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History, culture are showcased at City Park fest

September 16, 2007|by ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN - Four-year-old Dylan Pepple had peeked into the windows of the historic Jonathan Hager House on previous excursions to City Park, but he never got to go inside. His mother, Kristy Pepple, promised one day she would take him on a tour of the house, which was built in 1739.

Saturday, at the Autumn Arts Festival, Dylan's wish was fulfilled. Following his tour, Dylan spoke enthusiastically about the things he had seen.

"I liked the animal fur - buffalo fur, raccoon, deer," Dylan said.

Kristy Pepple said Dylan learned that Jonathan Hager, who lived in the house and was the founder of Hagerstown, worked as a fur trader. Dylan also was impressed by the water spring in the cellar. He called it "the big, giant hole."

John Bryan, historic sites facilitator for the city of Hagerstown, said one purpose of the festival is to provide historical awareness.

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"(The festival) is to highlight traditional craftsmen so people get a better feel of frontier life and what life was like in Hager's time," he said.

Bryan said in past years, the festival was called Jonathan Hager Frontier Craft Days and took place the first weekend in August.

This year, organizers decided to have the festival later in the year in hopes of cooler weather and to avoid conflicting with other summer festivals, he said.

In addition, the festival expanded from the grounds of the Jonathan Hager House and Museum to include activities and events at the Mansion House Art Gallery, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and Hagerstown Railroad Museum, all of which are situated at or around City Park.

"We want to give people a better idea of what art and culture is available here in Hagerstown," Bryan said. "City Park is a wonderful site. It's a wonderful place for families to spend a day or a weekend."

John and Bobbie Stine of Chambersburg, Pa., took their daughter, Abbie, 6, to the festival. Abbie said her favorite part of the event was the petting zoo, especially the bunnies.

Elizabeth Cuthbert, 49, of Hagerstown, took her daughter, Hannah, 8, and Hannah's friend, Serena Seiler, 9, also of Hagerstown, to the event. As they traveled from one activity to another, the girls encountered Chas Rittenhouse, an actor dressed as Hagerstown icon Little Heiskell.

Rittenhouse provided a living history lesson, teaching the girls that a replica of the 1796 Little Heiskell weather vane stands atop City Hall in Hagerstown, while the original sculpture is on display at the Hager House Museum.

Following a demonstration of cooking split pea soup and corn muffins over an open hearth, re-enactors Doug Claytor and Michele Smith relaxed on a park bench listening to the live Americana music of Voxology. Claytor, 52, of Frederick, Md., said he thought the festival expansion went well.

"This has been a wonderful community event," Claytor said. "I think the other activities and the music, etcetera, really brought people out. And people were very interested in what we were doing. The combined efforts were very successful."

John Bryan said festival attendance in previous years has ranged between 6,000 and 10,000 people.

"We expect even more for the expanded festival," Bryan said.




If you go



What: Autumn Arts Festival

When: Today, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: City Park, Hagerstown. Events will be held at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Mansion House Art Gallery, Hagerstown Railroad Museum and Hager House in the park.

Call: 301-739-8393

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