SHARPSBURG — Preparations are winding down for Saturday’s Salute to Independence Concert at Antietam National Battlefield.
The popular annual event — which is expected to draw 20,000 people to the battlefield — features a performance of patriotic music by the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and culminates in a fireworks display.
Work to construct a stage for the performance began last week and is expected to be completed Friday, said Ed Wenschhof, the park’s acting superintendent.
Wenschhof said the event, which is in its 26th year, is one of his favorites.
“It’s absolutely wonderful, and I always look forward to this,” he said. “As long as the weather holds up, and it looks like it will, I think this will be a great event.”
The Maryland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Elizabeth Schulze, will perform famous American songs and anthems such as the “Armed Forces Salute” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
The performance will conclude with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” complete with live cannon fire.
Former Miss America, Kellye Cash, niece of the late country music singer Johnny Cash, will be a guest artist.
Bay Fireworks will put on the firework display, which is sponsored by PNC Bank, according to Greg Evans, director of marketing and public relations for the MSO.
The display will last about 30 minutes, said Tom Jones, a battlefield park ranger.
The park is expecting around 20,000 people to show up for the event, according to Wenschhof.
Because of the anticipated size of the crowd, rangers will direct parking beginning around noon, Jones said. People should expect it to take an hour to 90 minutes to leave the battlefield after the performance, according to the Antietam National Battlefield website.
For those arriving for event, the only entrance to the park will be on Starke Avenue just off Sharpsburg Pike, Jones said.
Before the concert, the entrances at Dunker Church Road, Mansfield Avenue and Smoketown Road will be closed. Dunker Church and Smoketown roads will be opened as exits after the concert.
People frequently park on Sharpsburg Pike and walk in to avoid the traffic when leaving, but Wenschhof advised everyone to park in the park if possible.
“There will be plenty of parking around the battlefield,” he said. “Regardless of where people park, it will take a while to get to and from the battlefield, but we think it's safer to park in the park.”
Shuttle buses will be available from 3 to 11:30 p.m. to take people to the event and back from Md. 34, the website said. The cost is $2 round-trip, with children under age 5 riding free.
People who want to play games are asked to do it in front of the visitors center, because there will be so many people on the field for the concert, Wenschhof said.
The Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co. and Emergency Medical Service will sell hot dogs, hamburgers, soft drinks, and water at the event. There will also be 60 portable toilets available, Wenschhof said.
The free concert will begin at 7:30 p.m., the website said. People can park and start laying tarps at 6 a.m. Saturday. Tarps placed before 6 a.m. but not occupied by 7 p.m. will be removed.
The fireworks will start around 9:45 p.m. Vehicles will not be allowed to enter the park after 9 p.m., Wenschhof said.
Antietam National Battlefield is the site of the Sept. 17, 1862, Civil War battle, the bloodiest single day of the war.