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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.


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!


Photo of fire by Donna Sweeney,


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.


Photo by Deb Spalding, portrait is a courtesy photo

James Rada, Jr.



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.



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.


Anita DiGregory

“I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a firefighter. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the firefighter has to do believe that his is a noble calling. There is an adage which says that, ‘Nothing can be destroyed except by fire.’ We strive to preserve from destruction the wealth of the world which is the product of the industry of men, necessary for the comfort of both the rich and the poor. We are defenders from fires of the art which has beautified the world, the product of the genius of men and the means of refinement of mankind. But, above all; our proudest endeavor is to save lives of men—the work of God Himself. Under the impulse of such thoughts, the nobility of the occupation thrills us and stimulates us to deeds of daring, even at the supreme sacrifice. Such considerations may not strike the average mind, but they are sufficient to fill to the limit our ambition in life and to make us serve the general purpose of human society.”

— Chief Edward F. Croker FDNY circa 1910

Photo Courtesy of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

The Memorial Service at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg on Sunday, October 9, 2016

On October 7-9, 2016, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) held its 35th Annual Memorial Weekend to honor all firefighters who died in the line of duty. The national tribute, which included a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, family activities, a vigil, and a candlelight service, culminated with the public Memorial Service on Sunday at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg.

During the memorial weekend, the U.S. Fire Service honored the lives of seventy-nine firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2015, and thirty-three firefighters who died in previous years. According to the NFFF, the number of firefighters honored this year was higher than in recent years; however, the number of line-of-duty deaths that occurred in 2015 was actually lower. As a result of the new ruling that Public Safety Officer Benefits recognize deaths caused by illnesses from 9/11 as line-of-duty, those who suffered these deaths were also honored. “The Federal Government conducted a thorough review to ensure that deaths related to 9/11 illnesses can now be recognized as line-of-duty deaths, and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is very pleased with this decision,” said Chief Dennis Compton, chairman of the NFFF Board of Directors. Due to this, the names of twenty-four FDNY members who died before 2015 and two who died in 2015 from 9/11-related illnesses were added to the memorial.

Sunday’s Memorial Service was attended by approximately 5,000 people, including family members, co-workers, friends, and the public, who gathered to honor the life, service, and ultimate sacrifice of these heroes. Other honorable guests included Chief Ernest Mitchell, U.S. Fire Administrator; the Honorable W. Craig Fugate, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator; the Honorable Don Briggs, Mayor of Emmitsburg; and the Honorable Jan H. Gardner, County Executive, Frederick County.

The tribute included several time-honored traditions important to firefighters and their families. For the sixth year, the memorial incorporated Bells Across America. Numerous fire departments and places of worship across the nation joined the NFFF in this ceremony, ringing their bells in honor of those firefighters who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. The public ceremony also included a traditional honor guard and bagpiper procession. Each family of the fallen was presented with an American flag. These 112 flags, which flew over the U.S. Capitol, were presented to the NFFF by the Congressional Fire Service Caucus, which included Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr., Chairman (D-NJ) and Congressman Steny Hoyer, Co-Chair (D-MD). The service concluded with the unveiling of the memorial plaques, listing the names of the 2015 fallen heroes and those who died in previous years.

The Annual National Firefighters Memorial Weekend is intended to help pay tribute to those lost in the line of duty, while also helping survivors in healing. Serving as the official national tribute to America’s fallen firefighters, this ceremony has become extremely important to families and their communities in acknowledging and honoring the lives of these heroes.

“Firefighters possess an extraordinary blend of courage and compassion, which allows them to willingly face tremendous risks to help those in need,” said Chief Compton. “Each fall, we gather to reflect on the sacrifices of those who died in the line of duty and to let their families, friends, and co-workers know they will never be forgotten.”

A music video titled, “The Fallen and the Brave,” by Dave Carroll, was produced by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation at the National Emergency Training Center and was shown for the first time on October 20, 2016, during Opening Ceremonies of the Annual Firehouse Expo Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, with thousands in attendance from across the nation.

The song talks about “going home to Emmitsburg,” as Emmitsburg is the location of the Fallen Firefighter Memorial where the annual ceremony is held to honor our nation’s fallen firefighters. The 4:52 TRT Music Video Production shows scenes from Emmitsburg and Vigilant Hose Company’s all-volunteer fire department.

Visit to view.

60 Years of Educating, Inspiring, and Entertaining

Deb Spalding
The 60th Annual Thurmont & Emmitsburg Community Show opened with the 40th Annual Community Flag Ceremony at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, September 9, 2016, at Catoctin High School. Being its sixtieth year, former Maryland State FFA Officers from Thurmont, Emmitsburg, and Catoctin High Schools, were cited for their contributions that helped to strengthen our community’s agricultural awareness and expansion over the years.

The Community Show is sponsored by civic-minded and community-concerned business people. No admission is charged to the public. The show has many different parts, all of which either educate, inspire, or entertain the show-goer, as intended in the Community Show’s mission statement.

The Opening Ceremony on Friday evening kicked off a weekend of civic dinners, entertaining concerts, baked goods and livestock auctions, farm animal shows, good-natured contests, community organization and business exhibits, and exhibit entries of artistic ability, craftsmanship, culinary talents, and gardening or farming aptitude.
It’s a little overwhelming to take in all of the aspects of this show. You must experience the different parts to truly appreciate the grandness of it and to soak in the heritage that is celebrated within it.

For example, for the past seventeen Community Shows, Harold and Peggy Long of Long-View Farms have been donating the hog that is sold at the livestock auction during the Community Show to benefit the FFA Scholarship Fund. Their grandson, David R. Young, a senior at Catoctin High School, shows this hog. Carol Robertson, president of the Catoctin Colorfest, Inc., has been buying it for the last eight years. This year, she purchased the hog for $10.50 per pound. It weighed 249 pounds! That’s $2,614.50 going into the FFA Alumni Scholarship Fund. Carol Robertson chuckled as she said, “I had just been to the grocery store and spent $1.89 per pound for pork. Then I went up there [to the livestock auction] and spent $2,600 on a pig. It’s gotta be a good pig. Best pork ever!”

That same hog was then taken to the Westminster Livestock Auction, per Carol Robertson, to be resold. That sale money is then given to the Thurmont Food Bank. So, both organizations benefit.

Maxine Troxell of Thurmont has been entering baked goods into the Community Show for years. She has won countless champion and reserve champion ribbons. The sales of her cakes and pies have generated thousands of dollars that benefit several organizations, including the Catoctin FFA Alumni, the Catoctin FFA Chapter, and the Thurmont Grange.

In addition to entering baked goods in the Community Show exhibits each year, Maxine often enters one of her dogs in the annual pet show. The pet show is a long-time Community Show favorite. It is free to enter your canine companion or feline friend in this contest, where the “Longest Whiskers” and “Waggiest Tails” are two of the categories judged.

During this year’s opening ceremony, current Maryland FFA State President Ellie Grossnickle and current Maryland FFA State Secretary Amanda Farmer thanked Community Show President Rodman Myers, Community Show Vice President Robert “Bob” Valentine, Community Show Secretary Brian Hendrickson, and Community Show Assistant Treasurer Cathy Little, for sixty years of the Thurmont & Emmitsburg Community Show.

Daniel Myers shared that his grandfather, Rodman Myers, and William “Bill” Baker started the Community Show sixty years ago. Rodman was Master of the Thurmont Grange and Mr. Baker was the high school Vo-Ag teacher, spending half of his school day at Thurmont High School and the other half at Emmitsburg High School. Bill and Rodman each served as co-chairmen of the Community Show for thirty years. The Emmitsburg Grange and Emmitsburg FFA had a Community Show until 1969, then moved it to Catoctin High School, where the show combined with Thurmont to become the Thurmont & Emmitsburg Community Show.

Robert Valentine was a ninth-grade student at that time, and has been a participant in, and later, an officer of, the Community Show for the entire sixty years. Bob is vice president and chairman of the Annual Beef, Sheep, Swine, Goat & Dairy Show that is part of the Community Show.

Becky Myers Linton was the first FFA Chapter Sweetheart at Thurmont High School in 1957. At that time, she was escorted by Robert Fraley, the 1957 Thurmont FFA President. As they did sixty years ago, they both walked on the stage at the 60th Anniversary Opening Ceremony, wearing the same FFA jackets they wore then.

Any past Thurmont, Emmitsburg, or Catoctin FFA Chapter Sweetheart or FFA Ambassador in attendance at the ceremony stood to be recognized.

Past officers of the Thurmont, Emmitsburg, and Catoctin FFA Chapters, who also served as officers with the Maryland State FFA, were the honorees, awarded with a certificate of appreciation during the ceremony. Terry Shank, Maryland FFA Executive Director, spoke about the honorees, stating, “The National FFA has a vision of engaging members, building communities, and strengthening the agricultural community. This vision is truly lived out through the individuals we are recognizing tonight.”

Honorees included: Woodrow Wills, 1930-31 (Thurmont); Ray Valentine, 1937-38 (Emmitsburg)—his son, Randy Valentine, attended the opening ceremony and sponsors the annual Dairy Cattle Fitting and Showing category in his father’s honor; Guy Krom, 1939-40 (Emmitsburg); Eugene Long, 1943-44 (Thurmont)—the oldest living past state officer in the area, turning ninety in March; Charles Free, Jr., 1958-59 (Thurmont); Joe Kuhn, 1960-61 (Thurmont); Susan Weimer Trice, 1973-74 (Thurmont and Emmitsburg High Schools combined to represent Catoctin High School at this time); Michael Wiemer, 1975-76; Naomi Weimer Knight, 1976-77; David Harman, 1979-80; Barry Burch, 1980-81; Susan Flanagan Greubel, 1981-82; Todd Levering, 1983-84; Margaret Flanigan Klemme, 1984-85; Brian D. Glass, 1985-86; Dana Gates Cessna, 1987-88; Stacey Troxell Ridge, 1988-89; Sterling “Gene” Bollinger, III, 1989-90; Karen Young Myers, 1989-90; Michael Gates, 1990-91; George Bollinger, 1991-92; Ray Martin, III, 1992-93; Missy Willard Donnelly, 1996-97; Gary Bassler, 1997-98; Mark Valentine, 1997-98; Jessica Troxell Valentine, 1998-99; Shaun Shriner, 1999-2000; Karen Mueller Jacobs, 2001-02; Melissa Sharrer, 2001-02; Julie Roop Tingue, 2004-05; Annie Delauter Bentz, 2006-07; Bridget Hoffman Nicholson, 2007-08; Carrie Wivell, 2008-09; Tyler Yoake, 2009-10; Tyler Donnelly, 2011-12; Daniel Myers, 2013-14; and Ashley McAfee, 2014-15.

Representing Frederick County Agriculture, Catoctin High School graduate, Megan Millison, was recently named the 2016 Miss Maryland Agriculture. She has also served as the Frederick County Farm Bureau Ambassador and former Catoctin High School FFA Ambassador.

Among several candidates, Maybelin Cruz was selected as the 2016-2017 Catoctin FFA Ambassador.

With the Opening Ceremony complete, the Baked Goods Auction immediately followed.

Deb Spalding
Korey Shorb of Emmitsburg has been “down and out.”As a former heroin addict, he was so far down that he lied to his family, stole from others, started dealing drugs, went to jail, and then to prison. He repeated those same shaming behaviors over and over again. It was a cycle during which he used, “Any drug you can think of — I shot it, smoked it, ate it. The first heroin high is the best; the addiction is when you keep trying to capture that high feeling, but after the first time, the high is lower. We are enslaved. You can never recapture that first high again.” He feels that heroin has changed in the past few years. People are bypassing weed and alcohol and going straight for the hard stuff, the stuff that will kill you quickly.

Korey has been drug-free for the past eight years. He got “up and out” of his addiction. “The opiate addiction problem is killing our communities,” he said. Therefore, in an effort to help others recover, and to possibly prevent addictive behavior, he started an organization he dubbed, The Up & Out Foundation.

About the organization, he said, “Originally it was to give money back to the Drug Courts Program out of Frederick. To people recovering, it’s a big deal to graduate from the program. It’s hard work to get through the program, but Drug Courts are designed for people like me. They need a reward. Not everybody has someone. It’s important to help.”
Funds generated from Up & Out’s Run for Recovery, paint nights, quarter auctions, and other events, help recovering addicts pay for resources that will help them. For example, when you’re down and out, the $400 or $500 admission fee to a Recovery House to begin recovery is hard to get; the $100 copay for the monthly Vivitrol shot that will render opiate effects useless is hard to pay. It shouldn’t be hard to find resources when recovery gets tough.

“Up & Out helps to get people off the habits that could kill them. Relapse does not have to be a part of recovery. There’s someone who can help you,” explained Korey.
Up & Out offers that lifeline for help. They’ll help navigate the resources, and help you gain access to different programs.

The Frederick County Health Department is a great resource. They can help with prevention, awareness, substance use, and mental health. They assess people and refer them where they feel is appropriate. They also have a recovery center in Emmitsburg, and one located in Frederick, which are great for people in recovery who may not choose to go to a twelve-step program.

Since its conception in 2014, Up & Out is growing because there’s a need. Melissa Wetzel, a CPA in Emmitsburg, helped to start the organization, and Korey paid out of his pocket to obtain the organization’s 501(c)3 non-profit designation.

Meanwhile, Korey started a much-needed job through the Fredrick County Health Department. He works with the Drug Court program and the Frederick County Parole & Probation Office.

“If you would have told me eight years ago that I’d be working in the probation office that I used to report to, and that my former probation officer would be working right across the hall from me, I would have said you’re crazy!” Korey added, “I suit up and let God do the rest. While I was in jail, my mom would write at the bottom of her letters: ‘Pray Korey, there’s power in prayer.’ I used to think prayer was a sign of weakness. I know today that prayer is where my strength comes from.”

Korey speaks about the mission of Up & Out. He’s spoken to high school students, to college students, to juvenile delinquency classes, clubs, and churches, and to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. He found his niche in public speaking. “I know what it’s like to be in high school and feel different, and not be able to talk about it.”
The Youthful Offenders program through the Frederick County States Attorneys Office is a place where at-risk youth can get help. They can be referred to the program by a parent, an officer, a friend, or a family member, for help with any at-risk behavior.

“Everyone will have a different road to recovery,” Korey emphasized. He was stubborn. He needed consequences behind his actions. He feels that our society is babying addicts too much. “They have to sit in jail and use that time to think. My dad didn’t let me manipulate, and he made me accountable for my actions. My mom nearly loved me to death. She was borrowing money from friends and getting bank loans to ‘help’ me.”

Korey strongly advises family members to, “Let them sit in jail, don’t bail them out; don’t pick up the phone if you can’t say no. They can get help while they’re in jail.” The Fredrick County Detention Center has a designated block for substance-abuse treatment.

Korey feels that an addict will never stay clean until they change their thinking. “If nothing changes, nothing changes. Drugs are still winning.”

There is a science called Neuroplasticity. This is basically retraining a person’s thinking. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. The process is very difficult because it’s uncomfortable. But, from Korey’s experience, it is spot-on for people getting clean and staying clean, by using coping skills when the craving comes to use opiates again. He’s not anti-medication, but he feels that medication does not fix addiction or alcoholism. “Medication is a symptom dampener. We still have to address the addiction. An addict thinks they’re going to get on some type of medication-assisted treatment, but not change the way they live. For me, not using drugs and alcohol was a very small piece of the puzzle. I had no clue, until I got sober, but then realized that I had to change the way that I live my life. Until we change our thinking, we will always recycle our experiences.”

In 2014, Sue Hood created a documentary that can be viewed on Vimeo and Youtube called “Running for Recovery.” The video is an educational tool for schools, churches, and recovery centers.

Eventually, Korey wants to open a recovery house, and he’d like to start a running club. For now, Up & Out is a way to give back to the community and help people. “Just because someone struggled with addiction or might have done time in jail, it doesn’t mean their life is over. If they get clean, their life is just beginning.”
Korey Shorb, founder of Up & Out Foundation, is shown in front of the Frederick County Courthouse.

James Rada, Jr.
jim-rada-blue-blazes-stilWhen the sale, production, and transportation of alcohol was banned in the United States in 1919, citizens had to choose between becoming teetotalers or criminals. Many law-abiding citizens chose the latter.

Since a person could get in trouble buying a drink, people who did it, didn’t talk about it. That didn’t mean that it wasn’t happening. Underground bars, or speakeasies, weren’t advertised. People knew about them by word of mouth. You got in by knowing someone or knowing a password. Manufacturing moved to stills hidden in the woods or basements.

Moonshining (the illegal manufacture or distribution of alcohol) has been around since the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s. The Western Pennsylvanians, who refused to pay the federal taxes on homemade liquor, were the country’s first moonshiners.

However, it wasn’t until the Prohibition era that moonshining took off since the demand for liquor increased. With the profits increasing—a quart of moonshine could fetch $16 in Hagerstown ($225 in today’s dollars)—more and more people were willing to risk being arrested and became moonshiners, rumrunners, and bootleggers.

How to Make Moonshine
Kenny Bray was a Western Maryland coal miner in the early 20th century. I have a copy of his unpublished memoir. It includes a section on moonshining and how it is made.
First, you need a still, a tub, and a source of running water.

The average still during the early decades of the 20th century was a 14.5-gallon copper wash boiler. A worm, which was a long piece of 3/8 inch or 1/2 inch copper tubing, ran from the top of the boiler to the cooling tub. The boiler lid was sealed with flour paste. The worm was coiled inside the cooling tub, with the end coming out near the bottom. A small stream of water ran into the tub to cool the coils.

Once the still is set up, here is the recipe: a bushel of corn or grain; 50 pounds of sugar; a couple cakes of yeast; and 35-50 gallons of water.

It is all mixed in a barrel and left to ferment into corn mash. The barrel is covered but it is not sealed like the boiler. As it ferments, the mash becomes milky white. It is occasionally mixed. After the mash has fermented, the grain will settle to the bottom, and the mixture is said to be “worked off” and is ready for distilling.

jim-rada-stillIn preparation for the distilling, the copper parts of the still are cleaned with vinegar and salt to remove any rust.

The boiler is filled with mash to within a few inches of the top and set over a low fire. Since alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, the alcohol evaporates while the water does not. The alcohol vapor travels up into the worm and moves through the tubing. As it moves through the water-cooled tub, the vapor condenses back into liquid alcohol. What comes out at the end of the worm is moonshine.

This first run is called a “singling.” It is not pleasant to drink and will leave a burning sensation in your mouth and throat.

After the singling run, the still is emptied and cleaned. Then the singling is poured into the boiler, along with water, and the cooking process is done again. This is called “doubling,” and Bray calls it the best grade of moonshine. After this doubling run, you would probably have about 10 gallons of moonshine.

jim-rada-story-picHowever, if you ever see old pictures of moonshine jugs with X’s on them, that represents the number of times run through; XXX isn’t porn, it’s high-grade moonshine.
The original mash can be used up to three times by adding more sugar, yeast, and water.

This was all done without meters and gauges to tell alcohol was no longer coming out of the worm. The way that moonshiners could tell a run was done was that they would catch a teaspoon of moonshine out of the worm and throw it on the fire. If it flashed, they kept cooking. If it sizzled, they stopped.

Bray’s grandfather used honey instead of sugar and corn to make a good, smooth whiskey called, Honey Brandy.

However, former Catoctin Mountain Park Ranger Debra Mills pointed out during a presentation at the Thurmont Regional Library, “No still ever makes whiskey, because it doesn’t have time to age.”

Moonshining produces distilled alcohol.
Some moonshiners weren’t too concerned with their quality of product and took shortcuts in making moonshine. Some of the things that Prohibition moonshiners did include:
• Doubling the first run in mash instead of water.
• Using a 55 gal. steel drum instead of a copper boiler.
• Letting the still run too long.
• Put rubbing alcohol in the mash when it was ready to run, which would increase the amount of the run 2 to 1 in direct proportion to the amount of alcohol put in, one pint of 70 percent rubbing alcohol would make two pints of 70 proof moonshine.
• Putting other materials in the mash to ferment, such as overripe fruit.
• Coloring moonshine with tobacco juice or iodine instead of vanilla to make it taste strong when it wasn’t.
• Using a 14 oz. bottle and selling it for the same price as a 16 oz. bottle.
Wayne Martin, a Thurmont resident whose grandfathers were moonshiners, said his Grandfather Henry used to speed up the “aging” process by putting the kegs on hot water pipes, which supposedly also made the moonshine taste better.

The Waynesboro Record Herald reported about a moonshiner who took the ultimate shortcut. He sold three Waynesboro men three pints of moonshine for $2 a pint. It was a good deal that the men jumped at. “Naturally, after they had it in their possession, they wanted to sample the liquor, and on doing so found that they had purchased muddy mountain water with no more ‘kick’ than the water which runs into the pipes in homes of Waynesboro from the town reservoir,” the newspaper reported.

Thurmont Moonshining
Mills points out that Catoctin Mountain was much more barren during the Prohibition era, and the people who lived on it were poor.
“Prohibition was probably a good thing economically for people in this area,” Mills said.

Having stills operating also gave farmers a place to sell their crops. Although corn was the most popular grain for moonshine, Elmer Black said in a 2015 interview that he only ever knew of rye being raised to be sold to the local moonshiners in the area.

The finished product was often shipped out of the area on the railroad in barrels labeled cornmeal, according to Mills.

It could leave other ways as well. Black recalled that his grandfather would often run moonshine right under the nose of the county sheriff and his deputies. He would get the family together to take a ride in their Studebaker, and off they would go. There was an ulterior motive for the drive, though. Moonshine was hidden underneath the seats.
“My grandfather would wave ‘hi’ as they went by the sheriff,” Black said.

Two of Black’s uncles were some of the biggest bootleggers around the Thurmont area. Even his father was known to drive moonshine out of the area to sell. One time he took Black and his siblings along for the ride. The kids fell asleep.

“The three of us woke up and asked, ‘who lives here?’” Black said. “Some senator, they told us. They were rolling the barrels up to the house.”

Stills were hidden on Catoctin Mountain near streams that could supply them with the water needed for the moonshine recipes. According to Black, if you follow the streams on Catoctin Mountain upriver, you can still see the remnants of stills that were destroyed.

Martin shared some of his family stories during a presentation at the Thurmont Regional Library about moonshining.

One grandfather kept a quarter keg of moonshine in his attic, and when friends would come by with Mason jars, Martin’s grandfather would tell his son to “go up and get some ‘shine for the friends.”

At some point, Martin’s grandfather moved the keg from the attic to the basement and buried it in the coal pile.

Once, revenue agents came by wanting to search the house while Martin’s father was alone. The boy didn’t know what to do because he couldn’t get on the phone to call his parents, so he let the revenue agents in to search the house.

They started in the attic, which worried Martin’s father, but the men didn’t find anything. Martin’s father thought he was safe and that the moonshine was no longer in the house. The revenue agents continued their search, ending up in the basement.

One of the agents saw the coal pile and wondered if moonshine might be buried in it. Martin’s father, not knowing that was the case, held up the coal shovel and told the agents, “Go ahead and dig, but you’ve got to put it all back or my dad will be mad.”

Luckily, the agents were lazy and chose not to dig. Martin’s grandfather moved the moonshine out of the house after that.

The revenuers did eventually catch up with Martin’s grandfather. According to Martin, they came in the front door of the house, chasing Martin’s grandfather while the man went out the back door. The revenuers chased after him.

Martin’s father, a young boy at the time, chased after the revenuers. “Dad, he caught up with one revenuer and bit him on the leg and my grandfather got away,” Martin said.

The Blue Blazes Still
jim-rada-story-blue-blazeOn July 31, 1929, two cars drove up Catoctin Mountain on Route 77. Six men rode in the cars. Only five would be alive two hours later.

The cars pulled off the side of the road. Frederick County Deputy John Hemp and Lester Hoffman climbed out of one of them.

Although not a deputy, Hoffman was the only one in the group who knew his way through the forest to what an informant had described a week earlier as a “large liquor plant.”
“The officers, in attempting to creep up on the small vale in which the still was situated, ascended a winding mountain path, which led abruptly to the scene of the tragedy,” reported the Frederick Post.

As they neared the still, shots rang out. Deputy Clyde Hauver fell and the deputies scattered for cover, as the moonshiners fired on them, hidden by the underbrush.
Once Hauver was on his way to Frederick, the remaining deputies used picks and axes to destroy the vats and boiler. The newspaper reported that Blue Blazes Still was one of the largest and best equipped in Frederick County, according to reports. It had a boiler from a steam locomotive, twenty 500-gallon-capacity wooden vats, filled with corn mash, two condensing coils, and a cooling box.

A National Park Service (NPS) ranger told me that the still produced alcohol so fast that if a man took away a five-gallon bucket of alcohol and dumped it into a vat, by the time he returned to the still, another bucket would be filled and waiting to be removed.

A manhunt started for the moonshiners and eight men were eventually jailed. Charles Lewis was convicted of first-degree murder in the Washington County Circuit Court on March 7, 1930. Governor Theodore McKeldin commuted the sentence in 1950, when Lewis was sixty-five. He died a short time after his release.

There is still much speculation over whether Lewis was the actual murderer. Mills pointed out that he was probably the informant who told the sheriff’s department about the operation. Names get suggested as do motives, such as a love triangle gone bad or one man coveting another man’s job, but no other person has been conclusively shown to be the killer.

Today, the Blue Blazes Still is gone, but the NPS has a 50-gallon pot still captured in a Tennessee raid on the same location. NPS uses it for presentations about moonshining in the mountains.

The NPS actually operated the still for demonstrations from 1970 to 1989. It was the first still ever to operate legally on government property, according to Thurmont Historian George Wireman.

When the NPS started operating the still, the Hagerstown Morning Herald reported, “National Park officials hasten to assure that the whiskey is not for presidential consumption, although the pungent odor of mash undoubtedly wafts over the mountain retreat to be inhaled occasionally by VIP nostrils.”

However, though the park had received permission from the Treasury Department to manufacture whiskey, park personnel hadn’t talked to state authorities about it. The Hagerstown Morning Herald wrote, “on the first day the still was in operation, an agent of the state’s alcohol tax division appeared at the park with two deputies, all set to make another raid on Blue Blazes.” Since the still was on federal property, they couldn’t do anything about it, though.

“I’m still known as the only park superintendent in the service who’s been raided for being a moonshiner,” former Park Superintendent Frank Mentzer told the newspaper.

Moonshining in Pen Mar
Pen Mar, with its ideal location as a resort on the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania, became a popular spot for bootleggers to hide their stills. Also, being at Pen Mar put them close to people who wanted to relax and enjoy themselves with a drink.

In 1921, an informant told police that there were thirteen stills that he knew of in the vicinity of Pen Mar. The bootleggers were making good money selling their product, though they didn’t stay very long in one place.

The Gettysburg Compiler reported that one informant about the bootlegging at Pen Mar saw “a bootlegger with a suitcase, placed the latter on a rock near the old Blue Mountain House path and did a land office business by handing the liquor out by the pint and half pint to people who appeared from among the bushes.”

After a few minutes, he closed up shop and disappeared into the woods, only to reappear in another location about half an hour or so later.

In 1925, revenuers tried to get Daniel Toms’ 30-gallon still in Cascade. He held them off for a short time with a shot gun, but they eventually surrounded him and caught him and his henchmen.

Smithsburg Moonshining War
Revenuers also spent plenty of time in Smithsburg, combing the hills for moonshiners. They tried to pass themselves off as tourist hikers.

Smithsburg made national headlines as having an “old-time mountain feud” between John Cline and Henry Russman. There were reports of night raiding, indiscriminate shooting, and fights. They were accused of wrecking a church, dynamiting a sawmill, killing one person, and wounding others. A 1923 article estimated that there were 500 stills between Hagerstown and the Pennsylvania line. The interest in this fighting may have been due in part to the recent coal mine riots that had grown so violent across the country.
One newspaper reported about the moonshiners, “They are unmolested. It would be as much as an officer’s life would be worth to try and interfere. The natives are silent. They know a bullet in the dark would follow any giving of information.”

End of an Era
Due to its unpopularity, Prohibition soon ended after the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. With that, prices of liquor dropped and moonshining lost its appeal to many people.

Nicholas DiGregory

For independent professional wrestler, Bill Bain, wrestling is not just an occupation or a hobby—it is a way of life.

Born in Montgomery County, Maryland, Bain moved to the city of Frederick, Maryland, when he was thirteen years old. It was around this time that he began to realize his passion for wrestling, having grown up watching the weekend morning matches on TV with his grandfather and uncle.

Bain, a Thurmont resident for the past eight years, began wrestling in 2002, under the direction of fellow Frederick native and professional wrestler, Scott Fowler. During his training, Bain would assist at professional wrestling events, where he would pick up tips from the contenders.

“A lot of my training was ‘on the job’ type training, where I would go to shows and help set up and learn from the guys around me,” said Bain.

After about seven years of learning the ropes through training and smaller-scale wrestling events, Bain was given his big chance on July 28, 2009, when he made his first appearance with World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., for a professional match against veteran WWE “villain,” Vladimir Kozlov.

Since his debut, Bain has appeared at numerous professional events, ranging from WWE RAW; ESPN SportsCenter, with Shaquille O’Neal; and WWE Pay-Per-View Capitol Punishment 2011. He has shared the ring with some of the most renowned names in wrestling, from The Patriot to “Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant. Bain’s personal favorite—and perhaps his most memorable—moment came when he supported legendary wrestler The Undertaker as his “druid” accomplice, during The Undertaker’s feud with rival wrestler CM Punk.

While Bain has faced some impressive adversaries in the ring, he has also faced some rather tough opponents alongside his wrestling career. In 2010, Bain was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, a relatively uncommon disorder that attacks the inner ear, causing severe vertigo and impaired hearing. While the disease is incurable, the symptoms can be lessened by physical therapy and a low-sodium diet.

“Having Ménière’s disease is a battle that I fight every day. I am unable to eat a lot of foods I enjoy, and have to limit my going out to eat at restaurants, but you have to learn to make do with these things,” explained Bain. “There are many situations that are much more dire than this; I’m thankful that I am able to manage it and continue to live a fairly normal life.”

In addition to Ménière’s disease, Bain was also diagnosed with skin cancer in 2015. While the cancer was not dangerously advanced, Bain had to have atypical cells removed from eight spots on his body.

“Any time you are dealing with these types of issues, you want to remain positive and try to focus on the recovery,” said Bain. “But after having to go through multiple procedures, it has made me realize that it is important to take care of your body, as you only have one.”

Despite these adverse health conditions, Bain has refused to give up on his passion for wrestling. He will be appearing in several wrestling events in West Virginia and Maryland, between September and October 2016.

Regardless of where Bain’s next matches take him, he will be fighting hard, both inside and out of the ring. “No matter what you are going through currently, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to keep fighting through.”

More information about Bill Bain, including a full schedule of events and booking instructions, can be found at

                                         Bill Bain has faced numerous opponents throughout his wrestling career, including a rare disorder known as Ménière’s disease and skin cancer.
Curtosy Photo by: Chris Eichelberger Photography

by Deb Spalding

Jenna Seiss of Graceham and Patrick Van Der Cruyssen of Cascade, lifeguards at Cunningham Falls State Park William Houck Lake Area in Thurmont, took part in the lifesaving efforts that revived a five-year-old girl who had stopped breathing after she was under water too long in the lake on July 15, 2016, around 4:00 p.m.

Seiss and Van Der Cruyssen, both 2015 graduates of Catoctin High School, were two of several who were recognized on August 25, 2016, by Frederick County Executive Jan H. Gardner and Maryland Park Service Assistant Superintendent, Lt. Col. Chris Bushman. They were presented with the Maryland Park Service Valor Award.

Mohammd Al-Haris, a former lifeguard and happenstance visitor that day, pulled the unconscious girl from the water, and Heidi Sequeira, a nurse practitioner and another happenstance visitor at the park, performed CPR on the girl, along with Seiss and Van Der Cruyssen, when it was determined that she was not breathing and her heart was not beating.

Due to the diligent efforts of this team, the girl was conscious when emergency responders arrived.

Both of these locals are in their second year of college. After this incident, Seiss transferred from Butler University’s Physician Assistant Program in Indiana to Frederick Community College while she regroups in order to attend medical school to become a trauma doctor. Van Der Cruyssen is studying psychology while attending High Point University. Congratulations, Jenna and Patrick!

Nicholas DiGregory

The thirteenth day of August 2016 was the epitome of a sweltering summer day in North Central Maryland. As early as ten o’clock in the morning, the temperature had reached 90 degrees and was still climbing. By noon, the thermometers came to rest at 95 degrees, although weather services stated that the high humidity, and almost nonexistent breeze, caused the air to feel as if it was a burning 108 degrees. While this intense heat was more than enough to keep most folks inside, the locals of Rocky Ridge and the surrounding areas braved the sweltering weather to celebrate the annual Big Picnic at Mount Tabor Park.

The Big Picnic, an event hosted by the Mount Tabor Park Board to raise funding for the day-to-day upkeep and maintenance of the park, has been an annual occurrence for almost a century. According to Rocky Ridge residents, the first big celebration on the grounds of Mount Tabor Park happened in 1925, when the first paved road between Thurmont and Rocky Ridge was completed. The park, which had been entrusted to the Mount Tabor Church community in 1919, was selected as the ideal place to hold the festivities, celebrating the finished roadway. The following year, in 1926, the Mount Tabor Church community commemorated the road completion with a big picnic, and ever since then, the Mount Tabor Park Big Picnic has been Rocky Ridge’s annual tradition.

This year’s Big Picnic was comprised of a baby show (see list of winners below), a car show, and country rock music provided by the Maryland-based band JR Country Rock. The picnic kicked off at noon, with the first event being the baby show at 1:00 p.m. Travis Sanders of Fairfield, Pennsylvania, the president of the Mount Tabor Park Board, emceed the show. Twenty-eight babies, all under the age of two years, were registered for the show. The contestants were separated into five categories by age, and for each age group, a panel of three judges awarded the cutest boy and girl, as well as the chubbiest baby. Two additional awards were given to the youngest baby and to the baby who traveled the furthest distance.

After the conclusion of the baby show, awards were given to the top ten best cars in the car show, which was sponsored and conducted by the Golden Gears Car Club of Frederick. Sanders emceed the awards ceremony, presenting commemorative plaques to the owners of the top ten most popular cars at the show, as voted by all of the picnic attendees. Over two dozen cars were present at the show, representing over eighty years of automobiles from eight different automakers.

The Big Picnic concluded with a concert by local band JR Country Rock. The band played country, classic rock, and southern rock hits until around 9:00 p.m., when the picnic ended.

All proceeds from the Big Picnic go toward the daily upkeep and gradual development of Mount Tabor Park.

Richard Dinterman, who has attended the Big Picnic since childhood and now volunteers at the Mount Tabor Park, said that the park is kept open primarily because of fundraisers like the Big Picnic.

“There isn’t hardly a day that we don’t open the gate to the park, from January 1 on throughout the year, and there are almost always people waiting when we come to open it,” said Dinterman. “It’s things like the Big Picnic that help us keep doing that.”

Twenty-nine babies were entered in the baby show at this year’s big picnic. Babies in each of the five age groups were judged for cuteness and chubbiness by a panel of three judges.


More than two dozen classic and specialty cars were entered into the Golden Gears Car Club car show at the Big Picnic. This year marked the third time that Golden Gears sponsored and organized the car show for the Big Picnic.

Rocky-Ridge-picnic-Baby-ShoA total of twenty-eight babies, fourteen girls and fourteen boys, participated in the show, judged by Larry Dougherty, Ashley Haines, and Annabelle Moffitt. The youngest baby was two-week-old Carson Lingg, son of Emily and Danny Lingg of Thurmont. Jeffrey Petko (twenty-three-month-old son) and Madeline Petko (five-month-old daughter) of Josh and Jenny Petko, traveled the farthest distance, from Pasadena, Maryland. There were no twins or triplets in this year’s Baby Show. Babies placed in three categories: prettiest girl, cutest boy, and chubbiest baby (in five age categories, from one day old to twenty-four months old).

In the youngest category, the prettiest girl was Leighton McIlrath, three-week-old daughter of Patrick and Taylor McIlrath of Thurmont. The cutest boy was Luke McEuen, two-month-old son of Lauren McEuen and John Horton of Rocky Ridge. The chubbiest baby was Nyla Miller, two-month-old daughter of Jessie Miller of Thurmont.

The prettiest girl in the four- to six-month-old category was Madeline Petko, five-month-old daughter of Josh and Jenny Petko of Pasadena, Maryland. The cutest boy was Zakarri Wagner, five-month-old son of David and Tammy Wagner of Hagerstown, Maryland. The chubbiest baby was Landyn Harris, five-month-old son of Angela and A.J. Harris of Frederick, Maryland.

In the seven- to twelve-month-old category, Molly Smith, ten-month-old daughter of Patti and John Smith of Rocky Ridge, was judged the prettiest girl. The cutest boy was Gage Putman, eleven-month-old son of Andy and Kellie Putman of Emmitsburg. Eliza Smith, twelve-month-old daughter of Chastity and Richard Smith of Frederick, was named the chubbiest baby.

In the thirteen- to eighteen-month-old category, Dixie Eckenrode, eighteen-month-old daughter of Ashley and Scott Eckenrode of Keymar, was judged the prettiest girl. The cutest boy was Connor Naylor of Rocky Ridge, eighteen-month-old son of Jason and Katie Naylor. The chubbiest baby was Claire Myers, fourteen-month-old daughter of Steve and Heidi Myers of Emmitsburg.

In the nineteen- to twenty-four-month-old category, there were no girls. Jeffrey Petko, twenty-three-month-old son of Josh and Jenny Petko of Pasadena, Maryland, was named the cutest boy. The chubbiest baby was Mason Miller, twenty-month-old son of Brandy and Ryan Miller of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania.

Please join them again next year on the second Saturday of August. You may register your baby (or babies), who range in age from one day up to twenty-four months, zero days.

Denny Black
You may not be aware that a new bird-like species was recently discovered. You can only see one during the baseball season each year when it migrates out of winter hiding into every minor and major league ballpark in America. When spotted, it is almost always a male of the species in the approximate age range of nine through adolescence. Its plumage mimics that of a number of baseball birds, including the oriole, cardinal, and blue jay. Its sole purpose is to snag baseballs to carry to its nest. I’m referring to the “Ball Hawk,” and my nephew Edison Hatter is one who recently collected his thousandth baseball on August 12.

Edison’s parents, Ed and Susie Hatter, took him to his first baseball game in 2005 when he was six years old. In 2009, Edison’s Uncle Ron and Aunt Bonnie Albaugh started taking him to the Hagerstown Suns games. In the beginning, Ron and Bonnie had to sit on each side of him because of his fear of getting hit by a foul ball. Who would have known how things would change at a Hagerstown Suns game in 2011, when Edison snagged his first baseball—and a new Ball Hawk was born!

I started to regularly tag along with Edison to ball games during the 2013 season, and soon learned that ball hawking has its own rule book and set of skills. Edison quickly schooled me in the various ball hawking tactics involved in snagging third out balls, home run balls, umpire balls, and dugout balls. I found myself with him at baseball parks, hours before the gates opened for games in order for the Ball Hawk to find baseballs in parking lots during batting practice, and then stand in line to be the first to bolt into a stadium to special locations where practice balls may be hidden. Each tactic requires a Ball Hawk to be strategically located in a stadium at the right place and time during a game. And, it hasn’t hurt my nephew to be able to ask “May I have the baseball, please?” in six languages, as well as sign language (which actually worked to get a baseball on one occasion). It also helps a Ball Hawk to bring along a hat for each team playing the game in order to switch plumage, while hovering over each side of a stadium between innings for baseballs from players.

Not everyone can acquire the skills to become a successful Ball Hawk. You have to be dedicated to arriving hours before each game and staying long after a game ends, in all kinds of weather, to connect with players; and it helps having relatives nuts enough to take you to about fifty games each season. You have to be able to face defeat, like the time when the Ball Hawk and I were sternly directed to leave certain areas of a ball park while chasing baseballs (don’t tell the Ball Hawk’s parents!). For serious reading for Ball Hawks like Edison, a book has been written describing the required skills to succeed, as well as a website where they dutifully document and point score each ball based on the difficulty of the catch. No kidding!

I have witnessed most of Edison’s milestones: Ball 100 (2013 – Arizona Diamondbacks), 200 (2014 – Washington Nationals), 300 and 400 (2014-2015 – Hagerstown Suns), 500 (2015 – Frederick Keys), 600 (2015 – Baltimore Orioles), 700 (2016 – Hagerstown Suns), 800 (2016 – Baltimore Orioles), 900 (2016 – Frederick Keys), and 1,000 (2016 – Toronto Blue Jays).

I was with him in 2015 at Hagerstown when he set his personal record of snagging twenty-six baseballs in one game. I’ve seen him on several occasions run out of Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium to find a player’s first professional-level home run ball or grand slam ball and then give it to the player after the game. I’ve seen him, over time, give away a quarter of his baseballs to younger kids at games. I stayed with him very late one night after a Frederick Keys game so that he could proudly tell Jonathan Schoop (Orioles 2nd Base), who was there on rehab, that he had acquired an autographed pair of Jonathan’s spikes. Along with all the baseballs, Edison has hawked over twenty-five game-used bats, countless line-up cards, autographed batting gloves (the dirtier the better!), and a stash of baseball cards that most likely includes a future Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle.
I tell Edison that his ball hawking days are numbered now that he is seventeen and can no longer pull off the cute-little-boy routine that works well in getting baseballs from players. He’s working now at passing along his skills to a younger brood of Ball Hawks, like Henry Benchoff and Tyler Caron of Waynesboro. Edison’s parents have dreams of him going into some field of science, but I have different plans for him. I am urging him to become a lawyer and agent for big name sport stars. Then I can continue to tag along with the Ball Hawk to games well into my senior years.

Edison Hatter, Ball Hawk, collected his thousandth baseball on August 12, 2016.