Canal Days celebrate history

Town recalls days of old

Town recalls days of old

August 25, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Matt Brower didn't expect musket fire when he set out Saturday morning for his weekly jog along the C&O Canal towpath in Williamsport.

"It's the first time I've run into a battle," said Brower, of Falling Waters, W.Va.

Union and Confederate re-enactors clashed near the towpath during several Civil War battle re-enactments staged as part of the 26th annual C&O Canal Days celebration.

Historical displays, living history, safety and nature demonstrations, live music, children's activities, arts and crafts, a barn dance and plenty of food marked the celebration held at Williamsport's Byron Memorial Park and the National Park Service's Williamsport Visitor's Center at the Cushwa Basin area along the C&O Canal National Historical Park.


A trolley was available to transport visitors between the two sites.

Union re-enactor Martin McDaniel of Williamsport was patrolling along the old aqueduct near the basin mid-morning Saturday when he spotted a group of Confederates moving in, he said.

"I hollered, 'Hold,' but they decided to open fire so I discharged my gun," McDaniel said. "We were doing some firing then."

Union re-enactor Fran Parry of Clarksburg, Md., made a quick transition from war to wedding as he prepared to renew his marriage vows to wife Elaine during a staged Civil War-era wedding at the festival.

"After 29 years, we're not going to live in sin anymore," Fran Parry joked.

The re-enactor's horses and a birds of prey display near the basin caught Jennifer Martin's attention at the festival.

"I like the animals the best," said Jennifer, 8, of Hagerstown.

Mollie Kemp, 9, of Clear Spring, who hopes to become a zoologist, was thrilled to find the Animal Planet Rescue rig parked on a hill behind the town park, she said.

The popular Animal Planet cable channel and American Humane Association partnered to create the Denver-based Animal Planet Rescue. The program features an 82-foot rolling rescue rig equipped with tools to help rescue animals from natural disasters, said operations coordinator Connor Michael of Williamsport.

"We go into hot zones and pull out animals," Michael told Mollie and other rig visitors.

Michael explained how he used a giant sling to pull exhausted horses from floodwaters during Hurricane Hugo in North Carolina. He talked about caring for the cadaver dogs that searched debris for human DNA following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City.

He told of such perils of the job as being mauled by a frightened dog he saved recently at the Rodeo-Chediski fires in New Mexico.

But rescuing dogs and snakes is easier than saving scratching cats, Michael said.

"With snakes and dogs, you control the head and you control the animal," he said. "Cats have a lot of ways to get you."

In the park below Michael's rapt audience, festival-goers checked out more than 125 arts and crafts booths and enjoyed foods ranging from country ham sandwiches and barbecued chicken to Italian sausages and Chilean entres.

Cammy Rebuck of Hedgesville, W.Va., picked up a decorative metal pumpkin like the one her mother bought earlier this month at the Leitersburg Peach Festival, she said.

Kari Smith bypassed booths of wood crafts, wreaths, candles, clothing, toys and other goods in favor of a glittering jewelry bin. Kari, a seventh-grade student at Springfield Middle School, combed through the bin for a Virgo zodiac charm.

Hagerstown resident Dewey Harvey's first stop was the Williamsport United Methodist Church's homemade ice cream stand. Harvey and Marion Jones of Williamsport stayed cool at the hot outdoor festival by polishing off dishes of vanilla ice cream topped with fresh peach slices.

Church men and youth group members make and sell about 180 gallons of ice cream at C&O Canal Days, Youth Director Ronnie Bragunier said.

The South Mountain Coin and Relic Club displays in the park's air-conditioned community building beckoned Civil War buffs. Club members and friends displayed artifacts ranging from bullets, badges and belt buckles to soldier photographs and other personal memorabilia.

Tim Bowers of Mercersburg, Pa., was especially proud of the collection of Civil War-era relics he inherited from his great-great uncle, Union soldier Joseph Forsythe, he said.

A glass case at Bowers' table contained such items as Forsythe's discharge papers, Bible and wallet full of papers dating to 1851.

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