Russian officials tour Hagerstown

April 27, 2010|By ERIN JULIUS
  • Valery Serdyukov, governor of the Russian Federation Leningrad Region Administration, answers questions from media representatives Tuesday in front of The Maryland Theatre.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer,

HAGERSTOWN --The governor of a Russian region toured Hagerstown on Tuesday afternoon, specifically the Arts and Entertainment District, as an example of downtown revitalization.

"I'm impressed with the renovations, especially the school of arts and university," Gov. Valery P. Serdiukov said Tuesday afternoon through an interpreter.

Serdiukov is governor of the Leningrad Region.

Maryland is a sister state to that region, according to Ardath Cade, chair of the Maryland-Leningrad Sister-State Committee.

The governor and other Russian officials will tour areas in Prince George's, Howard and Montgomery counties in Maryland, and be hosted by Gov. Martin O'Malley at the Government House in Annapolis, Cade said.

The Russian officials expressed an interest in seeing revitalization efforts and small-city tourism, Cade said.

"Hagerstown stands out as a small city with a wonderful revitalized downtown focused on the arts," she said.

Most cities don't have Hagerstown's cultural resources, such as The Maryland Theatre, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and City Park.


Serdiukov and two vice governors ate lunch at Bulls & Bears with local officials, including Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Elizabeth Morgan, superintendent of Washington County Public Schools.

The group's first stop was The Maryland Theatre, where Executive Director Jay C. Constantz told them a bit about the theater's history.

Bruchey then added that scenes from the Nicolas Cage movie "Guarding Tess" was filmed there.

The group then went to the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, where they got a view of the city from a fourth-floor deck and watched a performance by modern-dance students.

Morgan last year visited St. Petersburg as part of the Maryland-Leningrad sister-state program. Education professionals attended an international youth forum in Russia.

For her, the trip debunked a lot of myths about Russia. It is trying hard to be a good consumer society, and programs such as the sister-state exchange help open it up to the world, she said.

The group then went to the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, where spokesperson Erin Harman gave a brief history of the building.

It was a tavern in the 1790s, she said.

The Downtown Hagerstown Visitor Welcome Center was the last stop on the walking tour.

While there, the governor said through an interpreter that Hagerstown seemed to offer a "quiet, nice, slow pace of life."

In the Leningrad Region, there are many cities about the size of Hagerstown, Serdiukov said. He was interested in seeing the way of life and attempts at economic development, he said.

The renovations were impressive, the governor said.

"Because you are using those buildings for the people, for the children," he said through an interpreter.

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