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Salute to Independence a grand feast of music, food and patriotism

July 03, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
  • Spectators shade themselves with colorful tents and umbrellas Saturday in front of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra stage at the 25th annual Salute to Independence at Antietam National Battlefield.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

25th Annual Salute to Independence photo gallery

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Living up to its reputation as one of Washington County's grandest events, the 25th annual Salute to Independence was no small, cozy affair.

Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent John Howard stood on a stage and looked out over a sea of people, blankets, lawn chairs and American flags. He welcomed "30,000 of our closest friends."

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra was rich in sound and symbolism as it played patriotic favorites, starting with "The Star-Spangled Banner."

MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze sang, and the crowd sang along. A crane hoisted a massive American flag up from behind the stage.

"Tonight is the night to stand up and wave our flag and sing out loud," Howard said.

The 58th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade from the U.S. Army National Guard in Maryland fired M-102 105mm howitzers, the same sound Salute fans heard later as punctuation marks during Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture."

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The bright, hot afternoon settled into a blueish-pinkish hue and cool, evening air. Darkness and a fireworks display were on the way.

The festive day kicked off long before the concert began at 7:30 p.m.

Many people arrived hours early to spread out a blanket or tarp or set up a tent on the battlefield where, 148 years earlier during the Civil War, America experienced its bloodiest day.

People tossed Frisbees, played cards, read books and chatted. Some simply sat and sunned.

Ann Marie Fisher of Williamsport and her mother, Patsy Kenealy of Westernport, Md., planted themselves in the shade not far from Sharpsburg Pike, away from the growing crowd, late Saturday afternoon.

Fisher said she her husband, R.L. Fisher, and their children were out in the sun. The family would reconnect by concert time.

Fisher called it "a very wholesome family event."

With the temperature in the high 80s, a long line waited in front of the Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co. food and beverage stand. Snow cones and other cold items were selling well.

Other Salute fans came prepared with their own meals.

In their customary spot by the fire hydrant outside the visitors center, the Howard-Folse-Goodie group enjoyed a feast.

The menu included prosciutto with asparagus and cream cheese, roasted shrimp and homemade cocktail sauce, gazpacho, tuna salad and rolls, and Provenal potato salad.

They sipped Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio wine and looked forward to toll house cookies and lemon bars for dessert.

"We always picnic like this ..." said Terri Folse of Springfield, Va. "We love to celebrate food and we love to celebrate each other."

Sharing the sumptuous meal were her husband, Tom; her sister and brother-in-law, Denise and Frank Howard of Laytonsville, Md.; and Terri's and Denise's mother, Jacky Goodie of Dumfries, Va.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., said he first attended the Salute to Independence in 1991, as a candidate for Congress. He has been back each time and sits close to the stage.

"What really impresses me is the quality of the people that come," Bartlett said. Tens of thousands people leave the battlefield in good condition.

Bartlett wore a hat identifying him as one of the many volunteers who collect money from the audience.

"We try to have more in our bucket than anyone else," he said.

Darren Dattilio of Hagerstown said he likes the Salute because of the symphony's American classics and the fireworks finale.

Dattilio and his wife, Chris, sat high up the hill, at the back of the crowd.

They arrived about 7 p.m. They parked on Sharpsburg Pike and rode their bicycles about three miles to the battlefield.

"We'll be out long before anybody else," Darren Dattilio said.

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