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Barges to float on C&O for Hancock festival

June 11, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - The only people who could remember barges on the C&O Canal in Hancock would have to be more than 80 years old, since that all came to an end in 1924.

But during this weekend's second annual Hancock Days Outdoor Festival, a new generation will have a chance to recapture a bygone era as Barge Bash 2003 takes to the historic waterway.

"This year, the Barge Bash is really going to be something," said Hancock Town Manager Larry Logan. "Last year, the big attraction was a parade."

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While the barge event will be Saturday at 1 p.m., the three-day event, sponsored by the National Park Service, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, and the Hancock Chamber of Commerce, gets under way Friday.

Visitors interested in the outdoors can bike the C&O Canal towpath or roller blade on the Western Maryland Rail Trail, according to Kathy Sholl, public affairs assistant with the C&O Canal.

Park rangers will conduct guided tours of the area, including a Hancock Canal Heritage walking tour on Friday at 4:30 p.m. and a bicycle tour on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m.

Throughout the weekend, outdoor theme exhibitors and French and Indian War and the Civil War re-enactors will provide glimpses into events and lifestyles of the past.

An antique car show will be held Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. at Widmeyer Park.

At 1:30 p.m. Sunday, the dedication of Major James Breathed Park on Main Street will be hosted by the Hancock Historical Society.

At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, a plaque will be dedicated at the Barton House, now Secret's. The renovated National Pike Tollhouse, half a mile past the high school, will be dedicated at 3:30 p.m.

Penny Pittman, president of the Hancock Chamber of Commerce, said Logan brought the idea of the barge races to the table because of his experiences with a bathtub race in Frederick. "But we all worked together on this idea," Logan said.

Pittman said the portion of the canal adjacent to Hancock was rewatered in 1995.

Barge Bash 2003 will start at 1 p.m. Saturday and will include mini barges racing near Canal Street and vying for seven walnut barge replica trophies in categories such as fastest, most authentic, most humorous, cutest, most memorable tow team, and ugliest barge.

Judges will include Del. LeRoy Myers, Allegany-Washington counties, and his assistant, Cory Stottlemeyer; Del. Kevin Kelly, Allegany County; Lura Gerber Clingerman, a Washington County teacher; Mary Lou Souders, Do It Best Hardware; and Len Frenkil, Tonoloway Bluffs resort.

Eight barges have been entered in the competition, which Logan said was designed for a maximum of 16. "There are a couple of maybes out there that might still be ready for the race," he said.

The eight already signed up include Hott Construction, C&O Bicycle, Hancock Lions Club, Hancock Fire and Rescue, Boy Scout Troop 15, Hancock Rotary Club, Coors Silver Bullet/Triangle Restaurant and Daniel Murphy.

Sholl said the barges will be allowed on the canal on the day of the Barge Bash with National Park Service permission.

Fees paid by participants will benefit a fund for the establishment of a full-size canal barge replica to be displayed in Hancock.

Further festival information can be found on the Chamber of Commerce Web site at www.hancockmd.com or at info@hancockmd.com or by calling 301-678-5900.

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