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Vignettes from the Salute to Independence at Antietam Battlefield

July 07, 2012
  • David Burkey Hagerstown
By Lauren Kirkwood

David Burkey

As a volunteer for the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, David Burkey helped run a raffle for MSO concert tickets and Baltimore Orioles tickets, which he said drew attendees into the shade of the MSO’s white tent Saturday afternoon.

“People hear MSO tickets, and say, ‘Oh, OK,’ and then they hear Orioles tickets and are like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll sign up,’” he said, laughing.

Burkey said he has been coming to the celebration for several years, and loves looking out over the battlefield from his vantage point up on the hill.

“I think my favorite part is just the great feeling of patriotism,” he said. “I get chills when they raise the flag over the stage.”

Brianna Cupp
Charles Town, W.Va.

Although she didn’t bring a tent for relief from the sun, 16-year-old Brianna Cupp said she was used to the season’s high temperatures by now, as she and her family have been spending a fair amount of time hiking recently.

Cupp said she’s been coming the Salute to Independence since 2004. Her family used to come with a group of friends, and after they moved out of the area, they made it a family affair.

“The fireworks are the best,” she said. “I wish they had more shade, though. The heat is to die for, hot and scorching.”

Janice Hodge
Montgomery Village, Md.

The Fourth of July just wouldn’t be the same without a fireworks display, which is why Janice Hodge said she traveled from Montgomery County to Sharpsburg for the first time to enjoy Saturday’s show.

“We didn’t get any fireworks in Montgomery County this year,” she said. “I love the cannons going off.”

Hodge said she also was looking forward to hearing the Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s concert, despite the forecast for temperatures in the triple digits.

“We decided we would tough it out, but it is certainly warm,” she said, adding sitting in the shade and eating a snow cone both were ways of staying cool throughout the afternoon.

Mike Gamble
Antietam seasonal park ranger

The sounds of the cannons and fireworks reverberating off the hills of the battlefield is one of seasonal park ranger Mike Gamble’s favorite moments during the annual celebration.

“It’s always fun, you see so many people and all the different activities they have each year,” he said. “People come prepared. They bring their havanas and their tents.”

Gamble said with an event that usually brings together at least 20,000 people, you would expect the occasional conflict, but the crowd at the salute typically is calm.

“This is a really good, family-type atmosphere,” he said.

Joel Buncy, Joel “J.D.” Buncy Jr., Zachary Buncy
Buffalo, N.Y.

The Salute to Independence is more than just a one-day celebration for the Buncys. Joel, J.D. and Zachary have traveled to Antietam from their home in Buffalo, N.Y., for about five years now, Joel said.

They generally stay in the area for a week after making the 400-mile journey, he added. And though he knew it would be a warm weekend, that didn’t deter their plans.

“We don’t have to deal with the heat so much, so one day won’t kill us,” Joel Buncy said.

J.D., 17, and Zachary, 12, added they always look forward to the fireworks display the most.

Wayne Lewis

Although they aren’t from the Sharpsburg area, Wayne and Donna Lewis said they have been attending the salute for four years now after hearing about it from friends.

Donna at first said her favorite part of the celebration was the Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s performance of the “1812 Overture,” but quickly changed her mind — “Actually, all of it,” she said. “It’s nice to sit here with the fireworks over the valley.”

The two were prepared with umbrellas to shade from the bright sun. Both said they knew the weather would be hotter than normal, but it wouldn’t stop them from coming to see the show.

“We were only concerned with leaving the cats home,” Wayne said.

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