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Town History Day replaces festival

August 20, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Though the plug was pulled on this year's Sharpsburg Heritage Festival, a group is putting together a smaller-scale event to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.

With the organizers of the Sharpsburg Heritage Festival deciding to take 2004 off, the Sharpsburg Historical Society has stepped in to create Sharpsburg History Day on Sept. 18, said historical society President Denise Troxell.

The Battle of Antietam was fought on Sept. 17, 1862.

Troxell said members of the group believed it was important to have some type of event that day because returning tourists making an annual trip to the nearby Antietam National Battlefield will be expecting the traditional event in Sharpsburg.

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"We were afraid people were going to come, and there would be nothing here for them," Troxell said. "It's a nice tradition to have some sort of celebration that weekend."

Troxell said the event will have less features than the usual festival, and that many details are still being finalized. Troxell said the historical society has scheduled several lectures and walking tours, including one that will take visitors to houses and churches used as hospitals in the aftermath of the bloody Civil War battle in September 1862. She said the group also is working on a folk music concert and a large dinner.

There will be access to a history exhibit at Sharpsburg Town Hall, Troxell said.

She said Sharpsburg History Day is not designed to take the place of the Heritage Festival. Both Troxell and Mayor Hal Spielman said they are hoping this year's cancellation is not indicative of the festival's future.

"If they can't put it on because of unforeseen circumstances, I hope it would work out for next year, Spielman said. "I wished it would've happened."

Judy Wilson, secretary of the Heritage Festival Committee, said the group simply needed a year to rebuild.

"As with so many volunteer organizations, we ran out of volunteers and funds," Wilson said. "You really can't put on a festival without them."

Wilson said the committee plans to continue the event, but believed it was better not to attempt it half-heartedly in 2004.

"After so many years of being short-staffed, it takes its toll. People who've not been involved in it do not realize what an undertaking it is," she said.

The festival, which was held for 12 years in conjunction with Antietam National Battlefield remembrance events, has drawn as many as 135 vendors and more than 3,000 people in some past years.

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