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Rain dampened enthusiasm during the Sharpsburg Heritage Festival

September 17, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

SHARPSBURG, Md. — A few of the many yard sales lining Main Street during the Sharpsburg Heritage Festival Saturday morning turned into porch sales.

Rain dampened the enthusiasm of those who ran yard sales and concession stands, and there were a lot fewer of them in town than if the sun had been shining.

Plastic bags, sheets and tarps became the order of the day as vendors tried to protect their wares.

"We usually do a good business ... when it's not raining," said Kathy Gustafson, who, with fellow members of the Sharpsburg Church of the Brethren at 123 E. Main St., huddled under canopies to protect their homemade ham and bean, chicken corn and vegetable soups, chili and baked goods.

"It'll stop," Gustafson said as she watched the rain. "God's on our side. He will not let us fail. We have too much good soup to fail."

The skies began to clear by early afternoon.

The day's activities opened at 10 a.m. when the Rohrersville Cornet Band marched down Main Street to the tune of "The Colored 400 Cake Walk." When band members reached the square, they went directly to their tent, got organized and jumped into their concert, which ended with "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Sharpsburg Heritage Festival Inc. was formed in 2010 to take over the festival from the Sharpsburg Historical Society, which had been running it in recent years.

The festival goes back 19 years, early on through the efforts of a small group of area residents, and later by the historical society. It got smaller as the years went on until 2007, when it wasn't held at all.

The historical society sponsored two small festivals in 2008 and 2009.

The newly incorporated group took over in 2010. This year's brochure says the festival is held to "welcome family, friends, neighbors and visitors to share this unique celebration of family and community heritage."

More than 80 vendors applied for booth space this year, nearly double the number in 2010, said Meredith Poffenberger, secretary of the festival committee.

Five contestants were busy cooking their recipes for the Dutch Oven Cook-Off.

Hungry patrons had a wide choice Saturday at booths run by local churches, the local fire and EMS departments, Lions Club and Little League. There were dozens of vendors selling crafts.

There also were historic military displays, book signings by area authors Bob O'Connor and Tom Clemens, and groups including Friends of Tolson's Chapel, C&O Canal Association, Washington County Soil Conservation, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Civil War Preservation Trust and Potomac Valley Audubon Society.

Sharpsburg's history dates to the 1730s, when Joseph Chapline, colonist and businessman, opened a trading post. According to local history, in 1763, "Chapline converted the area around his Trading Post into what was to become the first town in Washington County" on land deeded to him by Horatio Sharpe, Maryland's colonial governor.

The town came into national prominence after September 1862 following the Battle of Antietam.

The 150th anniversary of the battle will be Sept. 17, 2012, and members of Sharpsburg Heritage Festival Inc. already are gearing up for next year's festival, a two-day event that will partner with Antietam National Battlefield, Poffenberger said.

"This is a practice run for next year," she said.

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