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Organizers drop market fair at Fort Frederick

July 05, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A Fort Frederick State Park official said this week a popular annual event will be scaled back next year because the event's main organizer has decided to no longer put it on.

The Patuxents, which have organized the 18th-century Market Fair and Rifle Frolic for the last nine years, told park officials on May 23 that it would no longer participate in the event.

The event is intended to give visitors a chance to experience life as it was on the frontier from 1640 through 1840.

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The Patuxents are a re-enactor group that portrays a former Calvert County, Md., Indian tribe. It had organized the event to raise money for the Friends of Fort Frederick, a park preservation group.

The fair generated about $250,000 for preservation efforts, the Patuxents said.

Chaz Rittenhouse, of Friends of Fort Frederick, did not return two phone calls Thursday.

About 1,000 people, including campers dressed in 18th-century clothing, and vendors selling frontier goods, participate in the event.

The Patuxents, in a May 23 letter to park staff and volunteers, cited "changes behind the scenes" in its decision to stop organizing the event.

Frank Davis, a Patuxent, said Thursday afternoon that it was hard for the group to find enough volunteers to put on such a large event.

In the May 23 letter, the Patuxents said they spent 5,000 hours and a full year preparing for each Market Fair.

"There's not a lot of extra help out there," Davis said.

Park Historian Steve Robertson of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said the event involved a lot of work.

"It's just gotten to the point where it's too much work for the number of people that they have," Robertson said. "Basically, they were just burned out."

"Alas, due to many changes behind the scenes over the past several years and an absolute unanimous commitment on the part of the Patuxents not to compromise the quality of any event that we present, it is with sorrow but also with conviction that we the Patuxents announce that the 2003 Market Fair is to be our last," the letter stated.

That fair was held at the end of April.

"Surely it's an event that everybody liked," Davis said. "The Market Fair was a great thing for everybody that was involved."

Robertson said the park and Friends of Fort Frederick recently decided to take over organizing the event.

He said the event will feature vendors selling 18th-century goods but the re-enactment camping will be eliminated.

Robertson said several vendors, known as sutlers, told him they made more money from people attending the event than from the re-enactors who set up camp.

Sutlers were merchants who followed armies to sell them goods.

"The sutlers told me they could do just as well as having the campers here," Robertson said. "We think that we can still be successful just doing a trade fair."

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