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Mountaintop Heritage Days draws thousands

June 28, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CASCADE -- It's 10 a.m. Sunday and Nina Rouzer is facing a barrage of questions, like "How far should the portable toilet be from the ice cream stand?" and "Where are the trash bags?"

Rouzer wipes a strand of hair from her sunburned face and helps coordinate setup for the final day of the fourth annual Mountaintop Heritage Days.

It took six months of planning and repeated site visits to Fort Ritchie since Wednesday to bring Rouzer and other volunteers to this point. They wanted to host a bigger and better festival than ever before, and if the number of visitors is any indication, they succeeded.

"The fact that we've had more things to do and we're in one place, people are really glad," Rouzer said.

More than 5,000 vehicles were counted arriving to Fort Ritchie over the weekend, according to Gary Muller, chairman of the festival sponsor, One Mountain Foundation.

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The bulk of events were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. A parade, Civil War encampment, kayak and helicopter rides, tours, lectures, child fingerprinting, live performance, and fireworks filled the schedules being distributed by Alice Humphrey.

Humphrey has lived on the mountain since the 1960s. She oversaw the festival's information booth, where people stopped for directions to the car show and stage.

"We had a gentleman who came from Florida. ... He said, 'I can't believe I ran into something like this,'" Humphrey said.

Giving directions was made easier this year by having Mountaintop Heritage Days at one site, rather than dividing them over Pa. 16 and Jacobs Church Road in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., as in years past. Organizers praised Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) and PenMar Development Corp. for offering Fort Ritchie as the location and donating $3,000 each for fireworks.

"We've got a bigger area than ever before," said Jamie Bowders, who served as the event's treasurer.

"We were striving to have everything here, so it could be one big weekend. ... It's a bigger crowd draw in one place," Rouzer said.

The new space allowed her to register 98 food and craft vendors.

Bowders and Rouzer have lived on the mountain their entire lives and became friends when they met through the One Mountain Foundation.

"We need to bring the life back (to the mountain). We need people to realize, yes, we're here," Rouzer said.

"We're bringing life to the base, to the mountain, period," Bowders said.

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