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28th Salute to Independence at Antietam National Battlefield 'moving and historical'

July 06, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • MSO conductor Elizabeth Schulze leads the musicans at Antietam National Battlefield during Salute to Independence.
By Ric Dugan / Staff Photographer

SHARPSBURG — Deep green fields of soybeans flanked a crowd of thousands who gathered Saturday at Antietam National Battlefield for the 28th Salute to Independence.

In between, green, blue, brown and other colorful blocks of plastic tarp and blankets covered the mowed grassy field where spectators waited to see the Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s performance and fireworks that followed.

Tents and beach umbrellas shielded them and their games of Uno, Go Fish and Dutch Blitz in the hours before the orchestra’s salute, which began with the national anthem, “Maryland, My Maryland” and the Armed Forces Salute under the direction of Elizabeth Schulze.

Others played Scrabble and Scattergories and picnicked with summer favorites, including watermelon, potato salad, fried chicken, chips, pretzels and cookies.

Darlene Starleper and her daughter, Wendi, of Boonsboro reserved their spot close to the front and center of the orchestra’s portable stage on Saturday about 7:30 a.m.

“We enjoy being here with the people and listening to the wonderful music,” said Starleper, shielded from the hot sun by a green leaf-shaped shade that flapped in a steady breeze. “It’s moving and historical.”

Her daughter’s green tarp was staked with American flags. When they returned about 4 p.m., they brought subs, seasoned crackers, fruit and “lots of water” in a cooler.

“To stand here on these grounds and to think what the young men had to endure during the war ... it’s incredible,” Starleper said.

Saturday’s celebration was at least the 15th year that Starleper said she has attended, and the first in many years in which there was no live cannon fire by the Maryland National Guard.

The guard’s participation this year was axed due to across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration, the crowd was told.

The absence of the cannon fire in coordination with the orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s rousing “1812 Overture” was disappointing to Starleper and many others who turned out for the salute.

Though temperatures remained in the 80s into the evening, the lack of humidity Saturday made conditions much more pleasant than last year, when turnout was “very light,” Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent Susan Trail said.

Organizing the event is a massive undertaking that takes everybody working together, Trail said.

“It’s all hands on deck for something like this,” Trail said as the crowd began to grow.

The concert site is where morning fighting occurred during the Battle of Antietam and Confederate soldiers had taken a defensive position, Trail said.

Perry Jamieson of Sharpsburg, who wrote a book about the battle, said he and his wife, Stephanie, have been coming to the salute for 10 years or more.

“I always wanted to retire here,” Jamieson said.

The couple, who spent part of their honeymoon at Antietam, said they bought a house in Sharpsburg in 1995, and have been inviting friends and family to join them at the concert for several years.

Barbara Gross, a friend from Crofton, Md., where they used to live, always brings chocolate chip cookies, the couple said.

Saturday’s fixings also included cold chicken, fruit and vegetables, Stephanie Jamieson said.

Thomas Czeh of Herndon, Va., said he continues to make the trek back to Washington County for the salute, which he first attended nearly 20 years ago.

Joined by friends and friends of friends, Czeh, who grew up in Brunswick and Jefferson, Md., said he “cried” when he learned about the absence of the cannon fire this year.

Robin and Deryl Miller of Martinsburg, W.Va., who said they have attended the salute for 15 or 16 years, welcomed this year’s more pleasant weather conditions.

The couple said they bring their own drinks, but take advantage of the steamers and other food sold by the fire company instead of packing food.

“We just enjoy it all,” Deryl Miller said.

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