Heritage Area certification would be beneficial for tourism

July 06, 2006|by TOM RIFORD

Happy July! There are a lot of things happening this month and next in Washington County.

One of the things that the CVB has been involved with for a number of years is the soon-to-be-certified Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area. There was a public hearing in late June, and the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority meets to announce its decision on July 13. This new heritage area will give Washington, Carroll and Frederick counties the opportunities to access matching grants for capital or operating tourism-related projects.

The Herald-Mail called this Civil War Heritage Area program a "second chance for Downtown Hagerstown." The program presents some opportunities and the first round of grant applications includes projects in Hagerstown, Boonsboro and at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum at the Antietam National Battlefield.

Recent events

The George Washington bobblehead give-away was a big hit; thanks go to the Hagerstown Suns for letting the CVB sponsor this fun promotion. CVB board member Dan Spedden threw out the first pitch (you may have read about Dan and his family recently in Hagerstown magazine).


Our hats are off to the MSO and to the Antietam National Battlefield! The hundreds of volunteers who pulled the Salute to Independence together made it a night to remember. We're looking forward to being a part of the 22nd annual Salute in 2007!

The Miss Maryland Pageant is over for another year. What a great event it was! The Maryland Theatre has been the home of the pageant for the past 26 years, and the event has been headquartered in Hagerstown for 35 years! This pageant made national news again this year, bringing positive publicity to Hagerstown and to The Maryland Theatre.

Applause to the Venice Inn and to The Maryland Theatre, and all the sponsors and volunteers who make this event happen! The economic impact of having the Miss Maryland event in our community is remarkable. Hundreds of people came to Hagerstown during the week. I had the opportunity to not only meet Miss America, but to take the Miss Maryland judges on a tour of Washington County. The pageant is important to all of us; according to economic impact estimates the Miss Maryland Scholarship Pageant positively impacts the local Washington County economy by more than $100,000 during the week-long pageant. More than 1,000 hotel room nights are generated by the statewide event, and area restaurants, stores, and businesses share in the benefits and excitement.

Space exhibit

By the way, I attended the opening ceremony for the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) Shoemaker spacecraft exhibit in Hagerstown. Discovery Station and Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) are coordinating the first of a year-round continuing exhibit at the museum with a one-quarter scale model of the spacecraft. The spacecraft was launched Feb. 17, 1996, from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and was programmed to rendezvous Feb. 14, 2000, with asteroid 433 Eros. NEAR was to orbit Eros for a year, conducting scientific studies. The spacecraft touched down on the 433 Eros asteroid on Feb. 12, 2001, and began sending data from the surface of Eros.

The spacecraft was designed and built by Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, which managed the mission for NASA. The NEAR mission was the first comprehensive study of the physical geology, composition and geophysics of an asteroid. It's a great exhibit, and you should take the chance to go visit the Discovery Station in downtown Hagerstown.

It's been mentioned before, and it should be repeated - the wonderful amenities and events in our community make this a better place to live and to visit. Having a minor league baseball team, an accredited art museum, a wonderful symphony orchestra, the Maryland Theatre, the Miss Maryland Pageant, Blues Fest, Augustoberfest, Discovery Station, Miller House, the Rural Heritage Museum, and all the great things happening well, it makes Washington County unique and special.

We've said that there are a lot of fun family events coming up ... please check the CVB's Web site's calendar of events for more information. ALSO, the Summer CVB "Crossroads" Newsletter is posted online there, as well. Please check it out!

Upcoming events

Some of the events coming up include Smithsburg Pride Days July 15-16, the C&O Canal Barge Bash in Hancock on July 22-23, Fort Frederick Cannon Firing Demonstrations on July 22, the Ag Expo runs from July 21-28, and don't forget about the Pen Mar concerts and the Music by the Lake series, too! You can call the Visitor Welcome Center at 301-791-3246 to find out more, as well. Several August events include Jonathan Hager Frontier days on August 5-6, and the Leitersburg Peach Fest on Aug. 12-13.

There are a lot of things to see and do this summer. Visit our local parks and museums, and take in some of the fun family events. With five national parks, eight state parks, and more than 30 city and county parks to explore - parents should NOT be hearing "there's nothing to do!" Check out the Washington County Arts Council for some additional ideas, too!

Tom Riford is president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He can be reached at 301-791-3246. His column appears monthly in The Daily Mail. The CVB's Web site is

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