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Dancing and memories wrap up mountain festival

July 02, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - The third and final day of Mountain Top Heritage Days split activities between the main corner of Blue Ridge Summit and the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base in Cascade, Md.

Visitors were encouraged to board shuttle buses that took them from the modern-day craft and food vendors in Blue Ridge Summit to the 1940s-style events at the base.

Under the theme "Swinging into Summer," dance demonstrations and oldies music begged picnickers to tap their feet by one of the former base's lakes. Popcorn and pit beef were served during the "old-timers softball game" honoring The Summiteers.

Inside, displays offered a preview of the Fort Ritchie museum in early development stages for the house once used by both the chaplain and captain.

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"The idea is to not only depict the history of Fort Ritchie, but the entire Summit plateau," said Becky Dietrich, a former post historian who told visitors more about the displays.

She talked with people who remembered post events and those whose relatives were based there. Models with tiny figures showed the mock German village established on base, the method by which ice was delivered and the construction of stone houses.

Before the Maryland National Guard established its camp on the site in 1926, one of the southernmost ice operations was run on the lake there for years.

"I found these pictures with the horse teams," Dietrich said. "The horses that could walk the straightest scored the ice."

When the ice was at least eight inches thick, 50 to 100 men earned $1.35 to $1.75 a day harvesting and storing it with the Buena Vista Ice Co., according to a plaque near the lake.

A World War II reunion had been planned with the day's activities, but some of the veterans said they would have difficulty making it out, said Lynn Ford, a member of the Mountain Top Heritage Days organizing committee.

Carl Maxwell, of Pleasant Hall, Pa., did travel to Fort Ritchie, although he didn't have a connection to the base. Instead, Maxwell served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Quincy.

"I was there for the signing of the Japanese surrender," Maxwell said.

The heavy cruiser also transported President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he said.

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