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Harvest Festival spreads the Word to crowd in city

October 01, 2006|by ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN - Autumn-hued balloons, cornstalks and the sounds of live music welcomed passers-by Saturday to Hagerstown's Harvest Festival at University Plaza.

Zachery Lewis and some friends passed out Gospel tracts and talked with people who were willing to engage them. Zachery, 17, of Frederick, Md., said he wanted to be a part of the festival's mission to show the love of God.

"Some people are very receptive, and others pass by and stick up their hand. They don't want to hear anything," Zachery said.

The event began at 8 a.m. with tours of historic churches and the Christian Heritage Museum. Performances by youth groups and contemporary Christian bands, as well as children's activities including face painting and key chain-making, also were scheduled.

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Maria Weese, co-chairwoman of the event, said the purpose of the second annual festival was threefold - to praise Jesus Christ, support unity among Christians and provide outreach to the people of Hagerstown. Weese estimated that more than 200 people participated in the event throughout the day.

Jeff Martin, 20, of Woodbine, Md., who went to the festival, heard someone express disappointment that attendance might have been hindered by the rainy weather.

"As Christians, we aren't called to get a lot of people. We are just called to spread the Word," Martin said. "Anything that tries to spread the Word is a good effort."

Pastor Orpha Henderson of Trinity Bible Church in Hagerstown said she attended the festival to show her support.

"I think this kind of thing is much needed," Henderson said. "Once it stopped raining, the people started coming out. And I'm thrilled to see so many young people involved."

Fay Burke, 52, of Hagerstown, said her daughter, Tiffany, 14, saw the festival as the two rode by and asked to stop. Burke said she was glad to see the message of Christianity being shared in town. She planned to go get her grandchildren and take them to the event.

Chase Arvon, 16, of Martinsburg, W.Va., said he was attending the festival for the second time. He found out about the event on the Internet.

"There are a lot of bands coming, and that's exciting," Chase said. "They don't have this kind of thing where I live, so I usually have to go to D.C. to find something like this."

Henri Coene, 54, and his family attended the festival along with a group of people from Calvary Chapel-Cumberland Valley in Greencastle, Pa. Coene said his family relocated from New Jersey to Chambersburg, Pa., about five years ago.

"We came to be part of an outreach for Jesus," Coene said. "And (Hagerstown) is a nice town. This is the first time I've ever been in town here. Everyone has been friendly."

Miranda Brown, 27, of Hagerstown, said she was passing by University Plaza with her daughters, Lovelei, 7, and London, 3, after getting her hair done when she heard there was a Christian event going on. Brown said she is a "born-again believer," and she thought the event was "awesome."

"I believe more people should have the compassion and boldness to come where it's not always easy to do this and reach out to people," Brown said. "Jesus was always so personal. He went right to the places where people needed Him. We need to take it to people, not wait in church buildings for them to come to us."

Five churches from Greencastle to Gaithersburg, Md., collaborated to sponsor the festival. Weese said the planning committee hopes the event will become an annual tradition on the last Saturday of each September.

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