Festival celebrates the rest of Sharpsburg's heritage

September 19, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER
  • Sam Meroney of Hagerstown feeds part of his lunch to his dog Blizzie Saturday during the Sharpsburg Heritage Festival.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

SHARPSBURG -- Sharpsburg might be known for the its part in the Civil War, but organizers of the Sharpsburg Heritage Festival say there is much more to the small historic town.

Hundreds of people milled about downtown Saturday to celebrate the history of Sharpsburg.

"What we are trying to do here is embrace all our history," said Natoma Reed-Vargason, board president for the festival.

Living historians mingled with visitors as they enjoying barbecue chicken from the Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co., ate ice cream, browsed vendors, watched demonstrations or listened to music.

Through the last 14 years, the festival has had its ups and down, Reed-Vargason said.

It now is on the upswing, she said.

Hazel Smith has lived in downtown Sharpsburg along Md. 34 for 40 years and has seen every heritage festival.

"It's gotten smaller," she said, thinking back to the festival years ago. "It's very nice though."

Sitting on her porch enjoying the mild temperatures and the music with her sister and daughter, Smith said she liked how the festival highlights history and wanted to see it focus even more on the history of the town where she was born and raised.


History walked among visitors at the festival, including revolutionary soldiers, World War II troops, antebellum couples and a town daughter, to name a few.

It was the parasol that gave Claudia Paycheff away on Saturday.

Dressed in black and carrying a black parasol, Paycheff portrayed the late Mary Bender, daughter of Capt. Raleigh Bender, the 1800s proprietor of a town tavern and canal boat captain.

Mary Bender worked with her father on the C&O Canal, said Paycheff, a history student at Shepherd University who studied Mary Bender for a class in living history.

Few people know of Mary Bender and how as a girl, she learned to steer canal boats through the locks because one night, her father was too drunk to take the helm, she said.

Reed-Vargason said she would love for the event to continue grow.

Sponsors such as the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau together with donations and rent for vendor spaces make the event possible, she said.

The festival included a twilight tour of Antietam National Cemetery and concluded with a Candlelight Alley Walk underscored by the 2nd Maryland Fife and Drum Corps.

This year, the festival also featured a Dutch oven cook-off.

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