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Riders get ready for historic wagon train during 24th National Pike Festival

May 18, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • The Lindsay family of Greencastle, Pa., set up their 1881 covered wagon Friday night at Plumb Grove in Clear Spring during the National Pike Festival encampment.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

For the past 23 years, a horse-drawn wagon train about a quarter-mile long has snaked its way down Old National Pike from Clear Spring and into downtown Hagerstown on its way to Boonsboro.

It’s surely a sight to see, according to Peggy Mason of Martinsburg, W.Va., “because it’s something many have never seen before.”

Peggy Mason will ride with her husband, Norman, as the 24th annual National Pike Festival kicks off this morning with its wagon train ride that travels along the historic path.

The ride commemorates the commonly-used 18th and 19th century route between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge mountains, which helped Washington County play a key role in developing the western lands of the growing nation, according to the National Pike Festival website.

Standing next to his 14-year-old Percheron mare named Jill on Friday, organizer Jamie Baker, director of James Shaull Wagon Train Foundation, Inc., said they have 20 wagons and 30 to 40 horseback riders signed up to take part in this year’s caravan.

“It’s been a pretty decent year, participation-wise,” Baker said. “It’s getting harder to do this kind of thing. A lot of these guys are farmers (and) hay’s ready to make. But they come out and do it ... because it’s what they love to do.”

Peggy Mason said this will be her 23rd year on the ride, which will stop overnight today at Funkstown Community Park before moving again Sunday morning toward its final destination of Boonboro’s Shafer Memorial Park.

The ride, which will also stop at several locations along the way, is an opportunity to reconnect for all the wagon train riders, who may only see each other once a year, she said.

“It’s not all about driving,” Baker said. “It’s a big family reunion.”

Dozens of members of that family got together Friday evening at Plumb Grove mansion in Clear Spring for an encampment to get ready for the weekend ride. People were eating burgers, hot dogs and chicken corn soup as a bluegrass band provided the night’s entertainment.

Baker said most people set up camp and stayed the night before hitching up their “early 1900s tractor-trailers” in the morning and rolling toward Hagerstown.

“It’s just been a lot of fun,” he said. “As far as going downtown, that’s just incredible. I work in Hagerstown; I drive up Route 40 every day, but you’ve never seen it until you’re doing about 3, 4 miles per hour.”

The public is welcome to join the riders and their horses today as they make their way toward their camp at Funkstown tonight, Baker said.

The train will stop at Wilson Store and Bridge near Conococheague Creak about 10:30 a.m., and then at Huyett’s Crossroads about 100 yards west of U.S. 40 and Md. 63 at about noon for lunch.

From there, people are welcome to join the wagon train in the northern end of Hagerstown City Park between the Hager House and Washington County Museum of Fine Arts from about 2 to 2:30 p.m.

On Sunday, the train will leave from Funkstown at 10 a.m. and make a stop at Auction Square Market Place in Boonsboro for lunch around noon and end up at Memorial Park about 1:30 p.m.

Not to be outdone by his wife, Norman Mason said he has participated in all 23 previous rides.

The weather has been sunny every year but two, he said, and this weekend’s forecast looks sunny again.

But no matter the weather, the wagon train leaves each year rain or shine, just like they did in the early 1900s.

“Wagon trains (don’t) stop for nothing,” Norman Mason said. “It’s all history.”

If you go...
What: Overnight encampment, 24th annual National Pike Festival wagon train
Where: Funkstown Community Park on Robert Kline Way, Funkstown
When: Today, 5:30 p.m.

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