Hancock celebrates its history along the C&O Canal with Barge Bash

June 26, 2013|By JESSICA MANUEL | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • CNB Bank President Tom Rokisky steers his companys decorated barge, Banana Split, past a crowd of spectators during the 2008 Barge Bash, Hancocks commemoration of nearly a century of town commerce on the canal.
Kevin G. Gilbert /

HANCOCK -- —  To celebrate operating the C&O Canal along its 184.5 miles for almost 100 years, the town of Hancock brings the canal back into action. 

The 11th annual Barge Bash, sponsored by the Hancock Arts Council with cooperation from the National Park Service, rocks the boat on Saturday, June 29, starting at 10 a.m. with events lasting throughout the day.

“(The bash) is designed to be a fun day along the water,” said Hancock Mayor Daniel Murphy, chair of event. “It’s designed to allow creativity and challenge.”

Though the bash itself doesn’t start until later, the day really kicks off with the Barge Bash Dash at 8 a.m., a short run beginning in the parking lot of Hancock High School. Organized by the Potomac Highlands Distance Club, participants run downhill for a mile, ending at Joseph Hancock Jr. Park. The mayor joked it’s a good way to get some exercise and then go get a funnel cake.


Then the real fun begins. Barges designed by local groups will be floating in the Canal for visitors to admire. The themes vary from historical to pirate ships to Chinese dragons, but they all must follow one rule: They must be towed by human or animal power. No motors will be found in this parade. Prizes are given to the barges in fun categories. 

“I’ve always enjoyed the showbiz part of putting my barge together,” Murphy said with a laugh. “Last year, I got to dress up as Elvis Presley.” 

The mayor’s veterinary practice builds a float every year using a theme such as Noah’s Ark, Vikings and the Yellow Submarine.

Local nonprofits will be selling food, including soups, sandwiches, snow cones and funnel cakes. 

While visitors take in the grub and the floats, the Flashbacks return to add music to this year’s bash. They will perform covers from the 1950s through the ’80s.

The day is capped off with the second annual Barge Bash Ball from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Hancock Community Center.

“We are seeing (the ball) evolve,” Murphy said. “It’s fun for all ages. It’s a couple hours just to cut loose.”

Free to the public, the ball is an opportunity to dance to the music of Take Two Variety Band, which plays music from the Big Band era to the works of The Eagles and Eric Clapton.

“It’s been a lot of fun for me,” said Murphy, who’s participated every year but one. 

His advice on barges is simple: “Do whatever you want as long as it’s in good taste,” he said with a laugh.

If you go ...        

WHAT: 11th annual Barge Bash

WHERE: On the C&O Canal, Hancock

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 29; boat parade at noon

COST: Free


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