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Fort Frederick hosts 6th annual Market Fair

April 27, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

BIG POOL - Jeff Welch hides his dueling two-way radios in the handmade leather bags that hang to each side of his frontiersman garb.

That's about as high-tech as he will get this weekend, running Fort Frederick's 6th annual Market Fair and Rifle Frolic.

"The old ways are still the better ways as far as I'm concerned," said Welch, 36, of Charles Town, W.Va.

Welch belongs to a 40-member group called the Patuxents, who wear copper arm bands and organize the annual fair to celebrate life as it was on the frontier between 1640 and 1840.

About 1,600 people will participate in the encampment.

Thousands more are expected to visit the camp today through Sunday to experience a simpler time in American history.

"They can learn a lot if they leave themselves open," Welch said.

Unlike many other period re-enactors, the frontier group concentrates on civilian life rather than military.

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The participants wear a range of colorful dress. Some portray American Indians, wearing face paint and beads. Others come dressed head to toe in leather.

One of the main attractions at the fair are the sutlers, who sell everything from muzzleloaders to rabbit furs. There are also seminars and demonstrations.

For the Patuxents, the hobby is almost a way of life. One member of the group shuns computers and still uses carbon to make copies of documents, Welch said.

They have frequent gatherings and treat each other like family. When Welch's home burned four years ago, the group arrived unannounced with food and money to help him through the crisis, he said.

Welch has the responsibility of making sure the camp has enough water and wood and that the portable toilets are cleaned regularly.

The hardship is nothing like the pain and suffering people back then actually experienced just living their day-to-day lives, he said.

The fair is the largest event hosted by Fort Frederick State Park and it grows every year, said Ranger Ben Sanderson.

The camp was open to the public Thursday afternoon, but there were only a few visitors braving the cool temperatures and the threatening skies.

Perry Nelling of Mercersburg, Pa., brought his daughter, son-in-law and grandson to the fair.

"You can find anything you want here," said Nelling.

George Bayer came from Johnstown, Pa., to meet the man that built the muzzleloader he uses to go hunting.

The park will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

There is a service charge of $3 for adults and $2 for children ages 6 to 12.

Fort Frederick was built in 1756 by the Colony of Maryland to defend its western frontier during the French and Indian War of the 1750s. It has been partially restored and is considered the best preserved, pre-Revolutionary War stone fort in North America.

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