With boats, artisans, music and crafters, Williamsport recalls C&O Canal heritage this weekend

August 22, 2012|By BETH ROWLAND | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Passengers ride in a canal launch boat on the C&O Canal in Williamsport. The National Park Service will offer boat rides this weekend during C&O Canal Days of Williamsport.
File photo

WILLIAMSPORT ¿ — For more than 35 years, the town of Williamsport has held a festival in late August that has been called by various names — first C&O Canal Days, then Williamsport Days.

 This year, though, the festival has a new name, C&O Canal Days of Williamsport, and is new and improved, according to festival organizers. C&O Canal Days run today through Sunday, Aug. 26, with most activities Friday night through Sunday.

 Joyce Kramer, co-chairwoman of the organizing committee, said it’s a new day for the festival.

 “This year, we’ll have craft vendors lining the streets instead of being in the park,” she said. “Conococheague Street between Potomac and Salisbury (streets) will be closed off Saturday and Sunday and lined with craft and food vendors of all kinds. Potomac Street will still have traffic lanes, but roped off (areas) will also be lined with vendors.”

 In Byron Memorial Park, skilled artisans will demonstrate their talents. They include a silversmith, a blacksmith, a walking-cane carver and a watercolor painter. Food vendors will sell everything from burgers to funnel cakes at the park.

 Friday night offers Buck Nite, a new feature at the pool in Byron Memorial Park — $1 covers food, drink and admission to the pool and a dance. DJ Teddy Miller will provide the music for dancing and fun from 7 to 10 p.m. Also new this year is Williamsport Lions Club’s first Boat Float. For this fundraiser, tiny boats are dumped en masse at noon Saturday into the Conococheague Creek.

 Tickets are $5, which in addition to buying a little canal boat, nets the “captain” a hotdog and soda. The winner gets a prize of $750.

 Saturday night’s entertainment will feature the ’80s hair band, freakshow, playing from 8 to 10 p.m. near Town Hall on North Conococheague Street. This group puts on a high-energy show while playing music in the tradition of Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Kiss and Kix.

 The National Park Service is getting into the “new” spirit with free rides all-day Saturday and Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. on a canal launch boat. The boat is a replica of the type of boats last used in 1924 when the canal was a key commercial shipping waterway. Passengers will have the chance to experience canal travel as it was when it was an active part of town life in Williamsport.

 The National Park Service is also holding a Canal Family Reunion Sunday at 3 p.m., inviting all those who have a relative or know of someone who worked on the canal to come and share their stories. The public is invited to come and listen.

 Even with the new events, many of the favorite parts of Williamsport’s festival will be continued: Williamsport Community Band Concert will perform at 7 p.m. today at Byron Memorial Park Bandstand, and the Williamsport Memorial Library’s annual book sale runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. A flea market will be at the water tower on South Conococheague Street. There’s face painting for kids and a petting zoo, an antique tractor parade and more.

 But the best part of the festival, Kramer said, “is the chance to let visitors get to know about our wonderful town, our shops, our people and our history.”

 If you go ...       

 WHAT: C&O Canal Days of Williamsport

 WHEN: Today through Sunday, Aug. 26

 WHERE: Various locations throughout Williamsport

 COST: Admission and parking is free

 CONTACT: Williamsport Town Hall at 301-223-7711


 File photo

 Blacksmith Art Shanholtz of Martinsburg, W.Va., explains the use of a hand crank blower to Sherry McGee of Williamsport, left, at the 2011 festival celebrating Williamsport’s C&O Canal heritage. Artisans will demonstrate silversmithing, walking cane making and other crafts at Byron Memorial Park during C&O Canal Days of Williamsport this weekend.

 File photo

 Passengers ride in a canal launch boat on the C&O Canal in Williamsport. The National Park Service will offer boat rides this weekend during C&O Canal Days of Williamsport.

 File photo

 During C&O Canal Days of Williamsport, visitors may visit with one of the mules that pulls National Park Service canal boats.

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