Crowds elect to pack town for Canal Days

August 24, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT - With music to hear, grilled food to sample and craft booths to browse, the crowd at C&O Canal Days on Saturday passed on the most democratic choice: signing up to vote.

After 3 1/2 hours at the voter registration table, Dee Mayberry and Barb Flath could report only one customer.

Unfazed, the women sat and chatted about Boss Tweed and New York City's Tammany Hall political machine of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their conversation was inspired by a recent viewing of Martin Scorsese's movie "Gangs of New York."

Mayberry, a member of the Washington County Republican Central Committee, said she didn't expect many people to register Saturday since Canal Days was in its third day. Besides, it's not an election year, added Flath, who is with the League of Women Voters.


But Mayberry had fun talking to voters, anyway.

She said some people think they must vote for candidates representing their own party - Republicans voting only for Republicans, for example.

"I try to explain that in a general election you are a free agent," Mayberry said. "You vote the way you jolly well feel like it."

Aside from the registration table, people came to Canal Days early and they came often.

They packed Byron Memorial Park, where they had their pick of scores of craft, food and miscellaneous booths.

They strolled in the hot sun down Potomac Street to Cushwa Basin and the C&O Canal to hear about geology, to fish or to hear the Stoney Creek Bluegrass Band play under a big, old shade tree.

Elissa Slayman, the festival chairwoman, said 128 vendors signed up, but four didn't make it.

"Everybody seems pretty happy," she said.

Lonnie Jenkins of Hagerstown, who has had heart bypass surgery, was glad to be inside the air-conditioned Community Building at the park, working on his latest painting.

Using a photo he took of two deer at Yellowstone National Park as a guide, Jenkins carefully scratched his canvas with a razor blade to highlight the form of the trees.

Jenkins, who teaches at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, said he has created the official Canal Days poster for about 11 years. This year's, a scene from a nearby cemetery, is based on a photo by a friend, Charles Payne.

Not far from the registration booth, Lisa Shobe of Clear Spring and Diana G. Mullenix of Falling Waters, W.Va., talked about natural aromatherapy, vitamin supplement, skin care and nutrition products.

The company they represent, Arbonne International, only sells safe and beneficial products, the women said.

Using some skin care products could be more harmful than smoking cigarettes because they contain mineral oil, a derivative of crude oil, Shobe said.

Mary Lou Layton of Frostburg, Md., whose business is "Timeless Treasure Crafts," put her most unusual product out front: sock banks. She had a series of tube socks on which Layton had written, in glitter, "Sock it Away." One sock bank was $7, two were $13 and each additional one cost $5.

"It's a small gift to put in with other gifts," Layton said as she sat in the shade with her husband, Junior. "It's something that anybody can use."

Judy and Bob Dahlhamer of Hagerstown also caught eyes with their yo-yo balloons. They're made of a rubber five times thicker than standard balloons and must be inflated with a pump, Judy Dahlhamer said. Each one is filled with water, which gives it heft.

The couple demonstrate the snappy toys for hours at a time at festivals. Judy Dahlhamer said they sell well, too.

"This is the reason why: It's only a dollar," she said.

For half that amount, Kevin Barnhart bought a chance to "Dunk a Sophisti'Cat." Members of the Williamsport High School show choir, the Sophisti'Cats, took turns in the dunking seat.

Barnhart, 8, grabbed the first ball and tossed from about 12 feet away. He fired the next from 8 feet, then from 6 feet, then 3 feet. Whoosh. Each missed.

As his mother, Trixie, watched, a determined Barnhart darted the last few steps and shoved the target, dumping Sophisti'Cat David Ritchey into the drink.

Ritchey, who is entering his senior year, talked a bit of trash to competitors, questioning their aim. Showmanship adds to the fun, he said.

The water was refreshing, said Ritchey, who had just come from his job at Hagerstown Ford. He said he plans to join the U.S. Air Force after high school.

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