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Thousands salute independence at Antietam

July 07, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

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Louna Parrish wasn't born in this country, but she thinks the way America takes time to celebrate its national holidays is "awesome," she said Saturday night as she awaited the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's performance and a fireworks display at Antietam National Battlefield.

Almost 30,000 people gathered Saturday for the 22nd annual Salute to Independence, National Park officials said.

Saturday was the fourth Salute to Independence that Parrish and her husband attended, she said. The couple spent several hours walking around the battlefield and visiting monuments, time Parrish enjoyed, she said.

"We're in the heart of America's history," said Parrish, who originally is from South Africa and now lives in Myersville, Md.

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Saturday's concert was intended to help people step back and remember their history and what the Fourth of July means, said Beverly Butts, the principal clarinetist for the MSO.

Veterans from different military branches stood to the strains of their songs during the Armed Forces Salute, which was dedicated to the men and women serving in the military.

As the sun set behind the crowd, a crane lifted an oversized American flag while the MSO played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The familiar songs brought out patriotism in people of all ages.

"I like the symphony because it gets you in a patriotic mood," said Joe Reed of Smithsburg.

Reed called the fireworks "spectacular."

Teresa Martin of Clear Spring attends the event every year, she said.

She enjoys the music, fireworks and family camaraderie, Martin said.

"We support America," said her son, Austin Martin, 6. "Because I live in it."

The MSO enjoys performing the concert, which is free and open to the public, because it draws a crowd of people who don't normally see them, said Jean Inaba, a violin player.

"It's rewarding when there are a lot of people out in the crowd," Butts said.

The crowd gathered on the battlefield is by far the largest crowd the MSO plays for, Inaba said.

Parked vehicles stretched for miles on Sharpsburg Pike Saturday night, and event coordinators warned that leaving after the fireworks display could take more than an hour.

Marcia Horst of Hagerstown has attended the Salute to Independence for years. Her favorite part of the evening is when cannons are fired at the end of "The 1812 Overture," she said.

Large numbers of people do cause traffic delays, but everyone is orderly, she said.

"Don't let the crowds scare you. We're all just people out here having fun," said Marvin Horst, Marcia's husband. "Just don't be in a hurry."

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett hasn't missed the Salute to Independence since 1992, he said Saturday night.

He agreed that the people at the Salute to Independence were some of the best-behaved he had ever seen at a large event, Bartlett said.

Bartlett called the MSO's director, Elizabeth Schulze, a "talented lady" and gave her credit for a good show.

"She's really enthusiastic, and it shows," he said. "The music is better because of it."

People hoping for a good seat amongst the crowd began staking out their spots early Saturday.

Ezekiel Holt of Shepherdstown, W.Va., and his friends set out blankets to mark their territory about 6 a.m., then went home and back to sleep, Holt said Saturday night .

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