Floating fun

Colorful barges cruise C&O Canal

Colorful barges cruise C&O Canal

July 15, 2007|By TAMELA BAKER

HANCOCK-The S.S. Minnow, replete with the full roster of castaways, embarked on a new adventure Saturday in Hancock.

But their quarter-mile trip down the C&O Canal was a little more brief - and a lot less tumultuous - than the three-hour tour that shipwrecked the crew on Gilligan's Island.

The Minnow - or a small replica thereof - was one of eight vessels competing in the fifth annual Barge Bash, sponsored by the Hancock Chamber of Commerce, partnering with the National Park Service. The event celebrates Hancock's history as a stop along the C&O Canal, and gives residents an opportunity for a little hometown celebration. Festooned "barges" are pulled down a portion of the canal, just as mules pulled the real things when the canal was in commercial use.

Spectators gathered early to get a good vantage point, chomping on hot dogs and snow cones while waiting for the race to start. A small dog chomped on its leash. Phil Edwards, of nearby Warfordsburg, Pa., put some finishing touches on the Hancock Arts Council's entry, which celebrated the long-standing, albeit sometimes bumpy, friendship between the United States and France.


Saturday was, after all, Bastille Day, the day of French independence.

"We usually have a party," Edwards said.

Lots of ideas were floated for the boat, he said, including a Marie Antoinette with a detachable head.

"But it was decided that was a little outr," he said.

English translation: Excessive.

Something less than international friendships inspired CNB Bank's "Banana Split" entry.

"I was actually looking through a book and saw a banana split," said Trudy Bowman of Hancock. Bank President Tom Rokisky traveled up from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., to pilot the boat. Bowman said the plan was to have those pulling the boat along the canal move "at a leisurely stroll so we don't sink our barge."

But branch manager Carolyn Clingerman was unconcerned that the boss might end up in the drink.

"He likes to sink," she said.

Preparations for the Barge Bash had been going smoothly until Friday, when the National Park Service halted a sandblasting project because debris was found floating in the canal, Hancock Mayor Daniel A. Murphy said. But by Saturday, the water was clean again and ready for the race.

As Murphy, who skippered the Minnow, spoke, the rest of his team was busy deciding who would ride on the barge and who would pull.

"I'm Mrs. Howell, and I'm just too rich to pull," said Carolyn Pelton of Warfordsburg, who toted a parasol and was dressed to the nines.

Everybody wins

As in other years, the judges included several local legislators - Sen. George Edwards, R-Washington/Garett/Allegany; Del. LeRoy Myers, R-Washington/Allegany; and Del. Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany - and Dennis Weaver, clerk of the Washington County Circuit Court. This year, every barge entered won a prize.

The fastest was Hancock Boy Scout Troop 15's "Pontoon-N-Paradise," which featured a Hawaiian theme and live fowl. Team member Devon Mitchell, 12, of Hancock, said the group had wanted to call it the "ghetto barge" because "all we used was duct tape and rope."

Most authentic was the Hancock Lions Club's "One Mule Team," which carried Carl Pelton of Warfordsburg and his grandchildren, Colleen, Elizabeth and Cole Hixon, ages 9, 8 and 6, of Clear Spring.

"Best Use of Humor On or In a Barge" went to Pittman's Liquor's "YabbaDabbaDo," with a crew dressed as the Flintstones. "You know, you look like you just came across the border," Kelly told barge captain Herb Golden.

The banana split entry took "Cutest Barge" honors, and "Most Memorable Barge Tow Team" went to C&O Bike Patrol and the National Park Service's "Troubled Bridge Over Water." The Interfaith Service Coalition's "Wild, Wild West," which had some navigational challenges, was named "Best Organized Theme."

Though there was a category for "Ugly Barge," the judges (politicians all ...) decided none of them were ugly, and so awarded two judge's favorites - to "Bastille Day" and "Gilligan's Island," sponsored by Daniel A. Murphy Veterinary Practice.

Coordinator Penny Pittman, president of the Hancock chamber, said festivities would continue through the afternoon and into the evening, with free swimming at Widmeyer Park and fireworks after dark.

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