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Old Market Day attracts a crowd

July 20, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

The activity on Chambersburg's square Saturday was markedly different from the events of 139 years ago.

Then, the crowd of people gathered in the streets had fled their homes, salvaging whatever valuables they could as Confederate soldiers burned the town. On Saturday, families strolled the closed downtown streets eating, laughing, shopping and enjoying the bright sunshine during Old Market Day activities held in conjunction with the annual ChambersFest.

For the past 17 years, ChambersFest has commemorated the burning of the town, the only northern town destroyed during the Civil War, and celebrated the spirit of those who rebuilt it.

As many as 20,000 people - more than three times the population of the town when it was burned - were expected downtown for Old Market Day, which predates ChambersFest by four years. More than 175 craft vendors and 40 food vendors participated.

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Most of the food vendors set up shop around Chambersburg's distinctive Memorial Fountain.

Festival-goers stood in line to buy gyros, oysters, sweet potato fries, butterfly fries, charcoal-roasted pork, crabcakes, flounder, lo mein, grilled vegetables and other treats. People seemed to enjoy being able to walk where traffic normally roars through town.

A storyteller, unicycle riders and several musicians entertained the crowd. People shopped at stands offering rugs, furniture, doll clothes, candles, birdhouse, clothing and many other crafts.

Market Day was a time for families, with the streets around Chambersburg's beautifully landscaped square full of strollers, dogs, wheelchairs and scads of small children.

A popular attraction was G. Elston "Jerry" Brown of Lancaster, wearing a top hat and holding Django, his Capuchin monkey. Django wore a colorful outfit with a hole in the back for her long, graceful tail. She daintily took money from people's hands, dropped it into a cup then either shook hands with or kissed the patron.

A few children allowed Django to sit on their shoulders and pose for a picture.

Django is 12, which is "about like a 24-year-old human," Brown said. Asked if he had trained Django, he replied, "She's training me."

Elizabeth McCurdy, 7, of Newville, Pa., stood very still while Django sat on her shoulder. The Newville Elementary School student said it was the first time she had held a monkey.

"It felt too soft," she said.

Elizabeth attended Old Market Day with her sister, Emily, and their grandmother, Shirley Donnelly of Shippensburg, Pa.

One of the most colorful stands was Igor's Russian Art Gallery, from Scranton, Pa. Hand-painted wooden eggs, matryoska (nesting) dolls, wooden Russian Fairy Tale boxes and pisanky egg necklaces sat beside brightly painted figurines of sports stars and Russian leaders.

A few blocks east, the Cumberland Valley Model Railroad Club opened its Nelson Street clubhouse to the public. By mid-afternoon, about 140 people had visited the large displays of HO scale, N scale, 027 and standard gauge model trains in elaborately landscaped settings.

Leah Wolfinger, 5, and her brother, John, 2, stood transfixed at the child's-level display near the front of the building. Leah wore a purple headdress with flowing metallic streamers.

"This is also made for grownups," she said. "We ate ice cream," she said of her time at Old Market Day with her mother, Karen Wolfinger. "And we ate melted ice cream."

Railroad club treasurer Bill Long said the 30-member club meets once a month, but members come in more frequently to work on their displays.

William Kyle of Blairs Mills, Pa., has a large setup that includes a model of the building he uses for his drafting business and several Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicles. The Vietnam veteran said he helped to test the vehicles in 1972 when he was in the Marines, driving them in high surf in Hawaii. They were used in Desert Storm, he said, and several appear at the end of the movie "Jurassic Park 3."

The club will hold a flea market next Sunday at the Scotland Community Center on Main Street in Scotland, Pa.

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