Mountaintop Heritage Days bring people to former Army base

June 27, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

CASCADE -- The former Fort Ritchie Army base breathed new life Saturday as hundreds of people gathered there for the annual Mountaintop Heritage Days festival.

Nina Rouzer, a member of the One Mountain Foundation, the organization that sponsors the event, said Mountaintop Heritage Days began four years ago as a way to bring people back to Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., which drifted into a fog of obscurity when Fort Ritchie closed in 1998.

"When Fort Ritchie closed, we lost a lot of people," Rouzer said. "Businesses came and went."

Saturday's festivities kicked off at 9 a.m. with a parade, which was followed by a 5K walk/run. Throughout the day, event-goers had the opportunity to enjoy helicopter rides, participate in games and watch Civil War re-enactors camp near the lake at Fort Ritchie.

It seemed most of the people, however, came for the arts and crafts.

Rouzer said 22 vendors participated in the event when it started four years ago, compared to about 100 vendors this year.


Among the peddlers who sold everything from dog biscuits to homemade furniture was Ron Benedict, owner of the Carolina Cigar Co. of Hagerstown.

Benedict said he recently bought a Carolina Cigar Co. franchise and intends to sell his wares at events such as Mountaintop Heritage Days until he finds a permanent site to open a store.

Benedict said business was pretty good Saturday.

"We've done very well," he said. "I'm not making thousands of dollars, but we're doing OK."

Bill Carter, vice chairman of the One Mountain Foundation, said perhaps the most important aspect of the event is the Child Identification Program.

The program offers parents the opportunity to have their children fingerprinted, photographed and swabbed for DNA. Those services, which are provided free of charge, could be used to help identify a missing child.

Carter said organizers are trying to persuade more teenagers to participate in the program.

"They're afraid to do it because they're embarrassed," Carter said. "A lot of kids -- especially teenagers -- get (abducted)."

If you go

What: Mountaintop Heritage Days

When: Today, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Fort Ritchie, Cascade

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