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Big events planned for Tourism Month

May 03, 2007|by TOM RIFORD

May is Tourism Month! There are an incredible number of opportunities for visitors and residents alike to enjoy Washington County.

Museum Ramble

Washington County History Week is May 1-6, concluding with the fourth annual Washington County Museum Ramble. Don't forget that the Ramble is this weekend - Saturday May 5, from 1 to 5 p.m., and Sunday May 6, from 1 to 5 p.m. The Washington County Association of Museums and Historical Sites and the CVB are sponsoring the Museum Ramble to provide a sampling of some of our county's more than 30 local museums.

Please discover our museums - if you've never been before, or re-visit some of your favorites. Many of the museums participating in the Ramble are opening especially for this weekend event.

The Museum Ramble will again be a self-guided tour. Most of the participating museums will be opening their doors free of charge! Maps and directions to all the sites, as well as complimentary light refreshments, can be obtained at the Visitor Welcome Center at 6 N. Potomac St., Hagerstown. Not only are visitors invited to view museum collections and learn about the various unique features of this extraordinary county, but most of the organizations have also planned special surprises! More information about the Ramble can be found at www.marylandmemories.org.

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Tourism Week

May 12-20 is National, Maryland, and Washington County Tourism Week! This annual event is sponsored by The Travel Industry Association of America, where hundreds of cities and towns across the nation promote greater public awareness of the powerful economic, social, and cultural impacts of travel and tourism through local events and celebrations. In Maryland, the week includes special observances throughout the state. Come to the Downtown Hagerstown Visitor Welcome Center to learn more about the many events and activities in Washington County.

The tourism industry is important for our local economy. Visitors spent more than $237 million here last year, and more than two million people visited our county (not including the millions of shopping visits!). This year, our local hotels continue to report healthy occupancies, and the CVB is optimistic for a great 2007.

According to the state's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, there are about 6,000 Washington County employed in the local tourism industry, approximately 10 percent of the workforce.

Pike Festival and Wagon Train

An event which brings positive national attention to Washington County is the annual National Pike Festival and Wagon Train. This year's festival runs from May 18-20. For more information about the annual festival, see www.nationalpikefestival.org. The CVB is a proud sponsor of this event.

There is a great list of activities for this year's wagon train. The event starts in Clear Spring, with an overnight wagon train encampment that's open to the public. On Saturday, the wagon train travels along U.S. 40 past Wilson's General Store, and if the weather cooperates, it will pass right over the historic Wilson Bridge. That's a sight to see! The wagon train stops in the afternoon in Hagerstown's City Park, and then encamps at the Ag Implement Center on Wilson Boulevard. On Sunday, the wagon train continues to roll toward Boonsboro, stopping at the Ravenwood Retirement Community, Auction Square Complex, and then ends at Boonsboro's Shafer Memorial Park.

Thanks go out to all the volunteers and organizers who make this event happen. I've been invited to ride on one of the wagons, and I truly feel that it's similar to going back in time to when the National Road brought settlers west through our county. It's an annual event that celebrates our history and heritage.

C&O Canal National Historical Park

I was very pleased that the Washington County Delegation voted unanimously to support the beginning of the repair to the only break in Maryland's largest national park. The effort to repair the broken part of the towpath at Big Slackwater is predicted by the National Park Service to bring an additional 58,000 visitors to Washington County annually, and an annual estimated additional $2 million of local economic impact.

The positive economic impact is outweighed only by the importance of safety. With more than 30 people injured and transported to area hospitals while cycling on the detour during the last five years, it's important that the towpath be restored. The dangerous detour includes narrow shoulderless county roads, and is heavily traveled by vehicles.

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