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Barge Bash attracts 'kids of all ages'

July 23, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HANCOCK - The flotation rigs towed in the C&O Canal Barge Bash Saturday were nothing like the boats Helen "Dollie" Weaver's father commandeered on the channeled waterway years ago.

Weaver, 90, recalled the day the boats were halted in 1924 and her father, Lloyd Martin, lost his job.

"That was something. That was my dad's living," the Big Pool resident said.

Growing up along the canal in the community of Ernstville, Weaver remembered the occasional fishing trips and the mules that tugged the boats, which resembled the wooden handcrafted replicas awarded to Barge Bash winners.

"I think it's wonderful," Weaver said of the 11 homemade floatable units entered for the fourth year of the town's heritage celebration.

"I thought I outgrew it," she said

Dressed in pirate costume garb, Hancock Mayor and "Capt. Dangerous" Daniel A. Murphy surely didn't.

"This is great for kids of all ages," Murphy said after he and other "Pirates of the Potomac" crew mates towed their ghost ship sponsored by his veterinary practice about 200 yards to the finish line with a long rope.

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"Capt. Cleopatra," aka Brandy Merchant-Mills of Hancock, was fanned by her slave, actually her 8-year-old daughter, Lena, while aboard "The Asp." Her 13-year-old daughter, Michaeleon, played an instrument as the ancient Egypt-themed barge and costumed entourage slowly made their way along the route.

They were not bidding for the fastest time award, which went to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," sponsored by the Hancock Lions Club.

"Cleopatra doesn't arrive quickly. She wants to make a nice, elegant entrance," Merchant-Mills said.

The group went so far as to design their own hieroglyphic, drawing images of an eye, heart, hand and rooster on fans, with the translation being "I love Hancock."

At the end of the friendly competition, the Arts Council entry crew was recognized as the most memorable barge team.

Others to win awards were "Cheeseburger in Paradise," sponsored by Weaver's Restaurant & Bakery (cutest); "Hotdog on a Bun," sponsored by Wheeler's Optical (ugliest); "The Beverly Hillbillies Do Hancock," sponsored by Hott Construction (humor); and "All Mighty Chief," sponsored by War Memorial Hospital (authenticity).

Murphy's barge won the organizational theme award.

"This is fun, small-town living," Murphy said. "It's a lot of fun for my whole staff at the veterinary practice."

The event attracted several people vying for elected office, including Kristen Cox, Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s choice as his new running mate.

Cox politely declined to pick a favorite barge entered for the event, which was sponsored by the Hancock Chamber of Commerce.

"They're all wonderful - they're all wonderful," she said.

State delegates LeRoy E. Myers Jr., Kevin Kelly and George C. Edwards; Washington County Circuit Court Clerk Dennis Weaver; and Robert Hartman Jr., deputy superintendent of the C&O National Historical Park served as judges.

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