Barge Bash recalls Hancock's century-long canal history

June 15, 2011|By TAYLOR ECKEL |
  • Tom Rokisky steers his company's entry, "Banana Split," past spectators on the canal bank in the 2008 Barge Bash.
Herald-Mail file photo

HANCOCK — Every summer, Hancock residents gather at the C&O Canal to commemorate the town's heritage in a fun, festive atmosphere.

The ninth annual Barge Bash will be Saturday, June 18, on the C&O Canal in Hancock. Festivities will begin at 10 a.m. and the parade of barges will be at 1 p.m. Barges will travel up the C&O Canal about half a mile from the Western Maryland Rail Trail parking lot into downtown Hancock.

The Barge Bash is "a parade of true floats," said Dan Murphy, Hancock's mayor. "All the floats float!"

"(The barges) run the length of the re-watered section of the canal," explained Murphy, who has been involved in every Barge Bash and is in his third year as event organizer.

He said the barges may be pulled by manpower or animal power, but not by anything motorized. In the past, participants have used bicycles, horses, mules and dogs to pull their barges.

Murphy said the event is centered around the old bridge over the canal that connects the towpath and the Rail Trail. In addition to the barge parade, there will be a one-mile Bash Dash race, historical presentations, vendors, food, live music and an awards ceremony.

This year's Barge Bash is sponsored by the Hancock Arts Council, the Town of Hancock and the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

"The barges themselves are often built for kids because they're comedic or very colorful," he said, "The Arts Council always has some sort of off-the-wall barge."

In the past, the Arts Council barge has even been accompanied by walking musicians, he said.

Murphy said there are typically 10 to 12 barges in the parade and upward of 500 people attend the event.

The Arts Council awards prizes painted by local artist Mike Kligerman to the barge parade participants. Murphy said the awards include Most Creative Use of Materials, Most Visually Stimulating, Most Historical, Best Use of Sound/Music and Most Sea-worthy.

Murphy said the event is family-friendly and a celebration of history and community.

"It's kind of a link back to our heritage on the canal, but it's fun," he said.

The C&O Family Reunion is one part of the festival aimed at remembering the history of the canal.

Murphy said local historians and guest speakers will tell stories about the history of the canal. The public is invited. The C&O Canal National Historical Park and the Department of National Resources will also be involved with the C&O Family Reunion. The reunion is from 11 a.m. to noon at Little Tonoloway boat ramp, downtown Hancock.

There will also be mules on location to demonstrate the historical role of mules on the canal and to give mule-drawn wagon rides.

This will be the second year that the Washington County Recreation Department will host the Bash Dash in conjunction with the Barge Bash. There is a $6 fee to participate in the race; pre-registered participants are guaranteed a T-shirt. Registration for the Bash Dash will open at 9 a.m. at the Hancock Middle-Senior High School.

If you go:

WHAT: Hancock Barge Bash

WHEN: 10 a.m. Saturday, June 18

WHERE: Western Maryland Rail Trail Parking Lot, off of Main Street in downtown Hancock.

COST: Free.

CONTACT: Call 301-678-5622

MORE: To register for the Bash Dash, go to The pre-registration for the Bash Dash opens at 9 a.m. and the race starts at 10 a.m.

The Herald-Mail Articles