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Thurmont preparing, cautiously, for the world

May 12, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Main Street of the town of Thurmont, Md. will be gearing up for the G-8 Summit that will be held May 18th and 19th.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

When world leaders convene this week at Camp David for the G-8 Summit, Thurmont plans to be ready.

Mayor Martin Burns said shop windows and sidewalks will be clean and the grass in the park will be mowed.

Businesses will brace for a flood of visitors, including many American and foreign journalists covering the G-8, or Group of Eight. The Group of Eight nations are the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, France and the United Kingdom.

A White House statement said the summit, to be held on Friday and Saturday, “will address a broad range of economic, political and security issues.”

One of the biggest unknowns is the protests.

Local Occupy protest movements will hold two events in Frederick, Md. But no one is sure if more aggressive, confrontational protesters will show up, as they have at other G-8 Summits and similar meetings of world leaders.

“We’re going to plan for the worst,” Thurmont Police Chief Gregory L. Eyler said.

Thurmont Police are preparing with state and county police agencies, as well as the U.S. Secret Service.

Catoctin Mountain Park, the home of Camp David, will be closed from about 8 a.m. on Thursday to about 8 a.m. on Sunday, according to the National Park Service.

Cunningham Falls State Park will be closed to the public Wednesday through Sunday. Md. 77 in the area of both parks also will be closed during that period.

The G-8 Summit originally was scheduled to be held in Chicago, but the White House announced in March that it would be moved to Camp David, the presidential retreat near Thurmont.

A NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit is scheduled to go on as scheduled on May 20 and 21 in Chicago.

It’s not clear how many protesters bound for Chicago will go to Thurmont instead.


Protests in the works

A message posted this month at a website for the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty said the group will stick to ts plan to march in Chicago during the NATO Summit.

Participants in the local Occupy protest movement have scheduled events in Frederick on the same days as the G-8 Summit.

One will be a Peoples’ Summit on Friday at the C. Burr Artz Public Library community room, with discussions about the wealth divide, ending poverty and other topics.

On Saturday, there will be a block party at Baker Park.

Gary Staples, who is part of Occupy Frederick, said he wouldn’t criticize protesters who are more forceful and angry because he empathizes, but “I just think there’s a better way.”

An Occupy G8 website, apparently connected to Occupy Baltimore, said people are planning a “legal, non-violent vigil on public sidewalks” in Thurmont. The website said Occupy G8 has rented indoor space to do media interviews.

Even though world leaders will meet at the secluded Camp David, “we’re gonna get in their faces, as close as possible,” a man said in a YouTube video about the planned protest.

The Occupy G8 website said a “Peoples’ 99% Agenda” should include universal nuclear disarmament, labels on genetically modified food and international banking reform.

Burns, Thurmont’s mayor, said the town doesn’t require permits for protests and people are free to come “to exercise their constitutional right to protest.”

But they would be “ill advised” to create trouble, he said.


An economic boost

As a Marine, Burns provided security at Camp David under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

He said he was honorably discharged after three years and three months of service.

“It was a privilege and honor,” he said. “It was the best duty station in the world.”

As mayor, he is excited about the prospect of an event with the magnitude of the G-8 Summit boosting the town’s profile and economy.

Pat Ridenour, co-owner of Thurmont Kountry Kitchen, one block from the town’s square, said she’s expecting the same high volume of business for the G-8 Summit as the 2000 Middle East peace summit at Camp David.

The restaurant seats 70 people in its main dining area. For a big turnout, as Ridenour expects next weekend, a back dining area with 30 more seats is opened.

At the Cozy Country Inn on Frederick Road, the G-8 Summit is a continuation of what the business has been for years — a stop for top government officials and journalists who cover them.

“To me, it’s just another day at work,” General Manager Vickie Grinder said.

The Cozy Country Inn has rooms named and decorated in honor of several U.S. presidents. Other rooms are named for prominent news organizations, such as The Associated Press and Reuters.

Grinder said Condoleezza Rice, Ari Fleischer, Scott McClellan and Andrew Card, from President George W. Bush’s administration, stayed there, as did George Stephanopolous, who served under President Bill Clinton.

The Camp David Museum at the Cozy Restaurant shows photos, news clippings and memorabilia from past presidential trips to the mountain retreat.

The wall for President Obama, which is practically bare, might fill up after next weekend since he will be at Camp David.

Grinder said journalists sometimes give her pictures their news organizations didn’t use.


Excitement and anxiety

While browsing through the collection last week, Donna Burch of Emmitsburg, Md., and Ann Longenecker of Woodsboro, Md., said they had a mix of excitement and anxiety about the coming summit.

Longenecker said having the most powerful world leaders in one place could make the area a high-profile target for terrorism.

But if those leaders can reach meaningful agreements, the summit would be worthwhile, she said.

Burch said Thurmont is a quiet town, usually not in the spotlight. An event this significant probably will be a memorable firsthand lesson for local children, she said.

Burch recalled helping her church cater to the press corps at Thurmont Elementary School in 2000 for the Middle East peace summit.

That was before Sept. 11, though. The constant threat of danger is higher now “and that bothers me,” Burch said.

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