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Voices from the Salute to Independence

July 04, 2009

Mike Carmichael

Kearneysville, W.Va.

Carmichael, 70, and his dog, Maxwell Macdermit Macdough, were at Antietam National Battlefield early Saturday to stake out a good spot.

"My wife and I have been coming to the concert here for years," Carmichael said. "Just recently, she became ill, and we couldn't make it out here the past few years. So this is our first year back since then."

Finding a good area early was important to Carmichael for more than one reason.

"We needed a good spot that wasn't too far to walk to or too far from the bathrooms," he said. "We really enjoy the concert and want to be able to see it. It's just nice to get out and be around people who are relaxing and enjoying themselves."

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Despite the draw of the fireworks, Carmichael said he was there to enjoy the music, first and foremost.

"It's sad that people come out here mainly for the fireworks show because I'm one of those people that really wants to hear the concert," he said. "I'll be that person shushing everyone who's talking through it."

Nicola Larsen

Maryland Symphony Orchestra production manager

As the battlefield grounds became flooded with blankets, tarps and people, Larsen, the production manager of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, prepared the stage for Saturday night's concert.

"I've been doing this for five years now," Larsen said. "They started putting the stage together a few days ago, and now the sound guys are here setting that up."

Larsen said she enjoys going to every performance of the MSO, including the concert at Antietam.

"The battlefield is so beautiful, and the history here is amazing," she said.

The orchestra is made up of 70 musicians with a variety of instruments playing each piece.

"I got into this job because I love musicians," Larsen said. "The music is thrilling, and tonight's show will be amazing."

The MSO was to perform patriotic anthems, including "Armed Forces Salute," "1812 Overture" and "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Stephanie Fox

Fredericksburg, Va.

Fox said she and her family traveled Saturday to Antietam National Battlefield to see the fireworks and the concert.

"We have family that lives not too far from here," Fox said. "They always tell us about how great the show is, so we decided to make the trip this year."

For their first year at the battlefield, the Fox family was aware of the early-bird rule.

"We got out here pretty early and we're waiting for the rest of the family to meet us here," Fox said. "They are bringing a cooler with some food."

The family does not claim any traditional Fourth of July routine, but Fox said she was ready to see the fireworks.

"This is the fun part of the Fourth of July," she said. "Seeing the fireworks is the best part. The symphony is a nice thing, too."

Robby Waddell

Riva, Md.

Hannah Hensley

Edgewater, Md.

Saturday was Waddell's first time at Antietam National Battlefield's Fourth of July event.

"My girlfriend dragged me here," he said. "By my feet, but not really."

Waddell, 17, said he was looking forward to the show, especially the concert.

"I absolutely do like classical music," he said. "I kind of grew up with it. My dad listens to a lot of classical."

The show was supposed to be "amazing," with really good music, Waddell said.

"I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "The weather is nice out, so it should be a good show. I can't wait to see the fireworks, either."

When told about the other 20,000 people who likely would attend the event, Waddell said he might feel a little claustrophobic.

"Well, 20,000 other people haven't shown up yet," he said. "We'll see when they get here."

Monique Evans

Hagerstown

Evans stood under a red, white and blue tent Saturday.

"We're out to gather donations to send care packages to the troops," said Evans, 47. "This is an organization called the Ripple Effect, which is part of DC International and works with Operation Shoebox."

This is the first year the organization has set up during the Salute to Independence, she said.

"We heard there was an event going on and we still had time, so I just made a phone call," Evans said. "We're at a battlefield, so with that military aspect, they worked hard to get us here."

She said a small donation from the organization went to support Antietam National Battlefield.

Chief Ranger Ed Wenschhof

National Park Service

For the past 16 years, Wenschhof has been helping organize the Salute to Independence.

"We always have around 20,000 people show up, but since this year is the Fourth of July, I expect many people will be going around to some other firework shows as well," Wenschhof said Saturday.

A large part of the celebration is at the end of the day, when people are leaving the park.

"At night, it's harder to see, even though we have some lights around the park," Wenschhof said. "Flashlights really come in handy, and it takes around an hour to an hour and a half for everyone to get out of here."

The busiest time of the day is between 4 and 7:30 p.m., Wenschhof said.

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