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Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack honored as state cultural treasure

October 18, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • The Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack is getting an award for its contributions to Maryland's cultural heritage. The almanac and the other two winners of this year's Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts (ALTA) Awards will be honored at a ceremony at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in December.
Herald-Mail file photo

HAGERSTOWN — The Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack is getting an award for its contributions to Maryland’s cultural heritage.

The almanac and the other two winners of this year’s Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts (ALTA) Awards will be honored at a ceremony at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in December.

The almanac, which John Gruber founded in 1797, won in the “Tradition” category.

“The Almanack has made Hagerstown widely known throughout the U.S. and has given Maryland an ‘epicenter’ of farming and agricultural life,” the award announcement says.

Maryland Traditions, part of the Maryland State Arts Council, created the ALTA Awards in 2007 to honor the work of Alta Schrock, who taught biology at Frostburg State University, according to the arts council.

The award “honors People, Places, and Traditions that epitomize outstanding stewardship of our state’s traditions,” the arts council’s website says.

Cliff Murphy, Maryland Traditions’ director, said the almanac personifies a living community extending from a distant past.

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The almanac began as a German-language publication by people of German heritage.

The history of the almanac captures that past, as well as rich agricultural traditions, Murphy said.

Chad Fisher, the almanac’s editor, said the almanac has long been a go-to guide for information about the harvest, farm chores, the climate and other staples of rural society.

Fisher said Michelle Stefano, Maryland Tradition’s program coordinator, contacted him to find out more about the almanac.

During their conversation, Fisher learned about the ALTA Awards and was encouraged to apply.

He said the nomination packet included significant contributions from Thomas B. Riford, the president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and David Greene, a former professor at Piedmont College in Georgia and expert on American almanacs.

Maryland Traditions plans to shoot a short film about the almanac and show it during the Dec. 1 awards celebration.

Gerald Spessard, the almanac’s business manager, said a film crew is expected to be in Hagerstown on Nov. 1. Part of the film will be shot at the Miller House, home of the Washington County Historical Society, which has an extensive collection of Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanacks going back to the founding year.

Other winners this year are the Carroll County Ramblers, a bluegrass group, in the People category and the Sparrows Point Steel Mill and its communities in the Place category.

The almanac will be the second award recipient from Hagerstown. Banjo-maker George Wunderlich won the Person category in 2009.

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