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Rain keeps crowds, but not enthusiasm, down at festival

May 25, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The rain-muddied grounds of Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park were covered with patches of hay for the start of the annual Halfway Park Days on Saturday, but the mess didn't deter festival-goers who said nothing would keep them from coming back every year for the event's traditions and crafts.

Tiffani Wehrle, 22, of Hagers-town, said Halfway Park Days is a family affair.

Her family gave Slate Braxton Eichelberger, 6 months old, his introduction to the event Saturday.

His grandmother, Jan Love Wehrle, 50, of Hagerstown, pulled out a recent purchase, a crafted ornament made of wood and twine, with Slate's name written on a soccer ball.

She said the family has to come to festivals like Halfway Park Days to get items personalized for Slate because he has an unusual name.

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It's customers like the Wehrles who keep vendors coming back to the festival.

Louella Lewis, 45, of Hagers-town, who was selling country crafts under a tent, said she has been selling items at the event for the past 15 years.

This year's event, carried on through intermittent showers, dampened her spirits.

"The crowd hasn't come all day," she said.

Her next-door neighbor vendors agreed.

Marlene Burns, 58, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., has sold items at the festival for the past four to five years. This year was the worst because the constant rain over the past week had saturated the grounds. She invested in straw to sprinkle under her tent to keep customers from slipping on the mud.

Vendor Connie Cramer, 54, of Hagerstown, said, "They all ate first, and when the sun came out they started shopping."

Vendor Tracey McDowell, 32, of Frederick, Md., said she tries to make the best of the rainy conditions she said she's endured over the past seven years at the Halfway Park event.

"It either rains one day or both days," she said of the two-day event. "Last year was a torrential downpour."

McDowell, who owns Dragon's Dreamcatchers, paints faces. In bad weather, she said, "I have the kids hold umbrellas."

Andrea Robison, 7, was sporting a face-paint masterpiece.

"It's supposed to be a koala but it looks like a cat," she said. She still liked the design, she said.

Tiffani Wehrle said, "We look at all the crafts together, run into people we know and just make a day of it."

Karen Startzman, 38, of Hagerstown, peeked into her bag of purchases - a wind chime, caramel corn and a sand toy.

"Crafts are neat because it gives you a lot of ideas about what you can do," she said.

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