'It's just the feeling you get

July 03, 2005|by ADAM BEHSUDI

A large crowd gathered again on the first Saturday in July for the 20th annual Maryland Symphony Orchestra's Salute to Independence at Antietam National Battlefield.

The following vignettes are about some of those attending Saturday's event.

Holly Parness, Frostburg, Md.

Barb Brooks, Martinsburg, W.Va.

As the afternoon sun hit the side of the hill facing the stage, Holly Parness and Barb Brooks sat chatting under a green canopy.

"It's just the ambiance," said Brooks, who has been coming to the event for about six years. "You look forward to this every year."


Parness said it was her first time at the event, but she already was impressed by the view of the battlefield. She said she was looking forward to the concert and fireworks show.

Brooks said she was amazed at the conduct of the people in past years that attended the event.

"When the people leave, it's as clean and spotless as it was before," she said, adding that most people seem to have respect when they come to the Antietam celebration.

"It's just the feeling you get coming here," Brooks said.

Louis Renda, Little Falls, N.Y.

Louis Renda was sitting as close to the stage as he could. Three empty chairs, designated for his daughters, sat next to him.

"They're into classical music," said Renda about his daughters. "They have an enormous collection of CDs and tapes."

Although there only were a few people on the stage making some initial preparations, Renda was concentrating on what they were doing.

Renda and his daughters were traveling through the area, on their way to Virginia for vacation, when they heard about the Maryland Symphony Orchestra concert. From the location of their chairs, it was clear that they came for the music.

The only thing separating them from the stage was a section of reserved seating.

"This is a beautiful area," Renda said.

Travis Fouche, Funkstown

Travis Fouche said he came out to the Salute to Independence for a "change of pace." Settled into his folding chair with his cooler next to him, he was all set to slow down as he waited out in the hot sun for the concert to begin.

"I like to get a good seat," he said.

Fouche was prepared to battle the sun with his baseball cap and sunglasses. He said he tries to come every year, and that the combination of music and fireworks makes for a good time.

Another part of his reason for arriving early was good parking, he said. Even though he thoroughly enjoys the event, he said he's no fan of waiting in the horrendous traffic.

Later on, he said he hoped to meet up with some friends that come out to the event every year just as he does.

"There's some people that come out here every year that I tend to run into," he said.

Gene Farmer, Jefferson, Md.

Decked out in a comedic, patriotic top hat, an American flag-themed vest and even American flag-patterned shoes and socks, Gene Farmer was ready to celebrate the Fourth of July.

"Nothing better than Antietam," he said.

Under a canopy, elaborately decorated with American flags and streamers, Farmer had arranged the stockpile of coolers his group of 20 people had brought. He said the large wagons with big, knobby wheels that sat to the side could haul 400 pounds.

"We march out the way the troops did," he said.

Having attended the event for nearly 12 years with his family, Farmer said he not only was impressed by the concert and fireworks, but the family atmosphere.

"This is what the Fourth of July is all about," he said.Hunt and Peg Harding, Hagerstown

Families lugging coolers and chairs made their way toward the growing crowd on the hillside. However, Hunt and Peg Harding were happy in their spot under a large tree, not even in sight of the stage.

"We hear it just fine," Peg Harding said. "Why not be relaxed in our lounge chairs under the tree?"

The couple have attended the Salute to Independence for more than 10 years. Hunt Harding said they can be found at or near the same spot every year. He said their children and grandchildren usually know where to find them.

Relaxing under the shade, reading books and magazines, the Hardings were in no rush to go anywhere. Even after the fireworks end, they stick around until almost everyone is gone to avoid the traffic.

"We sit and do nothing for 12 hours," Peg Harding said. However, she said that was the reason they come out every year.

Carol Consoletti, Williamsport

Standing in front of the visitors center at a table of red, white and blue, Carol Consoletti was selling flags to benefit the Parent-Child Center of Hagerstown.

As people approached the visitors center, she gave out patriotic stickers with American flags on them.

"You should have seen it last year," she said.

Volunteers had placed more than 3,000 flags during the 2004 event, one for every person who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. This year, however, the group only had 260 flags standing in their "healing field."

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