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All this and alpacas, too!

County deserves 'best place to live' ranking with its museums ranging from Rural to new Discovery Station

County deserves 'best place to live' ranking with its museums ranging from Rural to new Discovery Station

March 07, 2005|by TOM RIFORD

Washington County, already wonderful, keeps getting better!

In its Best Place To Live In Rural America category, Progressive Farmer Magazine has listed the county as Maryland's best.

The county ranked 12th best among all counties the magazine considers rural in the 13-state Southeastern U.S. region.

The county also was ranked 71st overall out of 600 rural counties across the nation, which means that our county is in the top 12 percent.

One of the reasons our county scored so well was because the magazine's editors said they looked for counties that have access to culture and shopping but are still rural with "plenty of elbow room."

The county has lots of retail and antique shopping, and we also are fortunate to have a good selection of museums, arts and entertainment.

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The Washington County Rural Heritage Museum at the Agricultural Education site on Sharpsburg Pike, just north of Antietam Battlefield, is a case in point.

When it first opened four years ago, it contained a superb display of exhibits illustrating rural life in the county from the time of America's birth until World War II. Today, it has expanded the scope of its public service. Temporary exhibits designed to illustrate different aspects of life and work in the county are mounted with regularity, from the first celebrating The Great Hagerstown Fair, to the present plans to illustrate the four seasons in the life of a farmer.

The county's Century farms will be honored by the museum this year. These farms are treasures of which we all should be justifiably proud.

There will be an exciting party when the Rural Heritage Museum opens for the season on the weekend of April 2. There will be something for everybody, from seniors to toddlers. Mark the date on your calendar. The museum promises a warm welcome and fun for all. Other special events take place throughout the year until the closing Christmas party in early December.

Meanwhile, the museum continues to grow, as planned, beyond the museum floor. Three structures have been put in place at the homestead site on the museum's grounds. You may have seen pictures of the log house being hauled into place this fall.

Meanwhile, work is proceeding toward the construction of an authentic 19th century village. A church has been acquired, which is expected to be in place by this time next year.

On Sunday afternoon, May 1, the Hagerstown Suns will play the Kannapolis Intimidators. Before, during, and after the game, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Rural Heritage Museum, and the Hagerstown Suns are planning a number of extra "rural" amusements to enhance the ballpark experience.

Included in the festivities will be animals, displays and a national championship event. Watch the news media to learn of those plans. We hope to see you and your whole family there.

The next week after that will be Mother's Day weekend - May 7 and 8. That is the weekend scheduled for the second annual Washington County Museum Ramble.

This special event is a self-guided tour of many of the museums throughout the county. Of Maryland's 300-plus museums, more than 10 percent are located in Washington County. Many of these will be participating in "The Ramble."

A good place to start the tour will be at the Visitors Welcome Center in downtown Hagerstown. Coffee, juice and goodies will be available along with maps and souvenirs. Each participating museum will have events and exhibits, especially for The Ramble.

Take your mother, the weekend promises to be fun and educational. Make sure to pick up your "WCM" button that day - which either stands for Washington County Museums or World Class Mothers. We're still deciding which.

Another illustration of how our community continues to become more interesting to residents and visitors alike is the planned April opening of an offshoot of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

The Pry House Field Hospital Museum, on the Antietam Battlefield, is an exciting addition to our inventory of amenities. Many Americans are Civil War buffs, and the social and personal aspects of battle are as fascinating as the details of the engagements.

The Pry House was General McClellan's headquarters during the 1862 battle, and the new museum will be an exciting addition to our celebration of history and heritage.

More good news concerns The Discovery Station, a new facility about to come to fulfillment in downtown Hagerstown.

The Discovery Station will be a "hands-on" center for science, technology and local history. It will be opening very soon at the former M&T Bank building on West Washington Street.

The center is for children of all ages and will offer many interactive exhibits and programs - still another reason for us to boast that Washington County keeps getting better!

There are lots of events coming up in March and April, too!

Don't forget about the Home Show at the Hagerstown Community College Athletic, Recreation and Community Center on March 12 and 13, the Flower and Garden Show the following weekend at HCC, and a new event called "Alpaca Farm Days" on March 19 and 20 at the Annapaca Farm on Md. 66 just north of the traffic circle. Several local alpaca farms are participating in the open house and demonstrations.

Bet you didn't know that Washington County has eight alpaca farms!

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