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Wagon train celebrates National Pike history

May 21, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - About once each year, they can count on cars to slow down while driving past their home on what is commonly called "death curve."

Kevin and Teri Collins, who live in the 9000 block of Old National Pike, said for 19 years they have watched a procession of horses, mules and wagons make its way to Boonsboro. They sat in lawn chairs Sunday afternoon with a video camera fixed on nearly 60 horses and 22 wagons.

"It's peaceful," Kevin Collins said. "It's the only time the cars don't go ripping by."

Cars driving east on Alternate U.S. 40 slowed to about 10 mph while passing the line of horses and wagons.

The group of 100 riders were part of the 19th annual National Pike Festival and Wagon Train. Washington County is the only Maryland county to celebrate the 300-mile route with an authentic wagon train and other activities, according to event coordinator Laura Bowman. She is president of the James Shaull Wagon Train Foundation Inc., which sponsors the event.

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The procession began Friday night in Clear Spring and ended more than 30 miles away Sunday afternoon in Boonsboro.

Two hundred years ago, National Pike became the first federally funded highway in the United States. Bowman said volunteers undertake the living history to capture what it was like to travel on the highway in 1806.

"I'd really love to travel that way," said Yulonda Renner of Hagerstown.

She and her husband, Lee Renner, waited along Alternate U.S. 40 for the wagon train to pass. They said each year they bring his father, Howard Renner, to see the procession.

"We catch them in one place or another," Yulonda Renner said.

The wagon train made stops Sunday at Ravenwood Lutheran Village in Hagerstown, the Auction Square Complex in Boonsboro and Shafer Memorial Park.

Steve Blash of Hagerstown and his family watched the wagon train at Ravenwood Lutheran Village with resident Jeanette Pearce.

"It sounded like a nice thing to do," he said.

Blash was there about 10:30 a.m. with his wife, Michele, and their daughters, Madeline, 5, and Carlin, 4.

The girls said watching the wagon train was like a scene from "Little House on the Prairie."

"(They) didn't want it to end," Steve Blash said.

Pat Keyser, who lives near Ravenwood Lutheran Village, said she walks her three dogs past the community twice each day. On Sunday, Keyser said she was a little late and was surprised to see the procession of wagons and horses.

"The dogs were quite excited," she said of Max, Mandy and Scamp. "It's the first time they've ever seen real live horses."

Bowman said the wagon train made two unexpected stops on the way to Boonsboro to make repairs to some harnesses.

"We fixed it, then kept going," she said. "Just like the pioneers."

Bowman said some special events are being planned to commemorate next year's National Pike Festival and Wagon Train, which will be the 20th annual event.

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