Anita DiGregory

With a chill in the air, twinkling lights illuminating shops and homes, and decorations going up all over, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the Catoctin area.

The town of Emmitsburg started decorating for the holidays with wreaths the week before Thanksgiving. They added new garland around the square this year, and, of course, the annual Christmas Tree adorns the bank corner on the square. Three of Emmitsburg’s Public Works crew—Chris Wantz, Darrell Lambright, and Davy Wantz Jr.—put up the decoations. Davy Wantz said, “Some people were asking why we were putting the decorations up so early. I told them we wanted to get it done while the weather was good.” Emmitsburg resident, Boyle ????? said, “I enjoy the decorations and look forward to the holiday activities that take place every year.” Emmitsburg residents Bev Adams, Frankie Fields, and Audrey Glass, all recall fond memories of the fresh pine swag decorations that were created by ladies in Emmitsburg. That project was spearheaded by the late Ann Dingle.

The town of Thurmont started decorating before Thanksgiving in order to get everything beautiful in time for the Christmas season. The Electric Department, comprised of four employees, was tasked with hanging all the decorations and lights in Thurmont. According to Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick, it takes approximately 240 man hours over the span of a week and a half to get everything decorated for the holidays. With last year’s introduction of the new streetlights on Main Street, new decorations had to be purchased. In an effort to spread the cost over a three-year period, the town opted to purchase and introduce the decorations over time. The new decorations, which included garland and wreaths, were introduced last year. Of the 62 new streetlights, 48 now are complete with the new decorations. The angels, which had been used with the old, taller streetlights, have been moved to the Thurmont Community Park.  “Last year was the first year the angels were relocated to Community Park, and the community really liked it. It makes a nice ambience for Christmas,” stated Humerick.

For several years, Thurmont Electric Supervisor Gary Hodges has been part of the staff charged with decorating Thurmont. Having been with the town for ten years, Hodges happily added, “There is never a dull moment when decorating for Christmas in Thurmont. But everyone works together to get it done in a timely manner, and in the end, it is all worth it.” In addition to all of their other responsibilities within town, the electric department staff must hang all the decorations. This task includes checking all the bulbs and replacing dead bulbs. Although the task may sound overwhelming at times, Hodges stated, “It is a great thing, very rewarding knowing everyone and all the kids enjoy it!”

Although the decorations were hung before Thanksgiving, the lights (minus those on the town Christmas tree), were not scheduled to be lit until the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. In addition to our towns’ celebrations and decorating, the community has also gotten into the spirit of the season.

Virginia LaRouche, owner of Timeless Trends Boutique on Main Street began around Halloween decorating the shop with her staff.  “Every year we close for a week, cover the windows so no one can peak, decorate for the holidays, and open for our Holiday Open House,” stated LaRouche. LaRouche and her daughter, Mary Guiles, choose a new theme for each holiday season. Once settled on this year’s theme of “home for the holidays,” the five staff members set out to magically transform the shop into a beautifully decorated home away from home. With the focus on family and being home for the holidays, the boutique is filled with holiday décor suitable for every style home, from primitive to modern to Victorian. This year, the shop houses no less than twenty-one decorated Christmas trees, in addition to furniture for the holidays, and loads of unique decorations. Regular customers, along with the community, have come to look forward to this official kick-off to the holiday season. Much time and care is spent decorating the store for the holidays, especially the shop window.  “I get so excited…worse than a little kid on Christmas Eve. I love taking down the paper and revealing the window,” stated LaRouche. The twinkling lights and magical store transformation delights customers and residents alike. Everyone seems to look forward to the introduction of the season.

Nick Kinna, manager of the Mountain Gate Family Restaurant, agrees. Having been with the Mountain Gate since 1992, Kinna has witnessed how their regular customers, and the community at large, enjoy the restaurant’s kickoff to the holiday season, when they officially open their life-size Nativity Scene and light their Christmas trees. “The regulars look forward to it being opened. We always get calls to see if we have opened it yet. People are glad to see it,” Kinna added.

“I think it is awesome that they do that. I love it. It is really gorgeous!” stated Teresa Williams, a Brunswick resident and regular customer, who has been coming back to the Mountain Gate for twenty years.

Area residents Bern and Terry Sweeney also decorated early this year. “I am ready for it. I get excited this time of year when we get to decorate and put the trees up,” said Terry Sweeney. With five daughters and eight grandchildren, the Sweeney home is always full for the holidays. “I have always gone all-out for Christmas. I like to turn out the lights and just look at the Christmas lights.”

Frank and Jody Kurtz, who have lived in their current home since 1996, also decorated a bit earlier this year. “We missed it last year because we were busy traveling a lot, and I was not going to miss it this year,” stated Frank Kurtz. “I like Christmas. It is a way to look back and see what you are thankful for and a reflection of why we are here.” The Kurtz’s, together, coached youth league and high school cross country and track for eleven years in the community.

During a time when many in the country are struggling to find hope, and in spite of the barrage of negative news dominating the nation, it is a gift and blessing to be a part of such a close-knit community, spreading the joy of the season.

“Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.”  —Kris Kringle, Miracle on 34th Street.

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Photos by Anita DiGregory

A fire above Thurmont between Route 550 and Kelbaugh Road consumed seven acres on Sunday, November 21, 2016. The fire started around 2:00 p.m., was contained by 5:00 p.m., and fully extinguished by 8:00 p.m. It was started by downed power lines.

Ironically a new fire broke out around 1:00 a.m. the following morning near the same area. It is believed that the second fire started when a spark from the first fire was carried by the wind to the new location.

Initially, Thurmont’s Guardian Hose Company responded to the second fire, and by 7:30 a.m. fifty to seventy-five fire fighters were involved. Responders from Thurmont, Graceham, Emmitsburg, Rocky Ridge, Wolfsville, Smithsburg, Leitersburg, Frederick City, Camp David, Lewistown, Greenmount, Middletown, Blue Ridge Summit, Raven Rock, and more reported to help. Route 550 was closed to traffic during these fires.

Graceham Fire Company’s Assistant Chief, Louie Powell, was in command at the base of the mountain on Route 550 where water, gas, food, and holding tanks were set up. A canteen truck was brought in from Independence Fire Company to feed the responders.

Powell explained that to pump water up the mountain to fight the fire, a fire truck from Rocky Ridge had a 5” supply line pumping from the holding tanks to an engine from Vigilant Hose Company, and then that engine pumped through to another engine, and so on, to reach the fire higher up the mountain. He said, “It’s a neat operation.”

Neither of these fires resulted in a threat to human life, nor was there damage to homes or buildings. The second fire consumed approximately ten more acres of forest before being fully extinguished sometime in the afternoon on Monday.

Thanks to the many residents who provided assistance to the firefighters by opening access routes, allowing access to your property, and allowing the use of your private ponds for water. Good job to everyone who pulled together to successfully beat these fires!

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Photo of fire by Donna Sweeney,

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photo of basecamp by Deb Spalding

img_0296On October 29, 2016, the bridge spanning U.S. 15 on Maryland Route 140 in Emmitsburg was proudly dedicated to the memory of U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Robert Seidel III.

Seidel, along with three others, lost their lives on May 18, 2006, when their Humvee hit an IED during combat operations in Iraq. Seidel was an Emmitsburg native, who loved his home town. At an early age, he knew he wanted to become a soldier. After graduating from Catoctin High School in 2000, he attended West Point, graduating with the Class of 2004. While serving our country, Seidel earned many awards and decorations, including the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Iraq Campaign Medal, and War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Overseas Service Ribbon, Ranger Tab, and the Parachutist Badge.

The bridge dedication ceremony was hosted by Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter, a military Veteran from northern Frederick County. This is the second memorial bridge dedication Delauter has hosted in District 5 since legislation was recently passed enabling it in Maryland under Delegate William Folden’s Hero’s Highway Act.

Signs located on each side of the bridge designate Seidel’s name and rank. One was uncovered (pictured right) during the ceremony that was attended by many special guests, elected officials, veteran motorcycle club members, and military comrades. Local musician, Jimmy Rickerd, played the National Anthem. The American Flag, provided by Vigilant Hose Company #6, flew high over the ceremony.

Touching remarks were shared by Seidel’s mother, Sandy Seidel; his cousin, Sgt. Emily Seidel; and his West Point classmate, Dave Strickler, among others.

Seidel’s West Point graduating Class of 2004 had more soldiers killed than any other class at the academy. In honor of those brave soldiers, the Class of 2004 wrote a book titled, The Strong Gray Line. Also, a charity fund has been established in Seidel’s memory. The 1LT Rob Seidel Wounded Soldiers Fund is held at the Community Foundation of Frederick County.

Seidel loved his hometown of Emmitsburg. He chose to be buried there. Now, we can all acknowledge his sacrifice, and remember the sacrifice and service of others, every time we cross the bridge in Emmitsburg.

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Photo by Deb Spalding, portrait is a courtesy photo

There’s a good chance that the Creeger House, home of the Thurmont Historical Society, is haunted, and the Gettysburg Ghost Gals have the evidence to support their assertion.

The Thurmont Historical Society hosted the Gettysburg Ghost Gals, an all-female paranormal investigation team, on October 28, 2016. Investigators Brigid Goode and Jenny Thomas have more than twenty years combined experience in paranormal studies and have been featured in a number of magazines and on television shows.

The team brought their state-of-the-art equipment, healthy skepticism, and keen investigative skills into the Creeger House on the night of October 28.

The odd happenings began even before everyone arrived. Thurmont Historical Society Board Member Robert Eyler (who is considered a member of the Gettysburg Ghost Gals) and Goode went into the attic, where it was believed Bertie the housekeeper had lived when she was alive. They set up motion detectors, thermal detectors, and other equipment. They then stepped into the bedroom and started talking about something when the door slammed behind them. They tried to duplicate the door closing to see if it could be explained.

“That door does not swing and close on its own,” stated Goode.

Later, when the Gettysburg Ghost Gals reviewed the evening’s footage from the attic, they saw a circular thermal signature moving across the doorway of Bertie’s room. Goode pointed out that there were no warm spots in the attic, especially ones that moved. She is convinced that the slamming door and thermal signature are something that defied explanation. Goode points out that although she is a paranormal investigator, she is skeptical and believes 90 percent of odd happenings can be explained.

“We’re not pushovers,” said Goode. “We’re very tough on judging paranormal evidence.”

Goode also said there was a “very heavy feeling” in the bedroom where Mrs. Rouzer had died in childbirth.

Audio recordings picked up the voices of a man and woman. Goode said that the woman’s voice was angry and cursed a few times. However, several names associated with the history of the house could also be heard.

The Thurmont Historical Society also held a contest for two winners who were able to bring a guest to the Creeger House that evening and participate in the investigation. The two winners were Denise Mayer and Roxy Brandenburg.

Near the end of the evening, they were allowed to use the investigative equipment and wander the house to see if they could find any paranormal activity on their own.

Goode said that she would love to make investigating the Creeger House an annual event, not only because the findings are interesting, but because it helps raise the awareness of the Creeger House and its history.

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GGG Images

James Rada, Jr.

 

Emmitsburg

Free Parking in Emmitsburg

Metered parking in Emmitsburg will be free from December 16, 2016, to January 2, 2017. However, since the parking meters are not covered during this time, visitors will still often feed the meters. Emmitsburg Commissioner Cliff Sweeney proposed splitting and donating the proceeds collected during this time between the Emmitsburg Food Bank and the Community Day fireworks show. The commissioners unanimously approved this measure.

 

Contract for Pool Repair Awarded

The Emmitsburg mayor and commissioners approved a total rehabilitation of the Emmitsburg town pool by Makin Waves, a company owned by a former Emmitsburg resident. The town will use a $217,000 grant to pay for complete renovation, which will also include a resurfacing of the pool. The contract was for $123,000.

Two items could not be priced yet—fixing any plumbing issues and repairing any structural damage to the pool. These will have to be identified and then bid out separately. Should there be any money remaining in the grant after all of these items are completed, the remainder will be put towards renovating the bath house.

All work is expected to be completed before June 1, 2017.

 

Town Approves Renting Wastewater Lagoon

The Emmitsburg mayor and commissioners voted unanimously to rent out an unused wastewater lagoon that the town owns to Enviro Organic Technologies (EOT). The lagoon has not been used since the new wastewater plant went into operation. EOT currently hauls the town’s sludge, but it is in need of a place to store food process residuals from mid-November until the beginning of March. The material comes out of a food-processing plant and is eventually applied to fields. New regulations in the state do not allow this to be applied during the winter, so it must be stored.

The $80,000 rental would offset some of the operating costs of the new waste-water treatment plant, at least for the first year.

 

Town Approves Employee Benefit Changes

The Emmitsburg mayor and commissioners are reviewing making changes to benefits for future full-time employees. The need for these changes was brought to the fore when former Town Manager Dave Haller retired. He had a lot of unpaid vacation time that he had accrued over the years and was paid out at his rate of pay when he retired. It was apparently a large expense for which the town hadn’t planned.

Under the proposal, unused vacation and sick time will be paid out at half the rate of pay at retirement. Also, the maximum amount of time that can be carried over from year to year will be 300 hours. Vacation time will be accrued to only 120 hours a year, which is a reduction from 160 hours.

Town Manager Cathy Willets pointed out that many long-time employees have accrued a substantial amount of time that would need to be paid for when they retire. One employee has 1,100 hours (nearly seven months), two have 900 hours, and others have accrued 500 hours.

The mayor and commissioners approved limiting the accrual of vacation time of new employees to 120 hours a year. They will address the other items in the future.

 

Further Water Restrictions a Possibility

Although the level at Rainbow Lake has stabilized somewhat, Emmitsburg Town Manager Cathy Willets told the mayor and commissioners that the water level is still two to three feet below the spillway. If the town doesn’t see significant rain, it is possible that voluntary water restrictions will need to be instituted.

“We are trying not to put a burden on residents for the holiday season,” Willets said.

 

Close Your Garage Doors and Lock Your Car Doors

Frederick County Sheriff’s Office community deputies in Emmitsburg continue to caution residents to lock their car doors and lower their garage doors. Both of these are invitation to thieves to take items with little effort. They also cautioned that once successful, a thief will continue to visit the area in the hopes of finding other opportunities.

 

Citizen’s Advisory Committee

During the Emmitsburg Citizen’s Advisory Committee discussed: 1) How to get information and activities to all persons in the town and decided to post news to every location people can in addition to the Town’s website; 2) Compiling a working list of all locations where citizens can volunteer and donate items. This information will be shared with schools, so students can contribute community service hours; 3) Compiling a list of organizations people can join, so more can be part of a group. This will be posted on the town website soon; 4) The idea of placing a memorial plaque in the park with four benches to commemorate some of Emmitsburg’s outstanding citizens was introduced. 5) Initiating a school incentive to decorate/design colorful fire hydrants throughout the town. The Eagle Scouts are painting some hydrants, but the remaining hydrants will be used for a school-wide competition. Drawings will be selected to decorate hydrants by one of the town organizations. The competition rules are still in the works, along with investigation of the legal issues; 6) Improving the lighting on the Christmas tree in the front of the library to make a statement for people who pass through. Members will look into making the lamps in town more decorative; and 7) Compiling a “Welcome to Emmitsburg” packet to new residents.

The next Citizens’ Advisory Committee meeting is January 15, 2017, at 8:00 p.m. in the town offices. Please get involved in making Emmitsburg great.

 

Thurmont

Town Bans Use of Crossbows and Bows in Town

The Thurmont mayor and commissioners, and also the town police, recently realized that it was legal to hunt with a crossbow or bow within town limits. Not only was it legal, but it was happening within fifty yards of the Thurmont Trolley Trail.

Mayor John Kinnaird presented an emergency ordinance to the commissioners on October 18 to address this issue. Kinnaird consulted with the town attorney and chief administrative officer to put together the ordinance. He also pointed out that Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler was also working on legislation to ban all hunting within town limits.

The emergency ordinance not only bans hunting within the town limits, but also prohibits the use of certain weapons, even for non-hunting purposes, such as air rifles and slingshots. The ordinance also outlined exceptions, such as police using their weapons in the line of duty, putting down a wounded animal, or use at a school event.

Depending on the type of weapon discharged, it may carry a penalty of up to six months in prison and/or a $50 or up to a $1,000 fine.

The commissioners unanimously approved the ordinance with the understanding that they needed to address the issue again in the near future to clarify some items.

 

Police Officers Recognized

Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler recognized the officers in his department who sprang into action after the August 3 pipe bomb explosion under one of the police cars. Det. J. Maybush, Cpl. Kyle Minnick, Officer Jim Donovan, Officer J. Morales, Officer Brian Donovan, Cpl. V. Testa, Officer G. Bowen, Officer D. Armstrong, and Officer Fair were recognized for the response to the detonation of a pipe bomb under the vehicle assigned to Officer Tim Duhan, and the following investigation. This led to an arrest of a suspect three days later. Eyler awarded each person a commendation award.

Brad Condon and Taylor Lee Cannon were also given certificates of appreciation for their assistance in the investigation.

Cpl. Kyle Minnick’s promotion to corporal was also recognized.

 

New Wastewater Treatment Plant Garage Approved

The Thurmont mayor and commissioners approved the construction of a 18 x 40 foot garage at the waste-water treatment plant. It will be attached to the existing garage and house the new Jet Vac truck. The item was budgeted in the current fiscal year for $38,000. The commissioners accepted a bid of $27,950 from CHA Pole Barns of Paradise, Pennsylvania.

 

New Power Supply Contract Approved

The Thurmont mayor and commissioners approved a new power supply contract with First Energy Solutions for $51.60 per megawatt hour. This is slightly lower than the current contract rate. This contract rate is good for five years, beginning next year.

 

The 28th Annual Evening of Christmas Spirit will be held in Emmitsburg on Monday, December 5, 2016. It begins with the lighting the town tree on the square, with holiday music starting at 5:00 p.m., the tree lighting at 6:15 p.m., and a visit by Santa at approximately 6:30 p.m. Then, the celebration moves down to South Seton Avenue to The Carriage House Inn for hot dogs, hot chocolate, a live Nativity Scene, hay rides, and more, until 9:00 p.m. Local choirs and vocalists will perform in Joann’s Ballroom from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Experience the true meaning of Christmas Spirit here. Canned goods donations accepted for the Emmitsburg Lions Club Christmas Food Drive.

The Town of Thurmont’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony is part of the 2016 Christmas in Thurmont celebration, to be held on Saturday, December 3, in Mechanicstown Square Park from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., with the tree lighting scheduled for 4:30 p.m. The park’s decorations were donated by the Catoctin Colorfest Committee. New to the celebration this year are horse and carriage rides. The town began accepting reservations for the rides on November 14, with the cost of $10.00 per person (ages five and under are free); the rides begin at the Municipal Parking Lot and take a scenic tour through Community Park and the downtown Main Street area. Of course, Santa will also be in attendance at the celebration, available for photos with families, children, and pets.  Christmas in Thurmont is a time-honored tradition.  “No one feels left out; everyone who participates has a great time. The entire community looks forward to it,” Thurmont’s CAO Jim Humerick said.

Do you need to work?  Is transportation to and from work an issue?  What if Ski Liberty came into town to pick you up and bring you back? Ski Liberty is coming to talk to you during a Ski Liberty Job Fair from 5:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on November 29, 2016 at the Emmitsburg Town Office. Residents of Emmitsburg and surrounding communities are welcome to attend.

Applicants can fill out an application online at home or access the application in the library, and then proceed upstairs to the job fair.

There are many seasonal, full-time, part-time, and year-round positions available at Ski Liberty. They need people on the snowmaking team, lifts, retail sales, snow sports schools, children learning center, hotel housekeeping, ice skating ring, lodge maintenance, snow tubing, food service, even in the Tavern. Maybe you just want to work weddings and make a little extra on weekends. If you have questions, contact Chrisanne Bowden, Director of Human Services at Ski Liberty by calling 717-642-4928 or emailing Cbowden@snowtimeinc.com. You can also contact Liz Buckman, Commissioner, Emmitsburg Citizens Advisory Committee at 301-801-8711 (texting welcome).

The Moser Road Bridge in Thurmont reopened to vehicle traffic on Monday, November 14, 2016, after being closed since June 20, 2016.

Due to infrastructure deterioration, weight restrictions and a lane closure had been in place on the old bridge prior to the replacement project. The new concrete bridge is approximately three feet wider than the previous bridge. In addition to the new vehicular bridge, a detached pedestrian bridge was also installed as part of this Town of Thurmont project. Kinsley Construction from Timonium, Maryland, was the general contractor on the project.

“The crews from Kinsley have been great to work with” said Town of Thurmont Project Manager Kelly Duty. “They have remained flexible throughout the duration of this project.”

A few minor tasks will be performed on the bridge in the next few weeks, but these items can be completed while the bridge is open. While watching crews take down the “Road Closed” signs Monday morning, Thurmont Mayor John A. Kinnaird stated, “Thank you to our residents for their understanding and patience while this project has been underway.” Mayor Kinnaird also complimented Kinsley Construction on their exceptional workmanship and thanked them for their efforts.

Mark your calendar now for the New Year’s Eve Bingo Bash on December 31, 2016, at the Emmitsburg Volunteer Ambulance Company. Event features four $1,000 jackpots, all other games paying $200 each. Cost includes fifty games and a roast beef platter. View the advertisement on page 28 for more details.