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Odd Fellows convention meeting here through Wednesday

May 21, 2007

Members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are holding their annual statewide convention at the Best Western Grand Venice in Hagerstown, May 20-23.

Approximately 150 members and their spouses will be in attendance. The conference attendees are from lodges throughout Maryland, from Westernport to Easton.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is a fraternal organization derived from English Odd Fellows orders of the mid-1700s. Several unofficial lodges existed in New York City, but American Odd Fellowship is regarded as being founded in Baltimore in 1819, by Thomas Wildey, and the following year affiliated with the Manchester Unity. Within a few years the new American separated from the English Orders and formed the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

The Odd Fellows pride themselves in caring for the sick and educating orphans. Members are involved with the Maryland Eye Bank, Children's Hospital and the Arthritis Foundation.

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The Independent Order of Odd Fellows has a ladies' auxiliary known as the Rebekahs. Both the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs have higher branches known as Encampments and Patriarchs Militant. In recent years, women have been allowed to join the Odd Fellows and not just the Rebekahs. During the convention, Shirley Sell will be installed as the first female Grand Master in the State of Maryland.

The Odd Fellows and the Rebekahs will both hold meetings during the three-day convention. While one group is meeting, the other group will have free time to explore Washington County.

"We're very pleased that this convention chose Hagerstown for its statewide event. The CVB has helped with convention services, and other arrangements, and welcomes the Odd Fellows to Washington County," said Tom Riford, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"Several of our history buffs will be visiting Antietam Battlefield and some other historic sites," said Convention Organizer Tony Pirrone.

The convention consists of business meetings for the organization, the installation of new officers, a memorial to recognize members who have died, and a banquet.

The Maryland Odd Fellows convention is held the third week in May each year. Previous conventions have been held in Frederick, Baltimore and Ocean City.

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