that the Four Points has been the best hotel that they've ever called home (They were the first to stay in the renovated rooms). The Four Points also set up offices for the movie crew, and there's been a lot of excitement with Hollywood in Hagerstown I understand that Michael Callas has a part in a movie being filmed soon.

Speaking of the movie crew ? it's terrific that a movie about George Washington has been partially filmed in America's first Washington County! (And I should always point out that near Boonsboro is the home of America's first Washington Monument!) This multimillion-dollar IMAX-style film project is for the new visitors' center at Mount Vernon. The movie project has been a positive local economic impact, during what is historically a slower time for tourism.

The film crew, and more than a hundred Revolutionary War re-enactors, filmed scenes at the C&O Canal National Park and at the famous Hillenbruck Farm near Sharpsburg. Thanks go out to Washington County's Fire & Emergency Services, the Sharpsburg Ambulance, and the Water Rescue people for being ready to provide assistance. Also, a big thank you to the C&O Canal National Park, Whitetail Resort, Hillenbruck Farm and everyone involved to help make this project happen! There are an incredible amount of details for even a fairly small movie project, and we have been very pleased to have had Washington County be a small part of it.

Tom Riford is president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He can be reached at 301-791-3246. His column appears monthly in The Daily Mail. The CVB's Web site is: www.marylandmemories.com.

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