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Little Heiskell 'happy to see people having a good time' during Hagerstown Street Festival

September 29, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

There was a Little Heiskell sighting Saturday in downtown Hagerstown, and it wasn’t the replica of the original wrought iron weathervane that sits atop City Hall.

Wearing a specially-made red, white and blue pre-Revolutionary war soldier’s outfit and carrying a rifle, local performer Chaz Rittenhouse was popular with visitors of all ages as he walked around Hagerstown’s 250th anniversary street festival in and around Public Square.

Rittenhouse, who started portraying the character in the Alsatia Mummers Parade during the early 1980s, stopped to take photos with children and adults alike, mastering the pose of one of the most recognizable symbols of Hagerstown in the process.

“As Little Heiskell, I’m happy to see people having a good time in my city,” he said, laughing. “We’re having a great day today. It’s beautiful weather. People are friendly. Everybody’s happy.”

The free festival, held along Washington and Potomac streets in downtown Hagerstown, featured different booths and displays for people to remember Hagerstown’s past, enjoy its present and see what could be in store for the future.

Event chairwoman Bev David said she expected the six-hour celebration to draw somewhere between 750 and 900 people.

Some of the more popular attractions were several special giveaways that took place throughout the day, including 250 Krumpe’s doughnuts, and 250 each of commemorative keychains, coins and balloons, David said.

“Everybody is really enjoying it,” she said in the early afternoon. “The doughnuts, we had a big line for that. And the keychains were successful. Now, people are getting in line for the commemorative coin.”

David said she spoke to one man who had his commemorative coin from the 200th anniversary five decades ago.

“That was kind of neat to see that,” she said.

Locals were offered a bit of nostalgia in the historic transportation and aviation displays, and the children’s area with games, entertainment and performances by local dance and music groups were a big hit with families.

In total, there were about 90 booths and displays set up by area businesses, organizations, nonprofits or private collectors, David said.

Rodney Saylor of Keedysville was one of several vehicle collectors who had their vintage wheels on display.

Painted white and green with a hinged wooden bed in the back for carrying milk jugs, Saylor’s fully restored 1938 International “stand-up” box truck was an actual service vehicle for Hagerstown’s Superior Dairy until 1947, he said.

The dairy has become Superior Ice Cream on Chestnut Street today, and owner Ron Horn has donated numerous historic photos dating to the 1920s, milk jars and cartons to help show off the truck’s storied past, Saylor said.

Gina Martin of Boonsboro recognized the truck immediately as she walked by with her 5-year-old son, Raymond, and several other family members and friends.

Martin said she just discovered the shop last summer, but she and her son immediately fell in love with their ice cream.

“Once you go there once, you won’t stop going,” she said with a wide grin. “Me and my son go almost every day.”

Saylor, who also attended Friday’s Thunder in the Square event, said he bought the truck in 2005 from a Boonsboro man, its third owner, and it has just 576 miles on it since he completed the restoration project.

“I’m glad to see Hagerstown come back to life here at the square,” he said of the weekend’s events.

In addition to the downtown displays and kids’ entertainment, the Downtown Alliance hosted an extended Faire Off The Square event featuring local artisan and produce vendors to benefit the Community Free Clinic. Many other nonprofit organizations were represented along North Potomac Street showcasing what they’re doing to make a difference in Hagerstown and Washington County today.

Hay wagon rides were going back and forth between downtown and City Park for those who wished to visit the Jonathan Hager House and museum, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and Rose Hill Cemetery, where a special tour was given.

David said Hagerstown’s 250th birthday was an important milestone to recognize because “we’ve got a lot of history here,” from Hager first arriving and laying out to the town in the mid-1700s to all of the wars and events over time that have molded the city into what it is today.

“This town just kind of endures and it’s a great place to live. It really is,” she said. “You can raise a family here and feel a real sense of community, which is why I participated in doing this. I love living around here and I want other people to love living around here.”

After the festival ended around 4 p.m., people were invited to a film premier of “Divided Valor: Hagerstonians in the Civil War” at Bridge of Life church on South Potomac Street. The documentary profiles six city residents and their stories of participating in the war.

Giveaway sponsors included Krumpe’s Do-Nuts, Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and The Columbia Bank, Hagerstown Trust Division.

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