Along with the Alsatia Mummers Parade and Miss Maryland Pageant, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s annual Salute to Independence in early July is an event that helps define Washington County.
The value of the concert cannot be overestimated. It mixes tourism and the local community; history and entertainment; patriotism and reverence; culture and fireworks. It attracts 30,000 people to a battlefield where nearly that many brave individuals fell in 1862.
And, like just about everything else of a public aspect these days, it is struggling financially.
MSO Interim Executive Director April Dowler said last week the symphony is $50,000 shy of the $124,000 necessary to put on the concert and fireworks display, and is calling on the public to help close the gap. We echo that call.
In the interest of full disclosure, we must note that Dowler is married to Herald-Mail Editor and Publisher John League, but that has nothing to do with why the event is significant.
Although no lives are at stake and no one will go hungry if the concert is lost, we do not view the performance as optional. There comes a time that elevated societies must recognize that great civilizations are not held aloft by highways and sewer lines alone. Stripping the public world of all that is uplifting and joyful leaves behind a dull and listless community that inspires no pride and conveys no sense of vitality.
We do recognize that public treasuries are not flush, and that parks and cultural programs are among the first places gutted by those who wield the budget knives.
But perhaps we can use this as an opportunity. For those who believe, as we do, that it was individual effort and private, not public, enterprise that made our nation great, here is an opportunity to step forward and celebrate those virtues.
Here is the chance to show that private citizens and businesses are indeed capable of rallying to causes for which public money is not forthcoming. To that end, The Herald-Mail held a web-a-thon Tuesday, streaming four hours of live video from the MSO office in an effort to help raise money.
Certainly we believe that it would be an appropriate expense for the county commissioners should they be so inclined, but we also believe that private interests should invest in an event that at its core celebrates the foundations that allow those private pursuits and acts of free will to flourish.
Admission cannot be charged at the battlefield, but a voluntary admission charge might be sent in support of the event by those who plan to attend this year or in the future, or by people who believe the concert is a valuable part of Washington County’s identity. Contributions can be mailed to or dropped off at the MSO office at 30 W. Washington St., Hagerstown, MD 21740, or made on the website www.saveoursalute.com.
Part of the beauty of the Salute to Independence is that, for an evening at least, we are a people not divided by political party, philosophical affiliation or social background. The blankets and picnic baskets are scattered throughout a people representing a large, if temporary, melting pot where all can celebrate patriotism and bask in the rockets’ red glare. Out of many, we are one. It is an ideal most worthy of our support.