Clear Spring Independence Jam is 'a big ol' picnic'

  • Reese Palkovic, 6, of Martinsburg, W.Va., watches her ball hit its target Saturday at the Clear Spring Independence Jam on the lawn of Plumb Grove Mansion.
Alicia Notarianni, Staff Writer

CLEAR SPRING -- Steven J. Kovacs was raised in a simpler time on a chicken farm.

On Saturday, Kovacs, 94, of Chambersburg, Pa., went to a Fourth of July celebration that might have reminded him of those days.

Clear Spring's Independence Jam at Plumb Grove Mansion was all about old-fashioned fun.

Small U.S. flags fluttered in the breeze along the picket fence of the restored 1831 mansion. Adults sat on the lawn listening to live music, while children competed in three-legged races, watermelon seed spitting contests and rounds of pin the beard on Uncle Sam.

Kovacs and his companion Brenda Binkley, 61, of Hagerstown, danced on the lawn, taking short breaks to rest. The two said they thought the celebration was "wonderful."

"We like that it's family-oriented," Binkley said. "We like the music and the country atmosphere."

Lori Divelbiss, an Independence Jam committee member, said that was the point of the event, now in its fifth year. Divelbiss said Clear Spring resident Margaret Cornett conceived of the celebration and gathered a committee to make it happen.


"(Cornett) envisioned an old-time, community-oriented event," Divelbiss said. "Something where everyone could come, bring a lawn chair, the kids could play and everyone would have a nice evening. Just a big ol' picnic."

Divelbiss said in past years, the celebration began at 5 p.m. and ended following fireworks after dark. This year, the committee -- which consisted of Divelbiss, David Wiles and Juanita Grimm -- moved the start time to 3 p.m. About 2,500 people attended last year's celebration and organizers anticipated at least that many this year.

Divelbiss said she was happy with the degree of community participation. School groups and teams pitched in, helping with tasks from providing drinks to directing parking. Singers from local churches provided entertainment in between scheduled musical acts.

This year, a Hagerstown church was hosting a traveling youth ministry called Operation Barnabus for the weekend. The 36-member team went to help out with children's activities at the event and provided entertainment, including skits and puppet shows.

"More and more groups and individuals are getting involved," Divelbiss said. "Anyone who has something to offer just comes to be a part of it. We love it, and we want it to keep growing."

Laura Palkovic of Martinsburg, W.Va., went to the picnic with her husband, Nick, and her children, Reese, 6, and Creighton, 17 months.

"This is really cute," Laura Palkovic said. "The kids love it. It's awesome to see the teenage kids who are willing to do all these games and things with the younger kids."

Chris Reed of Clear Spring said attending the event has become a tradition for his family. The 10-year-old was decked out in a red, white and blue tie-dyed T-shirt and a stars-and-stripes handkerchief on his head.

"I wore it special for the Fourth of July," Chris said. "My favorite part is the fireworks."

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