Family fun without a pricetag

July 22, 2011|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

I hadn't officially declared a challenge for myself.

I didn't wake up one day last week and say, "Morning, Alicia. Let's see how many amazingly cool things you can find to do around town this week that are totally free. Ready. Set. Go!"

My not doing so wasn't due to anything so adverse as apathy or a lack of ambition. I was focused on just doing what I had to do and what I am used to doing day to day. Little did I know that a mini-renaissance was lying in wait for my family, if only I'd browse the newspaper I write for or spend a few minutes doing an online search.

Then a friend, knowing I write about various social events for the paper, accidentally awakened me with a simple question.

"So, Roving Reporter… What's going on Saturday that we can take the boys to?" she posed.

Given my tendency to be a little obsessive, I shared what I knew, then searched for more.

I told her that Washington County Master Gardeners would be hosting a tour of their Four-Square Garden at the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum. Now before you go spinning the propeller on my dweebie cap of primary colors, hear me out.

A child who is unaccustomed to activities like visiting a traditional German garden on a Saturday morning might initially look at an insistent mom as if she has three heads. But once there, it's hard not to be at least a little smitten with the friendly gardeners leading the tour. Guides pointed out some crazy-looking edibles like rattail radishes and plants that can be used to make colorful dyes. Across from the garden was an amicable man baking delectable bread from scratch outdoors in a wood-fired brick oven.

Later in the week, Shafer Park in Boonsboro offered Storytelling in the Parks. Actors in full whimsical costume sang, danced and interacted with their audience. After the performance, kids explored the park, checking out the time capsule and spotting a water snake in the stream.

Friday morning, a family dance troupe performed native dances from Hawaii, New Zealand and Samoa outside the Smithsburg Library. The finale included a fire dance, during which a man held a lighted torch with his feet and blew flames from his mouth. My daughter said she had seen something like it before at Disney World.

Saturday was free games, a historical re-enactment and fireworks at Funkstown's Day in the Park. Sunday evening at City Park, Operation Barnabas shared music, puppets, drama and more. And as my family was walking out of the park, we heard spirited music soaring from the bandshell. A full band played to an audience of three people.

Attendance at a couple of these events was moderate. But audiences at roughly half of them were sparse, at best.

These events are the stuff people pay for on vacation. Yet it seems if it's in our own backyard, or if it's free, we often view it as less valuable. It's an odd phenomenon.

Given the quality of entertainment I've seen over the last week, when I hear of similar events in the future, I'll be there.

To find out about local events, check The Herald-Mail, our online calendar at or

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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