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Thousands brave heat for Chambersburg's Celebrate! The Arts at Old Market Day

July 19, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- A sweltering heat wave in downtown Chambersburg was not enough to stop 15,000 people from dedicating the fountain at center square in 1878, and it was not enough to stop thousands more from flooding downtown on Saturday to Celebrate! The Arts at Old Market Day.

Temperatures soared into the mid-90s for the 22nd annual event, and while the crowd felt smaller than in years past, organizers said having less people was more of a blessing than a curse.

Less can be more, said Kathy Leedy, director of communications for the Greater Chambersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

"I remember years when the crowd was so big, you couldn't get to the booths to see what was for sale," she said. "Today was not overcrowded and people have been really browsing the vendors."

Celebrate! The Arts at Old Market Day is part of ChambersFest, a two-week festival commemorating the day that downtown Chambersburg was burned -- July 30, 1864 -- and celebrating its rebirth. It features regional crafters, food vendors, artisans, musical acts, dancers and actors.

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Tina Flohr, coordinator for the Downtown Business Council, said she scheduled about 200 vendors to sell everything from old-fashioned soda pop and crab cakes to purses and furniture at the event.

Flohr, Leedy and Sarah Weikert of the Council for the Arts formed the trio of organizers who worked since January planning, booking and coordinating to turn the busy highway intersection into an old market.

Despite being the trio's first time organizing the event, very little changed from the celebration last year, and if the crowd had anything to say about it, not a single thing should change for the future.

Mike Czarka of Chambersburg and his English springer spaniel, Wilson, venture downtown each year to meet friends, enjoy the entertainment and eat "good food," and for Wilson, great leftovers.

"I can't think of a single thing they should do differently," Czarka said.

Jan White of Chambersburg said the event is about as good as it can get. The only way to make it better would be to have it every weekend, he said.

Chamber President David Sciamanna said it can be difficult for a town to not only host an event as large as Celebrate! The Arts at Old Market Day, but to keep thousands of people coming back year after year.

"It is hard to sustain an event, grow the event and keep the town enthusiastic about coming for more than 20 years," he said. "The 22 years of this event (are) a testament to the spirit of volunteerism in Chambersburg."

Flohr said if anyone has suggestions for Celebrate! The Arts at Old Market Day 2009, they may contact her at the Downtown Business Council.

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