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Old-type ways draw many to Harpers Ferry

July 02, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

HARPERS FERRY, W.VA. - America was very different in 1860 when the country was celebrating its 84th birthday. There were family gatherings, picnics, music and patriotic demonstrations to commemorate the day.

Now, as the nation gets ready to observe the 230th observance of that momentous occasion, there are family gatherings, picnics, music and patriotic demonstrations.

Maybe things haven't changed that much after all.

At Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, large crowds came from far and wide Saturday for America's Picnic Celebrating the Glorious 4th.

"We are from Salisbury, Md., and we came for my dad, who has never been here before," Terri Murrell said.

Murrell and her fiance, Tom Mathias, brought Terri's parents, Jack and Joann Williams, and all four were enjoying the experience.

"I like history," Mathias said. "And there is a lot of history here."

Jack Williams said he was glad they came for Saturday's events.

Joann Williams said she and her family toured the museums before heading off to experience the town itself and the programs set up for the holiday.

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"The museums were quite special - a lot to see," she said.

The temperature rose into the 80s by midafternoon, and while there was some fanning and seeking of shade, a steady breeze kept things relatively cool, and mercifully bug-free.

Some of the visitors still were openly wondering about the re-enactors who were wearing wool, long sleeves, and in the case of many of the ladies, crinolines.

There was a hometown band concert featuring the Wildcat Regimental Band.

Ranger-guided living history presentations with an emphasis on several Fourth of Julys from the past also were popular.

Throughout the afternoon, there were historic weapon-firing demonstrations as the town's militia showed what it was like defending the Grand Republic in 1860.

A group of ladies set up a raffle to win pies. The funds from that raffle and some other games will go toward the purchase of militia uniforms.

"I used to live here," said Jon Daugherty, who came back Saturday with his wife, Heather, from their current home in Reston, Va.

The Daughertys said they are drawn to Harpers Ferry for the hiking and the nostalgia.

"And they have great microbrews here," Jon Daugherty said.

The couple also enjoyed ice cream as they cooled off on a bench between programs.

The celebration continues today.

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