Memorial Day holiday kicks off summer fun

May 28, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE and DAVE McMILLION | and
  • Justin Blum of Williamsport dives into the pool at Marty Snook Memorial Park in Halfway on Monday.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

People jammed into parks and swimming pools and — despite scorching heat — others fired up grills, jumped on bicycles and turned out at favorite fishing spots during the unofficial start of summer on Memorial Day.

Several orange cones blocked the entrance into Greenbrier State Park at about 1 p.m. Monday because the park was at its capacity, a park ranger said.

Dan Spedden, park manager for the Maryland Park Service, said the park, popular for its camping and lake, regularly fills up over Memorial Day weekend.

“Nothing seems to affect our attendance except the weather,” he said. “Every year it just builds, and gets higher and higher.”

Greenbrier sold out all 165 of its campsites for the three-day weekend and twice sold out 570 parking spaces for lake users, Spedden said.

When at capacity, the park can accommodate 600 to 800 campers and up to 4,000 people in the lake area, he said.

“People are attracted here for the swimming more than they are for anything else,” Spedden said.

People retreated to the park as the mercury climbed to a high of 89.9 degrees at 4:41 p.m. in Hagerstown, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer’s website at

The Weisgerber family from Catonsville, Md., and the Jones family from Sykesville, Md., were at Greenbrier for a stop on their “Park Quest,” a state program through which families sign up as “teams” to tour 23 state parks across Maryland and do various activities.

At each stop, teams have certain “quests,” such as hiking, biking, kayaking or geocaching, Amy Weisgerber said.

Weisgerber’s team included her husband, Brian, and children Karis, 10, Ethan, 9, Kelyn, 6, and Andrew, 5.

“There’s a whole bunch of things to do,” she said, adding that it’s the second time that “Team Weisgerber” has participated in the program.

It was so busy at Potterfield Pool on Frederick Street Sunday that more than 20 people waited in line to get inside the pool gates at about 2 p.m.

Vickie Barnhart of Hagerstown was standing in line with her daughters and granddaughters. She said it’s the family’s tradition to come to the pool on opening weekend.

“It’s Memorial Day,” Barnhart said, with a towel in hand and wearing dark sunglasses to shield her eyes from the bright, hot sun. “Need to start it off right and enjoy the cold water ... when we get in.”

Inside, kids flew down the long, twisting slide while others ran and jumped in from the sides. New this year, a tandem slide is on the far side of the pool.

Kristin Van De Geer of Hagerstown said she and her family had to wait about 30 minutes to get into the pool.

With her sister visiting from New Jersey and mother in from Pittsburgh, Van De Geer said the group would have gone swimming at Hagers Crossing, where she lives, but the pool wasn’t open yet.

Along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Williamsport, people walked along the canal, fished and took in the sights.

Paul Sweeney of Greencastle, Pa., was there to relax, but he was thinking about his family’s role in the military, too.

Sweeney was in the military, as were his father and grandfather, and he talked about how his father was shot down in World War II and taken as a prisoner of war.

“It’s a lot of emotion,” said Sweeney, who became misty-eyed while recalling the stories.

Sweeney said he has nine children and even more grandchildren. But instead of hanging around home Monday, Sweeney said he and his wife, Debra, decided to let the kids grill some hamburgers there while the couple headed to the C&O Canal.

The Sweeneys sat on fold-out chairs under some shade by the Cushwa Basin and enjoyed the sights, which included an airboat periodically passing by on the Conococheague Creek and Potomac River.

“Today, we decided it would be our day,” Sweeney said.

A short distance from Sweeney, Tyler Schaffer, 20, of Hagerstown, was trying his hand at fishing in the canal. Schaffer said there are sunfish, bass and catfish in there, adding that he usually fishes in the nearby Potomac River.

Schaffer said he did not have any vacation plans this summer and will probably end up fishing a lot when he’s not working at his Sam’s Club job.

“I got a small boat and I like to take that out when it settles down (in the river). I catch some pretty good catfish generally,” Schaffer said.

Nica Sutch of Williamsport and her boyfriend, Todd Nicarry of Greencastle, were out enjoying the scenery along the canal. Sutch said she and Nicarry decided to take a walk along the canal because she did not have any electricity at her Hopewell Road home.

“And I was supposed to have a cookout,” Sutch said.

At Hagerstown’s City Park, April Ball of Hagerstown was carefully laying steak, hamburgers, corn and chicken on a flaming grill. Ball, who was planning to eat in the park with her two children, said she will “probably go to a beach somewhere” later this summer for a vacation.

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