Barge Bash is 'nothing but fun'


HANCOCK -- It's not every day you see a 15-foot fire-breathing dragon making its way down the C&O Canal.

The dragon was only one among a menagerie of characters that took to the waters of the C&O Canal National Park in Hancock Saturday for the seventh annual Barge Bash.

Thirteen teams crafted themed barges from all manner of boats. Each of the vessels carried a live character or two.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, mules used to pull the canal boats along by ropes from the shore. At the Barge Bash, tow teams of two to five people pulled the boats. Many of the teams were dressed in garb relating to the barges' themes.

The Tri-State Community Health Center in Hancock sponsored "Tien Lien," the Chinese celestral (sic) dragon barge. Missy Golden, an employee of the health center, created the dragon concept. Using a flat-bottom bass boat as a base, the team constructed a dragon running the length of the boat from head to tail. The dragon was painted in fiery reds, oranges and yellows. Chinese lanterns and a gong hung from a log pagoda on the creature's back.


"I think he's gonna do great," Golden said of the dragon, just before the crew began to pull the barge.

Each member of the tow team lighted a long sparkler. One member extended a flame out to the dragon, lighting a flare in its mouth as it set sail. The crowd erupted into applause.

Hancock Mayor Daniel A. Murphy said the Barge Bash was "nothing but fun."

"There is lots of creativity. Real cute stuff, lots of historical stuff," Murphy said. "This is a great day in Hancock. We are sitting pretty."

The Interfaith Service Coalition created a barge called "Memories from Mayberry," drawing on the 1960s television sitcom "The Andy Griffith Show." The boat was decorated like a black-and-white police car. On the tow team, Hancock Police Chief T.J. Buskirk portrayed Sheriff Andy, while Buskirk's wife and daughter took the parts of Andy's love interest, Helen Crump, and his son, Opie.

Buskirk said he was happy to be part of the bash.

"It's a neat event," Buskirk said. "It's good to highlight the history of the canal. We're having a good turnout. Everyone is enjoying good food and good entertainment."

Vendors provided refreshments and The Flashbacks played old time rock 'n' roll.

The Barge Bash was sponsored by the Hancock Arts Council, the C&O Canal National Historical Park and the town of Hancock.

Sinclair Hamilton, a town councilman and chairman of the Hancock Arts Council, estimated nearly 1,000 people attended the event. He said some people did not know the Barge Bash event was going on, but stopped by out of curiosity. Some had been biking on the Western Maryland Rail Trail. One couple from Pittsburgh had planned to meet friends from Severna Park, Md., at a Hancock restaurant.

"They heard the music and stopped," Hamilton said. "The people I've talked to here are overjoyed. It's a nice small-town experience."

Hamilton said the event is part of an effort to promote tourism in Hancock.

"We've lost a lot of industry lately and we are trying to get that back on track," he said. "Tourism is another industry we are working on. We need to utilize the rail trail and the towpath. This watered section of the canal is scenic. If we get people in, maybe they will come back."

Barge Bash winners

The following were the award winners at Saturday's seventh annual Barge Bash in Hancock.

o People's Choice and best use of international colorful theme -- "Tien Lung-Celestral Dragon"

Captain: Kevin Yost

Sponsor: Tri-State Health Center

o Most finely-crafted and beautiful -- "Piece of Cake"

Captain: Carolyn Clingerman

Sponsor: Citizens National Bank

o Most elaborate and heartwarming -- "When You Wish Upon a Star"

Captain: Princess Tess

Sponsor: Athena Accounting

o Most adventurous and ecofriendly -- "Adventures in Scouting Troop 15"

Captain: Glen Smith

Sponsor: War Memorial Hospital

o Best use of entertaining sound and music -- "Country Mardi Gras Fantasy" by the Hancock Arts Council

Captain: Phillip Edwards

Sponsor: Park-N-Dine Restaurant

o Most authentically historic and educational -- "Race to the West" by the C&O Canal Bike Patrol

Captain: Gilbert Mehling

Sponsor: C&O Canal Trust

o Most humorously seaworthy -- "SpongeBob SquarePants"

Captain: Carl Pelton

Sponsor: Hancock Lions Club

o Friendliest sound and music -- "Memories from Mayberry" by the Interfaith Service Coalition

Captain: T.J. Buskirk

Sponsor: War Memorial Hospital

o Best use of natural materials and most exciting tow team -- "Hanging Gardens of Babylon"

Captain: Emily Greene

Sponsor: Petals 'N Bows Flower Shop

o Most finely crafted and seaworthy -- "Potomac's Fortune"

Captain: Jenna Hoopengardner

Sponsor: Murray Excavation and Dave Smith

o Coolest race car on water -- "Plunkard and Sons Hot Rod"

Captain: Justin Plunkard

Sponsor: War Memorial Hospital

o Most puzzling and thought-provoking -- "Backwards Betty" by the Tri-State Re-Use Center

Captain: Tim Witte

Sponsor: Dave Smith

o Scariest barge and tow team -- "Lock Ness Monster"

Captain: Mayor Daniel A. Murphy

Sponsor: Murphy's veterinary practice

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