Volunteers work is 'fair'

April 25, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

BIG POOL - Choosing vacation time for many people involves calculating the best weather for a cruise or a week at the beach or, perhaps, the most advantageous snow conditions at a favorite ski resort.

For Bob Yetter, the key factor in his vacation choice is finding out when the Fort Frederick State Park Market Fair will be held each spring.

A volunteer interpreter at the park, Yetter doesn't just show up for the event, he throws himself headlong into the 18th century with his attire, his lifestyle and even his address for the four-day event, which ended Sunday.


"I want people to get a sense of history - where we come from and how we got here," Yetter said. "Places like Fort Frederick are treasures, and I want to convey that."

Yetter, 57, is a research scientist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A Georgia native and U.S. Army veteran, Yetter is a graduate of Emory University and earned his master's degree at Georgia State University and the University of Florida.

While living in Atlanta, Yetter said he was surrounded by history, mostly from the Civil War era.

"I began going to Revolutionary War sites in New Jersey and New York even then," Yetter said.

When he went to Washington, D.C., to work for the National Institutes of Health, a friend told him about Fort Frederick.

The first glimpse of the huge fort was an emotional experience for Yetter.

"I came down that road and saw the fort - it was just spectacular," he said. "This fort is one of the best-kept secrets in Maryland."

Fort Frederick State Park is 18 miles west of Hagerstown and one mile south of Interstate 70 near the Big Pool exit.

It was built by the Colony of Maryland in 1756 to protect its western boundaries. The exterior walls are 355 feet from bastion point to bastion point. Its stone wall is about 18 feet high and at least three major buildings originally stood inside the wall.

"What grabs you is the size ... it is immense," Yetter said. "I've never been to one this impressive - this is the stone French and Indian fort."

Over the years, Yetter has encouraged some of his colleagues to journey west to see it. Activities abound for adults and children at the Market Fair each year.

"You can see and touch a structure built hundreds of years ago," Yetter said. "And it's so close to us here."

Yetter joined The Friends of Fort Frederick State Park Inc. and has attended nine previous Market Fairs.

"I'm part of the trade committee in the group," Yetter said.

As such, he helps oversee the vendors and the sutlers who set up their wares at the park.

For the four days of the fair, Yetter's temporary residence consists of a tent next to the souvenir shop at the park. He cooked on a small brazier and was dressed in clothing styled for the period.

The group participates in re-enactments and other activities that support the park. There is a newsletter and online members from near and far, Yetter said.

"Eventually, we want to end up with the fort looking the way it was when it was in use," Yetter said. "We're always trying to bring it back."

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