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W.F. Delauter Celebrates Milestone 65th Anniversary as 4th Generation Joins Company

Deb Abraham Spalding

1st Generation — Willie F. Delauter

The year was 1955, when a disappointment with another company prompted Willie Delauter and, later, his son Russ to exit the company for whom they worked in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to start their own venture back home in Thurmont. Having experience working heavy equipment at the company in Pennsylvania, where they worked on large roadway projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region, Willie was soon operating heavy equipment for grading and excavation on house foundations, ponds, land clearing, and various other projects within his new company, W.F. Delauter & Son Inc.

Now at 90 years of age, Russ credits his father, Willie, “He was the best around on this,” motioning to the antique machine to his right that now sits in front of the company’s offices in Emmitsburg. “Now, this don’t look like much now, but at the time, this was state of the art (see 1954 International TD6 vintage diesel bulldozer pictured).” Willie was an expert at grading and doing fine-grade earthwork with the ‘dozer.

Willie’s skilled grading resulted in so much work, Russ recalled, “we didn’t know what to do.” The duo bought an old backhoe so Russ could help out at night after finishing his full-time shift in Chambersburg. During that first year, Russ juggled the two commitments while he and his father dug a waterline down Moser Road in Thurmont. Russ finally joined his father full-time and helped set a company reputation for skilled, quality work performed with honesty and integrity. That reputation became the company’s foundation which has remained strong for the past 65 years.

Soon Willie and Russ hired Randolph ‘Dolph’ Waesche, who was a civil engineer. “Dolph’s engineering background allowed that we could get into larger projects.” The company grew with jobs like grading and site work for the new school in Lewistown in 1960, and then more private and government projects followed. “It really grew when Dolph came on. He was very, very good,” Russ said.

In running the company, Russ said that his and his dad Willie’s ideas were completely different. Still, he feels that having various perspectives is one of the foundation blocks for success. The opportunity to bounce things off of tenured [experienced] and technologically fresh [young educated] thinkers is an opportunity to get more things right.

Russ stepped up to run the business when Willie passed in 1967.

2nd Generation — Russ, 1967-1980s

Russ served in the Korean Conflict in the Army 3rd Infantry Division prior to entering the workforce, and he feels that that experience helped set another foundation block for the business. In the Army, he supervised 15-30 people, and there he learned how to treat people. He said it’s important to “get your hands dirty, and don’t ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do.” Russ left the military in 1952 and worked with the Chambersburg construction company until 1955.

Russ and his wife Marlene had four children, three boys and a girl: Keith, Kim, Kaye, and Kirby. All of their children helped in the family business while growing up. Yet, Kirby took the most interest in the business as his siblings’ careers took different directions like U.S. Postal Service for Keith, mortgage services for Kim, and Perdue Farms on the Eastern Shore for Kaye.

3rd Generation — Kirby, 1986-2020

Around age 12, Kirby started helping out in the company’s shop on Saturdays. He said, “The guys were fun to be around, and they were good at what they were doing.” He learned a lot from them. Kirby set off to serve in the U.S. Army after high school. He had developed a solid foundation of discipline from his father. That was reinforced in the Army. He said, “You’re not anything special in the military, which sets a good foundation for running a business. In our business, you started at the bottom and worked your way up, which helps you because you can relate better with employees because you’ve done their job. You have to get in the trenches and understand the employee’s perspective and, at the same time, realize your customer’s needs. No good decision is made from a swivel chair; you have to be out in front with your employees on a daily basis.”

After the Army, Kirby worked in Frederick with a manufacturing company when W.F. Delauter was hired to grade their parking lot. The business owner he was working for at the time was impressed with the job W.F. Delauter did with grading his parking lot. He suggested Kirby go to work in the family business. Soon, thereafter, when Russ was having some health problems in 1986, Kirby left that company, and he and his wife, Tina, decided it would be best if they worked in the family business at W.F. Delauter.

Russ recovered from his health challenges and stayed on for a couple of years before retiring. He said, “We left a good honest reputation for Kirby to build on.” Russ felt it was important to move aside and have Kirby take on the lead role. When he decided it was time to retire, Russ became a dedicated volunteer in the kitchen at Trinity United Church of Christ in Thurmont, where he continues to volunteer 5-6 days a week at 91 years of age.

Kirby and Tina purchased the business in 1994. They would see tough times, and they would see good times while running the business and building their own family with four children: Maureen, William, Emily, and Sam.

Tina worked “free of charge” for the first couple of years. She had her hands in a little of everything, then became heavily involved in hiring new staff when the business was recovering from the recession.

As with their father, aunt, and uncles, the Delauter siblings had the opportunity to help with the family business. Russ said, “Most family businesses that go bad, it’s the third generation that did it.” On Kirby’s watch, the third generation didn’t fail.

Kirby said, “The business can go really good one way or really bad the other way,” he admits. “I came very close to failing. I made some really bad business decisions.”

Obviously, Kirby, the W.F. Delauter team, and family have successfully worked through the various challenges that have occurred over the past 35 years. Kirby added, “I had to sit down and say to myself, ‘You’re going to get your act together and work through this. Failure is not an option.’”

This third generation has so far carried the name and reputation and done everything possible to make sure they didn’t let their employees, family, and customers down.

The Delauters’ solid reputation remains. In keeping with Russ’ sentiment that it was an advantage to have the various perspectives between him and his father to bounce ideas around, Kirby still values Russ’ opinion and bounces things off him to determine the best course of action. For example, Kirby was talking with Russ about a job running a water line, where he was having a hard time configuring a tight workspace for the water connections. Russ remembered a job the company did 40 years ago with a very simple tool that was used for a similar purpose. Kirby had used these in the past but had completely forgotten about the process. Using it resulted in saving “a lot of money and time.”

There’s something to be said about faith, Kirby affirms, “When the economy was bad, I told everyone around me that there is a God because there are things that happened that I can’t explain. Opportunities that came out of nowhere and good things just fell into place. Good people just walked in the door at the right place, at the right time. One after the other.”

When the recession hit, the company went from 65 people to a core of 16. Today, even in the shadow of Coronavirus, it’s as good as it’s ever been, employing 82 people and positioned to continue to grow. “We try every day to maintain a good reputation in the process.”

Now, it’s time for the next generation. Kirby and Tina’s son, William, worked with the company through high school and college. Like his family before him, he knows what it’s like to be in the trenches, “starting at the bottom and getting dirty in the ditches.”  He understands what it means to work 8 to 10 hours a day in the dead of summer or dead of winter, when your back and hands hurt from rigorous, manual labor.”

4th Generation — William, 2020

William started full-time with the company just a few months ago. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2011 with a degree in civil engineering and an interest in land development and structural systems. William is married to Kristin, and they reside in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, with their daughter, Millie.

As William takes the first steps for the fourth generation of W.F. Delauter, Russ proudly states, “With Willie here [referencing his grandson William], it makes my day, and it would make my dad’s day, too!”

It’s hard to believe it’s been 65 years since Willie and Russ first opened the doors at W.F. Delauter & Son. “We’ve enjoyed many great successes through the years, and have had our share of challenging times, too, but we are stronger for it.” Kirby continued, “Of course, we owe much of our success to our dedicated customers, employees, and vendors, who have stood by us in good times and in bad. We can’t thank them enough.”

He assures, “If you run a company honestly and never forget where you came from, success will come. A business is a tough, tough thing to run. The perception is that you sit there and success falls into your lap. The reality is, it’s challenging, it’s hard work, and it’s stressful. I’ve found if you put God first, work at it to the best of your ability, things always seem to work out. Oh, and a sense of humor really, really helps, too.”

Deb Abraham Spalding

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States that has occurred in some form since a gracious Native American named Squanto helped the pilgrims become viable on this new-to-them continent. According to, upon the pilgrims’ arrival to the continent in 1620, Squanto, a member of the Patuxet tribe, taught the pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers, and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years, and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans. “The Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.” The turkey wasn’t the sole star of the feast during the early celebrations. In fact, lobster, seal, and swans were on the pilgrims’ menu.

Since 1621, days of Thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. In 1789, President George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s American Revolutionary War and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday. Each state celebrated it on a different day, however, and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition.

In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale began a 36-year campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, earning her the nickname, “Mother of Thanksgiving.” It wasn’t until 1863, that President Abraham Lincoln heeded her request and proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

The value of Thanksgiving during the Civil War was just what was needed to contribute to unity in a country divided by the horrors of slavery and the brutality of war. Still, we’ve never lived in an America where we all agree on politics, let alone Thanksgiving dinner.

The turkey has long been traditional, yet, at times contentious, as non-fowl options are more appealing to some and other more available staples find their way to the spotlight of the meal. It is fact that here in Frederick County, we didn’t even have turkeys for some time.

Hayden Spalding reported in a 2018 Catoctin Banner article, “Despite the abundance of wild turkeys that currently reside in Maryland, before the late 1960s, turkeys could not be found in Maryland and many other states. Turkeys were native to Maryland until the colonization of North America, throughout which native turkeys were overharvested and decimated. It wasn’t until the late 1960s, when the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) started a program to revitalize the population of turkeys in Maryland, that turkeys once again spread throughout the state.”

Still, the façade of the turkey tradition remains planted in our minds. Turkey is relatively affordable and can easily accommodate large numbers of people because of the bird’s larger size.

Turkey or no turkey, let us all be reminded that it’s not Turkey Day, it’s Thanksgiving. It’s a time to be grateful for all our blessings. This year, our Thanksgiving holiday will be held on Thursday, November 26, 2020. The glamorously “dressed” turkey, or an agreeable substitute, will grace the holiday table for many. It’s tradition! Be thankful!


Mayor Don Briggs

Now, alas, the election is behind us. Humbly, I say thank you. Reelected Commissioner Joe Ritz, III and I look forward to serving you, our business community, and our visitors for the next three years. As we cope with COVID-19 limiting lifestyles, let us continue to be patient, accepting, and thankful. As always, what makes Emmitsburg so special is that Emmitsburg is a small town. An intimate feel. Let us conduct and direct our activities so as not to lose that feel. 

There will be a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day morning. The Emmitsburg Business and Professional Association (EBPA) is again organizing the event. Big time, fun event. Soothe your conscience by getting out for some fresh air, a run, or a walk before the unabashed enjoyment of a Thanksgiving feast with your family. Please check our town website or our Facebook page for more information.

At the October 5th regularly scheduled town meeting, following several months under voluntary water conservation restraints, the council concurred with the staff and my recommendation to elevate water use restrictions to Phase 2 of Town Code 13.04.160. Phase 2 includes mandatory conservation restraints by all users of town water. From the town code, “Mandatory restriction of any or all of the following uses: (a.) Filling or replenishing of swimming pools; (b.) Outside consumption of water, including, but not limited to, washing of motor vehicles, houses, sidewalks, or any public ways, or watering lawns, gardens, or shrubs; (c.) The providing of drinking water by operators of restaurants and taverns, unless requested by patrons.” For large-volume users, there are additional restrictions. Abusive water use will be tested first by warnings, then by fines. We are getting some assistance from the seasonal change in weather and some steady Hurricane Delta-related rain that can be absorbed by dry-packed lawns. Assuredly, water demand to refill swimming pools is down. This mandate will be reassessed at the November regularly scheduled town meeting.

The town office is still closed to the public. The county-owned community center building continues to be closed to the public, except for the Head Start program, which has a separate entrance to the building. You miss the contact, and we miss the contact. 

Thanks to the American Legion, AMVETS, and Lions Club for pulling things together during these COVID-19 tested times to sponsor/host our traditional Halloween Parade. The parade route started out where it always has at DePaul Street and Federal Avenue; but this year, due to COVID-19-related reasons, ended in Community Park.

The Seton Center is hosting an Outside Halloween Festival the morning of October 31. There will be food trucks, a plant nursery, some craft tables, and more.

The much-anticipated Dunkin’ (Donuts) opening is now history. Amen. The ribbon-cutting was held at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 18.  

Now, on to the status of the Rutter’s convenience store and gas-and-go. No change from the last month’s update. All county approvals have been met. Now they are waiting on state highway approval of the entrance onto Route 140 and the Maryland Department of the Environment sign-off on their stormwater pond plan.

Ryan Homes is moving along with the construction of its model in Brookfield. With the build-out of the remaining lots will come two-way traffic at Brookfield Drive onto and off of Irishtown Road.   

Please take care, get out for a walk, take in the changing colors of the leaves during this beautiful fall season. On the evening of October 14, Lib and I were out on a walk with our yellow lab, Finn. This time around Memorial Park, sharing the beautiful weather, lots of people were out walking, some with dog companions, but strikingly, there were large numbers of young baseball players and a wonderful cadre of coaches. These were very young entry-level baseball players, all who looked like they were totally enjoying themselves. Thank you to the coaches and the parents for getting the players there to use the town fields. Libby and I wish each of you the very best for the fast-approaching Thanksgiving holiday. Let us treasure the time with our families.


Mayor John Kinnaird

COVID-19 continues to be an issue in all our communities. I encourage everyone to wear a face mask while around others and practice social distancing whenever possible. With the holidays coming up, please be sure to take extra precautions when gathering with friends or family. Remember that face masks not only protect you, they also protect your family and friends.

Although we will not be holding Halloween in the Park, trick-or-treating will be held as usual on Halloween from 6:00-7:30 p.m. We encourage everyone to wear face masks and observe social distancing. It is a good idea to place treats in individual bags to hand out to the ghouls and goblins. This will serve to limit the number of little hands pulling candy out of a single bowl or bag. I ask everyone to please drive with extra care on Halloween as our children are out and about. The children may not always be aware of their surroundings and may not look both ways when crossing our streets. 

The Frederick County Health Department continues to offer free COVID-19 testing every other Friday evening, from 5:00-7:00 p.m., at the Town Office parking lot. You do not need a doctor’s note to get a test, nor do you need to be exhibiting any symptoms. The Thurmont Town Offices are located at 615 East Main Street. Testing will be available on November 13 and 27.

Keep an eye out for the Annual Christmas tree lighting on Saturday, November 28. We will be lighting the tree and singing a few Christmas songs. Christmas in Thurmont will be held on Saturday, December 5, this year. There will be several changes to Christmas in Thurmont due to COVID-19 restrictions. We will be posting more information on the Town of Thurmont Facebook page as it becomes available.

I am happy to see that our local businesses are doing well and ask that you consider shopping locally whenever you can. When you shop locally, you are supporting not only our local businesses, but also our community. Our businesses hire local residents and support our community in many ways.

Get ready to get some delicious food and deals during Thurmont’s To-Go BOGO week from Thurmont’s Locally Owned Restaurants! November 6-14: Eat, Eat, Repeat! Participating restaurants are Bollinger’s Restaurant, Celebrations Catering, Fratelli’s NY Pizza, Rocky’s NY Pizza & Italian Restaurant, Roy Rogers, Thurmont Bar & Grill, and Thurmont Kountry Kitchen. Look for To-Go BOGO specials posted on the Thurmont Main Street Facebook page. Restaurant Week in April had to be canceled. The To-Go BOGO is in honor of our Traditional Restaurant Week.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, I can be reached by email at or by telephone at 301-606-9458.


For more information on the Town of Thurmont, visit or call 301-271-7313.

Thurmont is a Tree City USA Town for the Fourth Year

Thurmont has been recognized as a Tree City USA town for the fourth year in a row. The Tree City USA designation is part of an Arbor Day Foundation program. Mayor John Kinnaird credited Thurmont’s success in receiving the designation to Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick’s and Becky Wilson’s, with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division, efforts to plant trees in Thurmont parks and other locations in the town. Humerick said nearly 500 trees have been planted in Thurmont since 2014.

“It is nice to know 437 other trees have been planted for our kids and grandkids to enjoy as they grow up,” Kinnaird said. “I know we won’t be around to see most of them mature, but it’s nice to know that they will be there.”

Thurmont Lions Honoring Veterans

Veterans Day is this month, and the Thurmont Lions Club will be honoring Veterans with their pictures, names, rank, branch of service, date of service, and war era on banners hung from light posts throughout Thurmont.

Property Maintenance Changes Added to Code

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners voted to approve changes to the town code, giving the town the authority to remove dead or diseased trees from private or public property within the town if the tree constitutes a hazard to people, property, or other trees. If the property owner does not remove such a tree after being notified, the town can do so and place a lien on the property for the cost of removal.

Speed Camera Numbers In

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners reviewed the results of the speed cameras placed near school zones over the previous year. Sgt. Armstrong told them that the numbers were probably lower than they would typically have been because of the reduction of traffic on the road due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

During the year the cameras were in place, 393 citations were issued, and 317 of them paid. Each citation is $40 and no points, with $12 going to OptiTraffic, the manufacturer and operator of the cameras.

The average speed drivers were going in the 25 mph school zones was 44 mph, with one driver apparently driving down East Main Street at 80 mph on a Sunday morning. Others were photographed doing 70+ miles per hour.

Although not put in place to generate revenue, the town makes $28 from each paid citation. This means the town has received $8,876 from the 317 paid citations.


For more information on the Town of Emmitsburg, visit or call 301-600-6300.

Town to Offer More Business Grants

After the distribution of micro-grants to town businesses that lost at least half of their income due to pandemic-related problems, the Town of Emmitsburg had $17,000 remaining in its grant fund. The town had considered donating the money to the Emmitsburg Business and Professional Association for business-related uses. However, during the October town meeting, the commissioners decided to open a second round of grants. This round of grants will be open to businesses that have suffered at least a 25 percent loss of business due to COVID-19.

New Ordinances Passed

The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners held a public hearing and adopted new zoning and subdivision amendments. However, one portion of the subdivision amendment was removed for later discussion. This section concerns who will provide and fund playgrounds and recreation areas in the subdivision.

Phase 2 Water Restrictions in Effect

Phase 2 water restrictions remain in effect in Emmitsburg. This restriction prohibits the filling or replenishing of swimming pools, outside consumption of water (washing cars, houses, sidewalks, and watering lawns and gardens), and providing drinking water at restaurants unless requested by the customer.

Violations carry fines of up to $75.

The action was taken because the water levels continue to drop in town wells and Rainbow Lake with no significant rain in sight.

“If we don’t try to do something now, and it continues to drop, you can’t get that water back,” Town Manager Cathy Willetts told the commissioners.

She said the town needs a long, soaking rain to get things back to normal.

Campaign Off to a Running Start

Deb Abraham Spalding

The Town of Thurmont’s 6th Annual Gateway to The Cure Covered Bridge 5K Fun Run/Walk took place on Sunday, September 13, 2020, at Eyler Road Park in Thurmont. It kicked off the town’s annual “Gateway to the Cure Campaign” fund drive to benefit the Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund at Frederick Health.

This year, the Gateway to the Cure Campaign includes the Covered Bridge 5K, a golf tournament that will be held October 9, and a fundraising campaign within the Thurmont business community during the month of October. Also, the town sells “Gateway to the Cure” merchandise and pink light bulbs.

Thanks to your support, the Town of Thurmont has donated over $83,000 in the last six years to the Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund at Frederick Health.

Around 70 runners came out for the Covered Bridge 5K, with the top five male and female runners receiving a commemorative trophy. The top finisher, Owen Bubczyk, bested the former course record with a time of 19:07.

The top five female runners were: 5th Place—Kathryn Morgan (44:04); 4th Place—Tammy Gibson (41:40); 3rd Place—Sharon Cofer (38:58); 2nd Place—Kennedy McArthur (30:46 Note: first-ever race, and she is 17!); 1st Place—Roxanna Kircher (25:07).

The top five male runners were: 5th Place—Thomas Breivogel, Jr (24:29); 4th Place—Josh Spiers (23:07); 3rd Place—Jarrett Karnibad (22:52); 2nd Place—Reid Fliegel (19:56); 1st Place—Owen Bubczyk (19:07 Course Record).

Participants Terri Burch Pue, Robin Rippeon, and Karen Kinkaid are shown at the beginning of the Covered Bridge 5K  Run/Walk in Eyler Road Park in Thurmont.

Approximately 70 runners and walkers turn out for the race in the beautiful weather. Brian Payne waves “Hi” on his way by the camera.

First-place finisher Owen Bubczyk sets a new course record with a time of 19:07.

Jim Humerick, Thurmont’s CAO, helps by handing out pins before the race starts.

Deb Abraham Spalding

The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners held a ceremony on September 12, 2020, for the dedication of Emmitsburg Community Park as E. Eugene Myers Community Park.

E. Eugene Myers was a life-long resident of Emmitsburg. He is credited with establishing the Community Park through his involvement in youth sports and managing many softball and baseball teams. Throughout his life, Mr. Myers served as a volunteer fireman, as well as chief of the Vigilant Hose Company for 10 years. He has also served as Emmitsburg mayor (1978-1980), town commissioner (1974-1978), president of the town council, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and as a park commissioner. He was a member of Emmitsburg’s Knights of Columbus, and helped bring the National Fire Academy to town. He owned and operated Myers Radio and TV on East Main Street in Emmitsburg for many years.

Tim Clarke served as master of ceremonies for the occasion. Invocation was given by Reverend Vincent J. O’Malley, and the welcome was given by Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs. Tributes were given by Tim Clarke and Frank Davis.

Frank said, “Luckily, I was one of the youngsters who got to grow up with Gene. Seemed like everything he touched, somehow, touched me. He was my first Babe Ruth coach. He was my first fire chief. He was very instrumental in where I ended up in my career. I was able to watch all of this develop.” He gestured to the surrounding park. “He started this with his own time and his own money. There wasn’t grant money; you couldn’t go to the county or the state. We had great times. His sons managed and umpired back here (motioning to a field where a game was taking place behind him), and his grandsons were coached and played back here. His family is very proud of all he accomplished.”

Tim recognized family members: Gene’s kids, Doug, Mike, Steve, Patty, and Cathy; spouses, grandkids, great-grandkids. There were many in attendance. He then talked about his relationship with Gene’s son, Doug, in high school in the early 1980s when Gene was a larger-than-life figure in Emmitsburg. During his summers, Tim worked for the Town of Emmitsburg with Gene’s son, Steve. Tim played Babe Ruth Baseball with Gene and then slow-pitch softball as a member of Gene’s Myers Radio and TV sponsored Bulldogs. “Gene expected competitive gamesmanship from his players. When the game was over, it was always about family. Everyone on the team was in the family category.”

Tim said, “It is more than fitting that this community park be named in Gene’s honor… however, let us not forget that beside every good man is an equally powerful and influential woman. Gene’s wife, Loretta, was always the silent rock and driving force pushing Gene to continue working toward his dream and plan for Emmitsburg.”

Proclamations were presented by Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs, Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, Maryland State Delegate Daniel L. Cox, Maryland Senator Michael Huff, and comments were made by Frederick County Councilman Michael Blue (representing District 5), to reaffirm Gene’s contribution to the town and community.

Members of the Myers Family unveiled the new signage.

Community Park was renamed the “E. Eugene Myers Community Park” in recognition of Myers’ “extraordination contributions” to the town.

Deb Abraham Spalding

At the Catoctin Mountain Orchard in Thurmont, apples aren’t just grown and sold, various varieties are studied, cultivated, and found! Congratulations to Robert (Bob) Black, of Catoctin Mountain Orchard, for earning the 2020 Apple Grower of the Year Award title.

The American Fruit Grower Apple Grower of the Year Award was created 31 years ago by the editor of American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazines. It is presented annually and honors apple growers who have gone beyond the confines of the orchard and have, through their involvement and leadership, made a real impact on the apple industry due to their efforts in innovative production, marketing, horticultural, and management practices while being actively involved in associations and simultaneously taking a strong role in the apple industry.

Bob gives a lot of credit for this award to his father, the late Harry Black, who taught his children, Bob and Pat, the meaning of hard work at the orchard, leadership in the community, and cooperation and collaboration among apple growers with innovative growing practices.

Additionally, Bob gives credit to his family. He’s adamant, saying, “Yeah, I got the award, but basically, it belongs to the Catoctin Orchard family. I was just the one who traveled and took time to pursue other facets of the orchard business because my hardworking sister (Pat) kept things handled at home.” He explained, “This award went to me personally, but it really should go to our whole operation. It’s a team effort. All of my family and staff members do the work and make me look good…I’ve got to mention my family including my son, Christopher who represents the third generation along with Katlyn and Kylie the fourth generation who all help work this orchard.”

Bob feels that he wouldn’t be in the position to earn this award had it not been for a pivotal visit to the orchard from the University of Maryland’s Extension Specialist, Ben Rogers and University of Maryland Professor of Horticulture Dr. Arthur Thompson in the late 1970s where they suggested that Harry plant a relatively new variety of apple named Gala.

Many customers started shopping at the market for more Gala apples. Growing all those Gala apples is what led to an important discovery in 1995. To ensure top flavor all workers were advised to pick only the ripe apples leaving all green left on the trees. Three weeks after picking all the gala apples there was one tree that stood out. Bob was driving down the orchard road when he noticed one limb that had 60% red over yellow apples. “I thought we had picked everything down there, what the heck is that?”. It appeared to be a limb sport off of a normal ‘Gala’ tree that was clearly different and much later. Not only was this variety more red in color but it achieved the ‘noisy’ solid crunch with a sweet, crisp flavor. We contacted a well-known Nurseryman, Wally Heuser, to confirm that the Blacks latest discovery was in fact a new variety. The patent name was “Harry Black Gala” named after his dad, but the “Trade Name” was Autumn Gala which have planted all over the country. Unfortunately, Harry died in 1998 before the patent was issued.

To date, Bob remains involved with growing and experimenting with apples. He is a member of several professional organizations dedicated to orchards and growing fruit. He grafts and tests new varieties and shares his information for others to benefit.

Several of his peers commented about Bob’s impact in a Growing Produce article by David Eddy. “Mark Boyer of Ridgetop Orchards in Fishertown, PA, is a former chairman of the U.S. Apple Association, and the son of Dan Boyer, the 2006 Apple Grower of the Year. He said, ‘Bob Black has been a staple in the Mid-Atlantic fruit-growing region for decades. He has served on almost every board position available both in fruits and vegetables to social and community. Always the first to help and the last to complain.’”

If you’ve made any rounds to agricultural, school, or community service banquets in our area, or the State of Maryland for that matter, you will have noticed that Catoctin Orchard is often represented in the door prize or fundraising giveaways with several boxes of apples or gift certificates. Bob’s always sharing the gift of the growers.

Robert (Bob) Black, recently named Apple Grower of the Year, is shown in the apple orchard at Catoctin Mountain Orchard in Thurmont.

Pictured in this circa 1992 photo by Bob Black are University of Maryland Extension Specialist, Ben Rogers (left), Professor of Horticulture at University of Maryland, Dr. Arthur Thompson (right), with Harry Black (center), looking at Magnus Pear blossoms to detect if any pollination from insects or bees has taken place.

Pictured are Katlyn Robertson, Sage (dog), and Bob Black.


Mayor Don Briggs

Comparing last year and years before with this August is like comparing life in a parallel universe. Some of us are wrapping up vacations—although, most likely much different vacations than years past—and others are enjoying the last days at the community pool. With the exception of Mother Seton School students, most children are not returning to school. We are amidst a slow rollout of the governor’s “Stage II of the Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery” plan to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. It is so different, but let’s accept and protect those most vulnerable. We will get through it.

At the August regularly scheduled meeting, the town council concurred on extending the town voluntary conservation restraint by all users of town water. This perspective will be reassessed at the September 8 town meeting. Because our offices are housed in the county-owned community building that is closed, the meeting will be virtual.

As scheduled, the last day the pool will be open is Labor Day, September 7. We are working with pool management on opening the pool for at least one more weekend after Labor Day.

Business growth and the resale of homes in town is strong. Dunkin’ (Donuts) is still planning to open in early September.

From the engineers working on the Rutter’s convenient store and gas, all county approvals have been met. Now they are waiting on state highway entrance approval, and the Maryland Department of the Environment signing off on the stormwater pond.

We have before us a proposal for a 50,000-square-foot owner-user warehouse.

We have met with a developer for an extended-stay hotel that could well complement the needs of the Mount for student housing. There is strong interest from several developers of tracts of land off Irishtown Road that would afford the installation of a second street out of Northgate.

A daycare center provider has purchased the former food bank building on East Main Street and is proceeding with readapting the building for childcare use.

The Silo Hill stormwater basin retrofit virtual public outreach was successful. The retrofit is part of work necessary for the state for stormwater permit restoration. We have applied for a $34,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust plan. Completion is scheduled for 2021.

The North Seton Avenue Green Street conceptual plan that will abate storm runoff to the Northgate entrance at Northgate was presented to town council and approved to move to next step. We are applying for a grant from Chesapeake Bay Trust.

As a part of care for our 900 acres of forest land, we have entered our second logging contract on what we reference as Stand 6 for $37,500. The logging will be done in 2021. Last year, we logged Stand 5 and received $46,000. Just recently we followed up cutting with spraying for invasive species. Our forest care and logging are all done under a Maryland State Forestry plan and constant communication.

After being dismissed at a town meeting in 2009 and vowing to never comeback, Ryan Homes is coming back to Emmitsburg. It took several humble invitations, coupled with other influences to bring the builder back. Their intention is to build-out the remaining lots in the Brookfield subdivision. Within their noted mastery, they will find the workable market price-point for the new homes that eluded the builder.

As I mentioned last month, I am running for re-election for mayor in September. I want to keep working with you to make Emmitsburg even better. We have had great success over the last nine years. We have revitalized the downtown, “the foyer to all our homes,” connected our community with sidewalks for the first time and embarked on so many cost-saving renewable energy initiatives. How did we do this while reducing taxes 14 percent? We did it with $531,000 in grant awards and partnering with the state. Costs are still going up, and revenue dollars are starting to wane, so we must look to newer technological opportunities and grants. We are ready.

These are challenging times, but we can meet any challenge if we work together as we have during my term as mayor.

As always, thank you.


 Mayor John Kinnaird

Thurmont households have until September 30 to respond to the U.S. Census. So far, 81.8 percent of Thurmont households have responded to the 2020 Census, while the statewide response rate is 68 percent. Let’s make it a 100 percent response from Thurmont residents! Census data is used to determine how your federal tax dollars are distributed in our communities for programs that touch every one of our residents, from our infants to our senior citizens. Every Thurmont resident not counted can mean an annual shortfall of $1,800 in federal investment in our community. Please remember that the Census is private and confidential. All households have until September 30 to respond online, via mail, at, or by phone at 1-844-330-2020 (English)/ 1-844-468-2020 (Spanish), or #MDBeCounted.

On Saturday, August 22, we gathered to dedicate the completed murals on the old H&F Trolley Substation building on East Main Street in Thurmont. Yemi has done a masterful job of capturing the history of Thurmont and the many highlights most of us take for granted that make our town a great place to live. This project was started several years ago by the Thurmont Lions Club as part of the Trolley Trail improvements. My thanks to Yemi for bringing his amazing vision and talent to this community arts project, and to all those who supported this wonderful endeavor. The recent additions were made possible by: Delaplaine Foundation, Dan Ryan Builders, Gateway Orthodontics, Thurmont Lions Club, Market Research & Resources, Ausherman Family Foundation, Main Street Maryland, Maryland State Arts Council, Imagination Center, Church of the Brethren, Frederick Arts Council, Frederick Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, Rowland Glass Studio, Marlene B. Young & Mike Young, Catoctin Colorfest Inc, George Delaplaine, an anonymous donor, and The Town of Thurmont. I encourage everyone to visit the substation building to have a look at Yemi’s artwork.

The Town of Thurmont has hosted a used oil dropoff site and a recycling dropoff for many years at the Public Works facility on Frederick Road. We are in the process of moving both of these facilities to a new location. The oil dropoff is temporarily closed during the move. Those with used oil looking for a dropoff should contact one of our local auto parts stores; they do accept used oil. The new facility will be open on September 1; watch for more information in your electric bill. I want to remind everyone that you should not leave oil filters, oil bottles, or other items at the oil dropoff. Be sure to put used oil only in the oil container, and antifreeze only in the antifreeze container. Recycling should be placed in the recycling roll-off. All boxes should be flattened before placing in the roll-off. There is a sign at the new location, indicating what can be recycled at this location. The roll-off is emptied regularly, but please do not leave your recycling on the ground if you find it full. Please bring it back later, or put it out on the regular recycling pick-up day.

Contact me with questions, comments, or concerns at or by phone at 301-606-9458.

Pictured left to right are Terry Lee Myers’ sons Randy, Terry, and Billy, as they unveil the bridge dedication sign during the dedication ceremony on Saturday, July 25, 2020.

On a very hot Saturday morning, July 25, 2020, a formal unveiling of highway signs took place next to the recently completed bridge on East Main Street (Maryland Route 140) in Emmitsburg, where it crosses over Flat Run. The ceremony honored the memory of the late Vigilant Hose Company (VHC) Firefighter Terry Lee Myers.

At the age of 50, Firefighter Myers died in the Line of Duty on February 15, 1999, of a heart attack while operating at the scene of a brush fire on the campus of Mount Saint Mary’s University. His family continues to be very active with the VHC. Tim Clarke, VHC past president, served as Master of Ceremonies, and the Frederick County Fire/Rescue Services Honor Guard posted the Colors followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Jane Moore. At the time of his passing, Firefighter Myers lived on East Main Street, only a short distance from the ceremony site.

VHC Chaplain Pastor Heath Wilson offered the event’s Invocation and Benediction. Key honored guests and organizations were recognized for their support. Tributes were offered by VHC Past Chief Frank Davis and VHC Past President Tim Clarke. Additionally, 15 members of the Patriot Guard Riders came from as far away as Salisbury, Maryland, and the State of Delaware to proudly display American Flags in honor of Firefighter Terry Myers. Open to the public, the event followed CDC guidelines of social distancing and face coverings.

Nearly 150 attendees were present, including local, county, and state level dignitaries. Special guests making presentations included Maryland State Senator Michael Haugh; Maryland State Delegate Dan Cox; Frederick County Government Affairs Director Joy Schaefer representing County Executive Jan Gardner; Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs; and Frederick County Fire/Rescue Services Chief Tom Coe.

Flying high proudly next to the bridge was the U.S Flag from the VHC’s Tower 6, a 100-foot aerial truck; plus, on-hand for inspection was VHC’s Engine-Tanker 64 and its memorial plaque dedicated to Terry. The Myers family was presented with replica remembrance signage, which was then followed by the sign unveiling and sounding of VHC’s House Siren.

Upon closing, all attendees were invited to join family and department members for lunch at the VHC Activities Building a short distance away. The ceremonial event was coordinated by VHC’s Frank Rauschenberg, MD SFMO retired, and culminated several years of advance coordination by VHC Life Member Austin Umbel, working in concert with the MDOT/SHA. Copies of the printed program are available upon request via VHC’s website or Facebook page.

Terry’s late brothers, Gene and Butch Myers, were also VHC members, Gene having served for years as chief of department. To this day, Terry’s wife, Wanda, and son, Randy, remain very active with the Company. At the time of his death, VHC Life Member Terry Myers was serving on the Company’s Board of Directors, a position he held for many years.

For more than 27 years, Terry was a truck driver for Ingersoll-Dresser Pump Manufacturing Company (Flowserve) in Taneytown. His love of driving trucks continued in his off-time as part of his passion for the fire service. For over 33 years, day or night, any type of weather and any day of the year, he was an integral part of his hometown fire department. Terry was renowned for his skills as a safe and effective operator of large emergency vehicles.

More than 21 years after his passing, men and women alike remember Terry for his work at the station and all that went with it. He was a permanent fixture in the firehouse kitchen, preparing and serving food. He also worked on a variety of projects, including maintenance of apparatus and the emergency tools carried on them. Terry was widely known and highly regarded throughout the region.

Terry’s February 1999 funeral, which included full fire department honors, was held with a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Emmitsburg. Interment followed at Resthaven Memorial Gardens, north of Frederick. Terry, a member of St. Joseph’s Church, was also a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6658.

The ceremony was held on the grounds near the bridge on East Main Street in Emmitsburg.

Pictured above: VHC’s Engine-Tanker 64 has a memorial plaque dedicated to Terry.

Pictured above: Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs addresses the audience during the ceremony.

Neal Coty Writes Songs for Some of the Most Popular Country Artists

James Rada Jr.

Although Neal Coty has released two country music albums over the years (Chance and Circumstance in 1997 and Legacy in 2001), you are more likely to have heard his lyrics coming out of the mouths of Mark Chestnutt, Blake Shelton, and many other country stars.

Coty, a 1982 Catoctin High School graduate, grew up knowing he wanted to work in music, but he saw himself as a rock star. He even played guitar in a high school band called Magister Ludi. The band was named after a Hermann Hesse book, although Coty says he doesn’t know why.

However, while working at WTHU in high school, he had what he calls his epiphany.

“We would play these 45s, and I realized that all the songs I liked were written by someone other than the performers,” Coty said.

So, he continued performing, but he also felt energized to write songs. He moved to Baltimore after he graduated.

While in Los Angeles recording one of his songs (at that time, he was still performing rock), a friend set up a meeting between Coty and a representative of the Nashville Songwriters Association. Coty went to the meeting, and the woman told him he had five minutes to play her his best song. He played a rock song, and when he finished, she told him, “Play something else.” He played another song, and when he finished that one, she asked for another song. After the third song, she asked him if he had considered working as a staff writer for a music publisher. Coty was open to the idea, and she arranged meetings in Nashville for him to meet with different music publishers.

Coty stopped for a few days in Nashville on his way back to Baltimore. He visited the publishers and played them his songs.

“By the time I got back to Baltimore, there were messages on my machine with offers from the publishers,” he said.

He spent the first year traveling back and forth between Baltimore and Nashville before moving there. He feels like the 1990s was a great decade for him to get into country music—the types of songs that were selling meshed well with his style.

He has written or co-written songs for Mark Chesnutt (“She Was”), James Wesley (“Real”), Craig Morgan (“Every Friday Afternoon”), Blake Shelton (“Playboys of the Southwestern World”), Flynnville Train (“Last Good Time”), and Heartland (“Mustache”), to name a few. However, he notes that none of his favorite songs, those closest to his heart and how he was feeling at the time, were ever recorded.

Among his recorded songs, he said his favorite is “One Night in Tulsa” by Kylie Frey and “The Jacket” by Ashley McBryde.

While Coty says he enjoys writing more than he ever did performing, he says it can be frustrating sometimes. He told one story of performing live. He announced to the audience that he was going to sing a song he wrote. As he started singing, one woman shouted, “That’s not your song. It’s Tim McGraw’s!” McGraw had recorded the song. Another time, he went to a store to buy a new CD by a performer who had included one of Coty’s songs on it. He was so excited to find his name in the liner notes that he unwrapped it while in line. He pointed to the song and told the woman behind him in line, “That’s my song!” She just smiled and said, “That’s my song, too, honey,” not realizing Coty meant he had written the song rather than saying it was one of his favorites.

Nowadays, Coty is enjoying life as a songwriter and occasional performer.

“I love my life,” he said. “As long as I can keep going, I will. I’m not worried about fame.”

He gets up each morning and will “noodle around” on his guitar, playing notes and making up pieces of lyrics. It’s a stream of consciousness exercise that often yields something that will later become a song. While writing so many songs each year can be an effort, it also gives him a better chance of finding a song he likes.

“It’s fun to write songs, but you have to write 100 to find that one good song,” Coty said.

He said he continues to try and evolve his writing and avoid casting a song or writing a song for a specific artist. That said, his work sometimes requires him to write as if a song was going to be recorded by a specific singer. When those songs do get recorded, Coty said he usually realizes he could have done a better job if he hadn’t been so focused on a specific singer.

He is more than happy to allow younger performers to claim the spotlight. “My role is to help them put their feelings to a song,” Coty said.

He finds time every day to work on new songs. Although his job expects him to write 12 songs a year, Coty estimates he writes closer to 50.

He regularly returns to Thurmont to see his family. “I also love high school football and try to see Catoctin play when I’m here,” he said.

Note: The timing of this article coincides with the passing of Neal’s mother, Gloria Angleberger (please reference her obituary on page 25). Neal, we offer our sincere condolences to you, your family, and your extended family.

James Rada, Jr.

With just about every summer event in the area canceled because of COVID-19 and worries about traveling out of state because of quarantining, people are looking for something to do nearby. And let’s face it, they need to do something enjoyable to release some of the stress caused by the virus. So, here are 10 things you can do locally to have some fun this summer.

Dine Outdoors at a Local Restaurant or Get Take-Out and Have a Picnic

Although the local restaurants are open for limited seating indoors, why not try their outdoor dining options? Many restaurants don’t offer outdoor dining typically. So, take advantage of the opportunity now. Who knows how long it will last?

As a variation, you could pick up a take-out order at your favorite restaurant and take it for a picnic in the park or another favorite location. Why not try a late meal under the stars?

Pick Up a Book at the Library with Curbside Pickup

The Frederick County Public Libraries were closed for months. They still remain closed to the public for the foreseeable future. However, you can still pick up a new book or movie for an escape from reality.

Both the Thurmont Regional Library and Emmitsburg Branch are offering curbside pickup of library materials.

To take advantage of this offering, use the library’s website ( or call your local branch to place the items you want on hold. The library will contact you when your items are available. You can then make an appointment to pick up the items (quickest way) or just drop by. Look for the curbside pickup sign in the library parking lot and call the number on the sign. Provide the staff with the information they ask for and follow their directions to ensure a contactless delivery that supports social distancing.

It’s as simple as that.

Swim at Cunningham Falls or the Emmitsburg Pool

Want to cool off when the temperature climbs past 90 degrees? You can swim in the Hunting Creek Lake at Cunningham State Park in Thurmont. COVID-19 has caused staffing shortages at the park, so lifeguards aren’t always on duty. You can swim when no lifeguard is present, but it is at your own risk.               

Another swimming option is the Emmitsburg Community Pool, which is open from noon to 7:00 p.m. daily. However, COVID restrictions now limit the pool occupancy to 111 people. Because of this, the town has been limiting admission to residents of the 21727 zip code. If you live outside of this zip code, call 301-447-9820 before heading to the pool to check if the residency restriction is still in place.

If you do use the Emmitsburg pool, you will need to wear a face mask inside the bathhouse or when speaking with staff members. You are also expected to maintain social distancing, even when you are in the pool.

Pick Your Own Berries at a Local Farm

Enjoy the sweet taste of fresh-picked fruit at a pick-your-own farm. Make an afternoon outing and pick some of your favorite fruits—discover how much tastier fresh fruit is.

Catoctin Mountain Orchard at 15036 North Franklinville Road in Thurmont offers blackberries, black raspberries, blueberries, sweet and sour cherries, and strawberries. Call 301-271-2737 or visit

Gardenhour Orchards at 22511 Gardenhour Road in Smithsburg offers apples, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and peaches. Call 301-824-7466 or visit

Glade Link Farms at 12270 Woodsboro Pike in New Midway offers strawberries, blueberries, red raspberries, vegetables, and flowers. Call 301-898-7131 or visit

Pryor’s Orchard at 13841-B Pryor Road in Thurmont offers blueberries and sweet and sour cherries. Call 301-271-2693 or visit

Round House Farm at 23435 Ringgold Pike in Smithsburg offers blueberries. Call 240-818-2590.

Play Disk Golf at the Emmitsburg Community Park

Have a Frisbee? Try your hand at disc golf. Emmitsburg has a new 18-basket disc golf course in the E. Eugene Myer Community Park. The game is played like golf except you throw Frisbees instead of hitting a ball, and you try to get the Frisbee in a basket rather than a hole. True enthusiasts even have a set of Frisbees of different weights that are designed to fly at different ranges instead of golf clubs.

Enjoy Fresh Produce and Other Products at the Farmer’s Market

Both Thurmont and Emmitsburg are running farmer’s markets to bring you the best in local produce, meats, eggs, and other items.

The Emmitsburg Farmer’s Market is on Fridays from 3:00-6:30 p.m. at 302 South Seton Avenue in Emmitsburg.

The Thurmont Farmer’s Market is held every Saturday from 9:00 a.m.-noon in the Thurmont Municipal Parking Lot in front of the Thurmont American Legion.

You are asked to wear a face mask and practice social distancing at both markets.

Hike or Bike the Local Trails

Both Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park have dozens of miles of trails that you can enjoy. The trails vary in length and difficulty level, so you can be sure to find something that matches your ability. Just make sure to wear sturdy footwear and take along water to keep yourself hydrated.

Emmitsburg also has its 13-mile multi-user trail near Rainbow Lake. The trail has three loops that are suitable for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking.

For something more casual, try the Thurmont Trolley Trail or the walking trails around both the Thurmont and Emmitsburg community parks. These trails are level and less than a mile long.

Enjoy the Rocky Ridge Slide

If you have a need for speed, slide down the giant wooden slide in the Rocky Ridge park at 13544 Motters Station Road in Rocky Ridge. The wood is polished smooth from the thousands of people who have used it, and it doesn’t get hot on summer days like a metal slide. Best of all, unlike many sliding boards nowadays, you actually slide. And if you really want to go fast, try the slide sitting on one of the burlap bags you’ll find there.

Visit the Catoctin Zoo

Take a walk through the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve, and enjoy seeing and learning more about a variety of exotic animals. Because of the virus restrictions, the camel rides, parakeet feedings, and educational shows are not available. However, you can still walk through the 50-acre park and enjoy both the animals and scenery.

Face masks are required in the building, but not outside unless you are on the safari ride. You should also socially distance yourself from others not in your party. The number of people allowed in the main building is limited, so on busy days, you might have to wait to enter.

Kayak on the Monocacy River

The Monocacy River offers nearly 42 miles of river, along which you can kayak and canoe, although the water might be low in late summer. You can paddle or float with the current, which runs about 2 mph. You might even come across a few mild rapids. It will make for a fun afternoon outing.

There are two local access points at the bridge in Rocky Ridge and the Creagerstown Park. In all, there are nine access points where you can enter or exit the river.

You can download a free map of the river and the access points at

James Rada Jr.

Thurmont’s largest event and one of the largest craft festivals in Maryland has fallen victim to COVID-19. Colorfest has been canceled for the first time in its 57-year history.

“We’ve had very cold weather, very hot weather, drenching rain… we even had it a month after 9/11. I was really worried that year that having so many people might make us a target, but we made it through all that,” said Catoctin Colorfest President Carol Robertson.

The Thurmont Commissioners met with members of Catoctin Colorfest, Inc. and different community groups that benefit from the 100,000 visitors Colorfest brings to Thurmont during the second week of October each year. For many community organizations, the annual Catoctin Colorfest event is their primary fundraiser for the year.

The town provides bus service, sanitation, and additional security for the event, which is paid for out of permit fees vendors pay. Town officials needed to know if the event would continue, so completion of the competitive bidding process could be done in time for the event.

“We find ourselves in the midst of a public health emergency, and while we hope that the virus does not have a significant resurgence in the fall, the incidence of infection is predicted to increase. The only smart thing to do at this time is to rely on the science and make a decision now that will permit people to plan while also protecting the public,” the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners said in a released statement.

They feared that such a large gathering, where social distancing could not be maintained, would create a surge in people contracting the virus.

“We have an obligation to protect not just the residents of Thurmont but all those who visit Thurmont. Given the severity of the pandemic, we have determined that it is unsafe to proceed with the festival as a matter of public health and safety. While we are disappointed that it cannot be held this year, we look forward to the Colorfest Festival in 2021,” the mayor and commissioners said.

Robertson told the commissioners that she had been thinking about what to do for months, but too many things needed to come together for the event to work. In the end, it came down to her and the other members of the Catoctin Colorfest Board not wanting to harm the community they love.

“I have given a lot of thought to this whole thing, but I am more concerned about my family, friends, and this community than I am for having 100,000 people come here,” she told the commissioners.

Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler agreed, telling the commissioners, “It is going to be a big risk if we do have it, and I think we should cancel it. There is no way to do social distancing, there is no way to enforce coverings, no way to really enforce anything. We have trouble now enforcing that with what we have in Town, and I know other law enforcement agencies have the same thing.”

Therefore, the decision was made to cancel the event for 2020, and plan on making the 2021 event on October 9-10 even better.

Large crowds of visitors are shown at the 2019 Catoctin Colorfest, Thurmont’s largest much-anticipated yearly event.

by James Rada, Jr.


Voluntary Water Restrictions Enacted

Due to a lack of rain, the Town of Emmitsburg has enacted its phase 1 water restrictions. At this phase, everyone is asked to voluntarily restrict their water usage. In mid-July, Rainbow Lake was three to four inches below where it should have been, and town wells were down one foot. Should the drop in water levels continue, additional restrictions might be required.

Town Election Approaching

The Emmitsburg town election will be held on Tuesday, September 29. The positions of mayor and town commissioner are up for a vote. So far, incumbents Mayor Don Briggs and Commissioner Joseph Ritz, III, have filed for re-election, and former Mayor James Hoover has also filed for election. Any candidate interested in running must file by August 28.

To vote in the town election, you must be registered to vote with the Frederick County Board of Elections by August 28.

Community Park Renamed

The Emmitsburg Commissioners had previously voted to rename Community Park in honor of Gene Myers. Commissioner Frank Davis met with members of the Myers Family to see what name they would prefer to be used. The new name of the park will be the E. Eugene Myers Community Park. The tentative date for the ceremony celebrating the new name will be September 12.

New Policy Approved

The Emmitsburg Commissioners approved a small cell wireless facility ordinance and policy in July. Although the commissioners still had questions and may revisit the ordinance and policy within the next few months, they wanted to have something on the books in case a company approached the town with a request for such a facility.

The ordinance and policy were approved 4-1, with Commissioner Joseph Ritz III voting against.

Fees Increased

The Emmitsburg Commissioners updated their fees for rezoning, development, annexation, and infrastructure. It had been years since the fees had been updated. The new fees are essentially the average of fees charged by the other Frederick County municipalities.

“We are seeing a large uptick in development, and we are losing money in revenue,” Town Planner Zach Gulden told the commissioners.

The new fees were approved 4-1, with Commissioner Joseph Ritz III voting against.

Forestry Bid Awarded

The Emmitsburg Commissioners approved a $37,500 bid from Tipton’s Inc. of Union Bridge to timber stand six of the town’s land. Tipton’s did a good job with a previous timbering contract on town land, and the bid exceeds the estimated value of the timber. In addition, $4,500 of the amount will be set aside for trail repair.


Health Department Offers Virus Testing Locally

The Frederick County Health Department is providing on-site COVID-19 testing locally. Walk-up testing will be available at the Thurmont Municipal Offices parking lot at 615 East Main Street, every Friday from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Testing is free; no insurance or doctor’s note is needed, and you will receive your results in two to four days. Please remember to practice physical distancing and wear face coverings. Contact the Frederick County Health Department with any questions.

Thurmont Joins National Clean Energy Challenge

The Town of Thurmont is taking on the challenge to see how it stacks up to other cities across the nation when it comes to clean energy successes. Thirty communities in five states are taking the Sustainable States Community Energy Challenge, which offers tools and support to assess clean energy goals and initiatives. Participating cities will be a part of an in-state peer cohort and receive technical assistance to complete a pressing clean energy initiative. Additionally, the challenge will compare clean energy achievements across similarly-sized cities, assess future initiatives, and provide project implementation assistance.

The project is a partnership of the Sustainable States Network, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), and five state-level sustainability programs, including Sustainable CT, Green Cities California, Sustainable Maryland, Minnesota GreenStep Cities, and Sustainable Jersey.

Det. Bowen is Thurmont’s Police Officer of the Year

The Thurmont Lions Club announced recently that Detective Gerald Bowen is the 2020 Thurmont Police Officer of the Year. Bowen joined the Thurmont Police in 2013, after 19 years with the Frederick Police Department. His name will be added to the plaque of former winners. He also received a gift certificate, and a donation was made in his name to the charity of his choice. The charity Bowen chose was St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Property Annexed into Thurmont

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners annexed 96 East Moser Road into the town. It is 10.02 acres that will primarily be used to expand the Thurmont Trolley Trail. The property was purchased using Program Open Space funds.

Town Makes Annual Donations

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners made their annual contributions to organizations that provide services to the town: The Guardian Hose Company received $30,000; the Thurmont Community Ambulance Company received $30,000; the Thurmont Food Bank received $6,000.


Mayor Don Briggs

Hello, neighbors. Summer in Emmitsburg 2020 is surely one we will look back on in the future. So many adjustments to even our most basic daily routines. Thank you to all for the cooperation and graciousness during this pandemic. Cautiously, in compliance with the governor’s plan, our parks have opened. The new dog park is being used, some are playing tennis, children are using our new all-accessible play equipment, and there is even some baseball being played. Users seem to be adhering to appropriate COVID-19 precautions, as given to the town from the county and state. To add to that array of recreational uses, the town opened the pool on July 3. The pool is a valued community recreational use, opened under strict state/county COVID-19 advisories compliance. Only 111 people can be admitted in the pool area at a time, a number tied to a ratio of square footage of pool surface area. A mask is required at the check-in registration point, in bathroom shower areas, and when talking with the manager or lifeguard. You will have to bear with us while we implement the more-restrictive health department guidelines.

Because of the lack of rain, the board of commissioners at the July 13 regularly scheduled monthly meeting joined me in enacting Phase 1 of Emmitsburg Town Code 13.04.160 (municipal water use). Phase 1 calls for voluntary conservation restraint by all users of town water. The water use situation will be reassessed at the August 3 regularly scheduled monthly town meeting.

By the distribution of this issue of the Banner, the new Flat Run Bridge will be dedicated in the name of Firefighter Terry Lee Myers. Mr. Myers died in the line of duty in a fire-suppression incident on February 15, 1999, after a wonderful life and career that included his distinguished service to the community and as a volunteer firefighter with Vigilant Hose Company.

The groundbreaking for Dunkin Donuts was spectacular. Re-adaptive use construction has begun, and the opening is planned for on or about September 1. The Dunkin store will have indoor and outdoor seating and a drive-thru window. This type of retail foodservice with a national brand name is generally referred to as “destination retail,” in that we will go out of our way to go there. As such, like a grocery store to a larger extent, Dunkin could bring additional retail services. At a minimum, it strengthens our commercial base and could act as a traffic generator for additional retail and possible office space.

We had another wonderful Community Heritage Day with evening events and fireworks. Thank you to the Lions Club and the management of Jennifer Joy and Cliff Sweeney.

Businesses, barbers, and restaurants are all open, and from feedback, they are adhering to state COVID-19 protocols. We are still waiting to hear about school and school-related activities for the fall.

The governor’s slow rollout “Stage II of the Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery” is the proper cadence and wise thing to do. This is a very serious disease, and keeping an eye on how other states that have opened are doing is the right thing for us.

It gives me great pleasure to humbly announce that I am running again for Mayor of Emmitsburg this fall. I have been so honored to serve the community over the last nine years. A time where we worked together in unity to “Take back the Square” and made it attractive and welcoming again. But that is not all. We have increased walkability in town by connecting and adding new sidewalks, developed a dog park, walking paths, installed new all access playground equipment and refurbished the pool. We put in energy saving streetlights, state-of-the-art solar energy systems, initiated grant programs for downtown properties where now close to a million dollars in improvements have been made. We have a new wastewater treatment plant and so much more. All in all, we have realized over $30,000,000 in improvements in such a brief period. We must keep our focus on infrastructure. With urgency, we are including in our infrastructure plans the work not tended to in previous years. Please bear with us. In the ensuing weeks, I will lay out my ideas for the future and seek your input.

These are challenging times, but we can meet any challenge if we work together, as we have during my term as mayor.

As always, thank you.


 Mayor John Kinnaird

I hope everyone is doing the best they can this summer! As a result of COVID-19, a lot of local events and many vacation plans have been canceled. I ask each of us to observe social distancing and wear a mask when you are with others; this is a small inconvenience that can save lives. Please be sure to follow the guidance of Governor Hogan and his staff as we continue to fight this widespread virus.

As you know, all the local carnivals have been canceled, as has the Thurmont & Emmitsburg Community Show and Colorfest. Most of the canceled events serve as fundraisers for our local fire and ambulance departments, churches, Lions Clubs, Scouts, Little League teams, and other organizations. All these organizations are going to see drastic drops in their donations this year and possibly into the near future. If you can please support them with donations, and if they decide to run small projects, be sure to attend and support their efforts. All these organizations play a big part in our daily lives. They need our continued support, especially during these difficult times.

In the last three weeks, many restaurants have opened to indoor seating with limited capacity and social distancing requirements. The majority of our local restaurants are still offering carryout, and our community has been, and continues to be, very supportive of this change.  All our restaurants appreciate the continued support of our residents and look forward to returning to normal service in the future. The majority of stores now require visitors to wear a face mask while shopping. Please wear one if you can; however, there are those among us with medical issues that may prevent them from wearing a mask. I ask that you be understanding of our fellow residents, and if you feel uncomfortable in a store or restaurant, please move to someplace you feel more secure. It is also important to keep in mind that if a store employee asks you to wear a mask, they are only responding to store policy; it is not a personal slight against you. In the last few months, we have all become a little more nervous and can be easily aggravated. Try the old count to ten rule if you find yourself in a situation where you are getting upset.

The Frederick County Health Department is offering free COVID-19 testing in both Thurmont and Emmitsburg. These tests are free and do not require a doctor’s order or that you have any symptoms. The next Thurmont Clinic will be held on Friday, August 7, at the Thurmont Town Offices, 615 East Main Street, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. The next clinic in Emmitsburg will be on Tuesday, August 11, at the Seton Center, 226 Lincoln Avenue, from 12:00-2:00 p.m. Testing will be offered at these locations every other week until further notice. Be sure to check or for changes to the COVID-19 testing schedule.

Finally, I want to once again congratulate the Catoctin High School (CHS) Class of 2020 graduates! This has been a very difficult year for all students, especially those that graduated this year. The class held their picnic at Mt. Tabor Park in July. This is the last time the students had a chance to get together to celebrate their graduation, and I know they had a great time, thanks to the hard work of the parents and volunteers.

As the CHS Class of 2020 heads out on a new adventure, whether it be furthering education, starting a career, establishing a family, or enlisting in the Armed Services, we want you to know that your community wishes you the best in whatever you choose to do!

As always, feel free to contact me by email at or by cell phone at 301-606-9458. I hope that everyone has a wonderful summer and that you get to spend quality time with family, friends, and soon-to-be-new friends!

James Rada, Jr.

The signs on the doors of businesses across the area are turning from closed to open as the COVID-19 restrictions in Maryland and Frederick County loosen. Even businesses that were open because they were deemed essential are expanding their operations.

On June 11, the Carriage House Inn in Emmitsburg opened with 32 outdoor seats so that customers could eat at the restaurant for the first time in months. That is, as long as it didn’t rain.

“This is so outside of the way we like to operate,” said Manager Kristy Shriner. “We like to exceed our customers’ expectations of service and this will make it hard to do.”

However, as the restrictions loosened, the restaurant would also offer indoor seating at 50 percent of capacity the following day.

Sherry Myers, owner of Kountry Kitchen in Thurmont was going through the steps of having outdoor seating when the restrictions allowed indoor seating.

“We were really worried the first two weeks after things closed down, but the community has been our biggest supporters,” she said.

With hospitalizations in Maryland under 1,000, and other metrics improving, Governor Larry Hogan lifted some restrictions on June 12 and 19.

On June 12, restaurants could allow indoor seating at 50 percent capacity with social distancing and other health considerations implemented.  Also, outdoor amusements, such as rides and miniature golf could reopen as long as they followed various health rules. Pools could operate at 50 percent capacity while following health rules.

On June 19, gyms, martial arts studio and dance studios could reopen at 50 percent capacity if health guidelines were followed. Casinos, arcades, and malls could reopen. School buildings could reopen for small groups and childcare could have a maximum of 15 people in any one room.

Christina Royer, owner of Here’s Clyde’s in Thurmont, reopened on May 29 with stylists wearing facemasks, curtains between wash stations, hair dryers more spread out, and a sanitizing station. The stylists had also all completed a course on how to properly clean and sanitize their stations.

“It was busy at first,” Royer said. “We were working 10 to 12-hour days, sometimes 14 hours trying to get caught up.”

Although the Fort Ritchie Community Center was shut down during the health crisis, some fitness classes were offered outside when the weather was appropriate.

“Our outdoor classes were all well attended,” said Director Buck Browning. “They were generally all at capacity.”

While the center was closed, Browning made plans for precautions that would be taken when the interior rooms were allowed to open. Grant money paid for Plexiglas shields between pieces of equipment in the fitness center.

However, even when the center was allowed to reopen, the damage done during the closure will require a long recovery. Besides lost dues for three months, many summer camps were canceled, and those that will run will do so with few attendees.

Shriner said the Carriage House staff also made use of their down time and planned new menu offerings, but she is eager to be back at full operations.

“Everyone has been so wonderful,” Shriner said. “It’s nice to hear how important we are to them because they are important to us.”

Myers agreed, saying, “We miss our customers.”

Although things are taking on a sense of normalcy once again, businesses are still facing restrictions that hinder their ability to do business and may force some to close permanently. So, if you have the opportunity, buy from a local business. They have supported their communities in the past, and now they need their communities to support them.

Christina Royer, of Here’s Clyde’s Family Hair Care in Thurmont, is shown washing a client’s hair at with COVID restrictions in place.

Outdoor yoga classes at the Fort Ritchie Community Center allowed the center to offer fitness classes to its clients during the time when indoor fitness classes were closed due to COVID restrictions.


Mayor Don Briggs

Getting back to “normal”…whatever that means to each of us. From experience, every moment, hour, and day brings with it a new “normal.” But what seems even more challenging now is that we can’t apply our plan to at least attempt to bring in the next “normal” with some balance of predictability. Will there be school in the fall? Will there be Catoctin High and CYA sports in the fall? Any afterschool student activities? We are left with less degree of certainty than what our wonderful farmers contend with every spring—God love’em—who till, plant, and hope for rain, while for our schools and towns, we’re not allowed to even “till” (move forward with a plan).

We do not tell this to any of our graduating classes at Catoctin High School, Thurmont Middle, Mother Seton School, and all the feeder elementary schools. No reminder needed. It is a shame what they all had to go through this year: no graduations ceremonies, no extended family celebration get-togethers, no proms. Still, it certainly will stand out among all graduations as a memorable one.

On the heels of permission to have outdoor dining at restaurants, our restaurants can now open for indoor dining. Sadly, the 2020 Emmitsburg & Thurmont Community Show for this fall has been canceled, except for the Catoctin FFA Alumni Livestock Show & Sale for market goat, beef, sheep, swine is scheduled (for now) on Saturday, September 12, 2020.

Thank goodness Flag Day was not canceled. Flag Day was June 14, and it is very special for us up this way. Held on a rotational basis between the towns of Thurmont and Emmitsburg, this year, it was our honor to hold the tribute in Memorial Park. It is a time where the two towns, Thurmont and Emmitsburg, rich in their histories, come together as one to pay tribute: the Emmitsburg American Legion Post No. 121, Thurmont American Legion Post No. 168, Emmitsburg Post No. 6658, and Thurmont AmVets Post No. 7. Like for our Memorial Day commemoration three weeks prior to Flag Day, the Emmitsburg Color Guard visited all of our cemeteries. The tribute started with a three-volley 21-gun salute; this time, however, by a joint Thurmont and Emmitsburg Color Guard. Then the Pledge of Allegiance was humbly lead by Mayor Kinnaird and myself, the invocation was given by Rich Kapriva, and an inspirational speech was given by guest Ronald Holcombe, Department 2nd Vice Commander. Boy Scout Troop 727 dutifully retired old flags used in our communities by burning them.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, Community Heritage Day was changed to a night of music and fireworks, to be held on Saturday, June 27. So much hard work went into it: music from 6:00-9:00 p.m. and then fireworks. Move over COVID-19, Emmitsburg traditional fireworks show is coming through.

The pool opening is planned for Friday, July 3. Please bear with us since only 25 percent of the pool’s surface area can be occupied, which equates to 27 people in the pool at one time.

Farmer’s Market opens June 29. Please support our area farmers.
Try our new disk golf course in Community Park.

Groundbreaking for Dunkin’ (Donuts) will be on July 23. Check with the town website for a time. This COVID-19 is a terrible scourge. Do not think it is a thing of the past. Keep up social distancing, get rest, make proper eating choices, and get out and exercise for short periods of time each day. Whatever challenges are brought, this will be our best 4th of July ever.

by James Rada, Jr.


Questions Remained about Pool Operation

With the COVID-19 restrictions limiting pools to no more than 50 percent capacity, the Emmitsburg Commissioners need to make decisions on how the pool will operate.

“We still want people to enjoy the pool and take full use of it if and when it opens,” Commissioner T.J. Burns said during the June meeting.

The contract with the pool management company needs to be reworked because the season continues to shrink, and the restrictions mean more cleaning supplies and staff will be needed. There is also the question of what to charge when it seems the pool will operate at a deficit this year.

The commissioners are considering two optioins: half-price days during the week for town residents, and a shift system that will have two different pool sessions each day.

Community Park to be Renamed

The Emmitsburg Commissioners voted in June to rename Community Park after Gene Myers. Just what the name will be, will be decided after consulting the Myers family.

Micro-grant Deadline Extended

The deadline to for Emmitsburg businesses with fewer than 15 employees to file for a micro-grant to support existing town businesses has been extended to July 9. The grant is funded with $30,000. The town staff will award a one-time grant with no repayment due to those who have been impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions placed on businesses and meet the criteria. Based upon the number of applications received, the $30,000 will be distributed evenly to all eligible businesses that meet the criteria, not to exceed $1,000. Nonprofits, churches, banks/ financial institutions, investment, real estate entities, chains/franchisees, and government agencies are not eligible to apply. You can find more information and the grant application at

Temporary Outdoor Seating Permits Available

Emmitsburg and Frederick County offer a temporary outdoor seating permit. This allows restaurants and other businesses to expand their seating areas outside of the building, including sidewalks, common areas, and parking for up to 12 months or until the State of Emergency is lifted. Please contact Town Planner Zach Gulden at for more information.


Community Show Canceled

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 Thurmont & Emmitsburg Community Show has been canceled. However, a beef, sheep, and swine sale at Eyler Stables will be held on September 12.

Lions Club Donates to Town Projects

The Thurmont Lions Club recently donated $7,200 to the Town of Thurmont for the upkeep of the Thurmont Trolley Trail, and $9,200 for continued work on the building mural at the East Main Street end of the trolley trail.

Commissioners Approve Food Bank Renovations

With the help of a $20,000 Community Legacy Grant, the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners approved $24,371 in renovations to the Thurmont Food Bank building. Blue Line Home Improvement of Emmitsburg will replace the sidewalk with one that is ADA compliant, reframe the front doorways, upgrade the bathrooms, add a new exterior light, add a pair of new interior doors, and replace the flooring. The amount of the project exceeding the grant will be paid for from the town’s capital reserve fund.

Community Shred Event Planned for September

The Town of Thurmont and Woodsboro Bank will offer a community shred event on Saturday, September 26. It will take place at the Thurmont Police Department, located at 800 East Main Street, from 8:00 a.m. to noon. Office paper, paper clips, staples, rubber bands, folders, hanging folders, and labels will be accepted. Non-acceptable items include: newspapers, magazines, binders, heavy plastics, cardboard, heavy metal, heavy carbon, trash, x-rays, floppy disks, CDs, and batteries.

This event will benefit the Thurmont Food Bank, so you are asked to bring a non-perishable food item for each box of material to shred you bring.

Remember to Pick Up Your Dog’s Waste

You must pick up your dog’s waste when walking your pet to prevent it from becoming a health hazard. Otherwise, you can be fined up to $100 for a repeated offense.

James Rada, Jr.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world around us has changed, and whether it goes back to normal is still anyone’s guess. We witnessed the doors of some local business and restaurants closed, and others adapting the way they do business; local events cancelled or postponed; and this newspaper didn’t print April or May editions. Odd things… that go against our pattern of life.

However, area businesses, organizations, and residents have worked to adapt to a new way of doing things as they are now. This means things like social distancing, face masks, and lots of sanitizing. It also means lots of people sitting around unable to work, and those who can work having too much to do.

When the quarantine order closed down many businesses in the state, Billy Kuhn, owner of His Place Auto Repair in Emmitsburg, knew that meant fewer cars would be on the road, and he’d see less business. His employees went on unemployment.

“Basically, it’s just been me working,” Kuhn said.

He makes sure all the vehicles he works on are disinfected before he starts work, and he disinfects them when the work is complete.

He has run into some snags because it has been hard at times to get parts, either because the manufacturer isn’t operating, shipping problems, or some other issue.

He has applied for financial aid from the various programs available to help businesses suffering income loss from COVID-19. While he has been approved for some of them, he has yet to receive any funds.

Meanwhile, Shriver’s Meats can’t keep up with demand. Stoked by stories of meat shortages, people have sought to stockpile meat. They bought up what they could.

“I was having to tell customers of 30, 40, and 50 years that I didn’t have what they wanted,” said Dave Shriver.

It wasn’t that he didn’t have the meat, but the increased demand was impossible for his team to keep up with. They went from offering retail sales six days a week to one. They work through the week preparing meat for sale, and they offer it on Saturdays. Even that is only a partial fix. They have still had to limit how much people can buy of certain meats.

“We are selling so much meat that we are not taking any orders for anything else,” Shriver said. He hopes to start retaking wholesale orders by July.

While he is getting overworked during this crisis, he is happy he is still able to work when so many other businesses are forced to close.

Melissa Wetzel of Melissa M. Wetzel Accounting Services in Emmitsburg is someone else who is working long hours, despite the tax deadline being pushed back to July 15.

“The July 15 deadline really isn’t helping me,” she said. “This seems to be a never-ending tax season.

Although the business is not open to the public, Wetzel is still working. However, she is having to do it alone since her employees can’t come to work.

Her clients drop their papers off at her door, and Wetzel gets to them as she can. But the forms pile up.

“I don’t even take calls anymore,” she said. “I don’t have the time. There are just too many calls coming in with people needing help.”

Her clients can contact Wetzel via e-mail. She answers their questions or helps them with the paperwork that needs to be filled out to be eligible for the COVID-19 financial impact programs.

When a client needs to pick up paperwork, they arrange a time to come by the office. They pull up to the curb and text Wetzel they have arrived. She dons gloves and a mask and takes the paperwork out to the client’s car.

J&B Real Estate in Thurmont shut down its physical office, although Cindy Grimes continues working.

“We had to keep our physical office closed to the public, but we have been allowed to continue working with precautions, showing property but wearing face coverings, gloves, etc.,” Grimes said. “Meeting with no more than two people at a time, if possible. We have also made use of virtual showings, virtual meetings, and virtual listing appointments as much as possible.”

Despite being able to make accommodations, fewer people are listing their properties right now, so there is less business for real estate brokers. Particularly if a property is still occupied, the owners might be reluctant to have people coming into their homes right now.

“We are asking clients to do only what they are comfortable with,” Grimes said. “I do have a few occupied homes that are coming on the market, and we are asking buyers agents to take every precaution, including wearing the proper PPE and getting to the property before their clients so that they have time to open closets, turn on lights, etc., so that buyers touch as little as possible while they are visiting the property.”

Although buyers tend to want to visit a home in person, the use of virtual showings has been rising, and Grimes thinks that will continue even after the crisis passes.

Celebrations Catering in Thurmont still offers carry-out service for meals during the crisis, but catered events are not happening right now. “We hope to be catering again by July 1,” said Executive Chef Colin Snyder. “We are projecting parties of 50 or less.”

He said that while staff already wore gloves while catering events, he foresees face masks continuing to be used for the time being.

“The masks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon,” he said.

One organization that saw big changes during this crisis was the school system. Students had to switch from learning in a classroom to distance learning.

“Teachers have redesigned their instruction to be delivered on a digital platform, and students have worked to adjust as well,” said Catoctin High Principal Jennifer Clements. “We have had to overcome challenges, including students’ lack of internet access and difficulties in mastering material without the benefit of their teacher right there to instruct and respond to questions immediately. Our teachers have put forth great effort to support their students virtually, and we have worked together with families to problem-solve the barriers to student learning.”

However, educating students was only part of the challenge. Students no longer had personal interactions with their friends. A virtual graduation had to be developed from scratch.

“The students have been disappointed, but they have also displayed a very mature perspective, including a reflection on what they have learned through this situation (such as an appreciation for what they had and/or have),” Clements said.

Mother Seton School also had to move students to remote learning. They closed for a day, so staff could put together a plan to accomplish this, and students were asked to take home all the textbooks and workbooks they might need.

“Once it was made official that we would have to close the campus, we immediately put our remote learning plan to work,” Lynn Tayler, Marketing and Communications Specialist with Mother Seton School, said. “Middle school was already used to using Google Classroom for their homework and some in-class assignments, so it was mainly a matter of organizing lessons and communicating with the families. Teachers for the younger grades adapted their lesson plans and technology use to best fit their grade. Regular communication with families was, and remains, imperative. The first couple of weeks were a transition for everyone, and we used the time to work out any kinks and address any special needs.”

The students had to deal with missing friends. Staff at the school put together a Virtual Spirit Week, book club lunches using Zoom, and a Virtual Walkathon for students to participate in.

Jayden Price, a sixth-grade student, said. “I don’t like that I can’t see my friends all the time. But it’s cool that I can do the schoolwork on my own schedule, as long as I get it done.”

With the virus causing the most damage in nursing homes, maintaining services for senior citizens posed a challenge. Meals on Wheels in Frederick County continued, but county staff took over the deliveries as opposed to volunteers. The staff wore face masks, used hand sanitizer before and after each delivery, and wore fresh disposable gloves for each delivery, according to Kitty Devilbiss, Home and Community Connections Directory for Frederick County Senior Services Division. A weekly meal delivery service was also added, which provided eligible seniors with seven frozen meals, and the Groceries For Seniors monthly distribution was expanded to accommodate twice as many recipients, twice per month. 

Per the governor’s order, county senior centers were closed. However, seniors were able to stay connected.

“Additional resources were added to The Virtual Learning Center on the FCSSD website, and by mid-April, the Virtual 50+Community Center was launched,” Devilbiss said.    

The virtual center allows seniors to participate in live fitness, education, and recreation activities on a daily basis to maintain health and stay connected with others.

With summer upon us, the crisis is expected to let up, but what will happen this fall remains to be seen. However, having been through the problems that came with the virus this spring, businesses and organizations will at least have a basis to work from should things get bad again.

Cover Photos:

Catoctin High School Class of 2020 by Theresa Hutchinson;

Courtesy of John Kinnaird

Catoctin High School Graduation Plans

Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) has announced that all high schools will have a virtual graduation ceremony this year. Staff members at Catoctin High School (CHS) are working hard to create a memorable virtual ceremony for the Class of 2020 that will air the week of June 8.

Catoctin High School also offered seniors the opportunity to wear their cap and gown and walk across the CHS auditorium stage. A photographer captured a picture of each senior on the stage, which will be included in Catoctin’s virtual graduation ceremony. The event took place on May 26-28. Seniors were limited to bring no more than four members of their immediate family to watch them walk the stage.

CHS Principal Jen Clements issued the following statement, “Seniors (and families of seniors) – I know that this school closure, at what would normally be a time of great celebration and anticipation, makes us all feel as if we are losing out on important milestones—I agree and feel the same way. As a principal, graduation is the day that brings me the greatest joy; and every day with students in the building is what gives me energy…those have both been missing during the past few months. However, I have challenged myself (and encourage all of you to do the same) to find the good and to make the best of what we cannot control. Whether we like it or not, this time in our lives will be memorable and will leave an unforgettable mark on the year 2020. This situation has also afforded us time to reflect and appreciate even the little things (I have heard this in my communication with many students, and think this mature perspective will serve you well as you venture into adulthood). I have also seen many examples of our community coming together (not physically together, but always together in spirit and purpose) to support each other and our students—this just serves to reiterate what is so special about our Catoctin community. So, as you feel the disappointment of what is different about your senior experience, I hope you can also be reflective about what you have gained through the last two months, but also throughout your time at Catoctin High School.

We now know that Graduation will be a virtual program to be aired during the week of June 8. I understand the feelings of disappointment and frustration that our current situation is affecting such an important and momentous event. While I share those same feelings, I also take great pride in the beautiful graduation program that we are producing to honor our seniors; the hundreds of hours that are being poured into creating an amazing and meaningful program is reflective of our goal to honor you in the best way we can right now. I look forward to the opportunities ahead to see you, to congratulate you, and to wish you well (from a distance!).

Thank you for your continued support of our community, our school, and, most especially, the beloved members of our CHS Class of 2020. Through our collaboration, support and communication we will come through this Cougar Strong!”

Honoring Catoctin High School Seniors

In honor of the Catoctin High School Class of 2020, signs celebrating each of the graduates were on display at Catoctin High School on Thursday, May 21, and Friday, May 22. The signs were provided through the courtesy of the Town of Thurmont, the Town of Emmitsburg, Catoctin High School, and Karen and John Kinnaird.

Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird posted the following message on social media, “We are very proud of each end every one of the students from within the Catoctin High School feeder area, and we congratulate [our graduates] for achieving this goal in your journey through life. Your future holds an entire world of opportunity; make the most of it.”

In honor of the Catoctin High School Class of 2020, signs celebrating each of the graduates were on display at Catoctin High School on Thursday, May 21, and Friday, May 22. The signs were provided through the courtesy of the Town of Thurmont, the Town of Emmitsburg, Catoctin High School, and Karen and John Kinnaird.

Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird posted the following message on social media, “We are very proud of each end every one of the students from within the Catoctin High School feeder area, and we congratulate [our graduates] for achieving this goal in your journey through life. Your future holds an entire world of opportunity; make the most of it.”

James Rada, Jr.

If you weren’t already aware of it, the closures due to COVID-19 also caused Maryland’s Primary Election to be postponed until June 2.

The State of Maryland is pushing for this election to be primarily conducted via mail. All registered voters should have already received a ballot. If you are registered but did not receive a ballot, it may be because you have changed addresses. The ballot was sent to the address the Board of Elections has on file.

If you need a ballot, you can download it from the Maryland Board of Elections website on the absentee voting page. The ballots must be postmarked by June 2. You can also drop the ballot off at designated locations. For our area, the closest locations are:

•   William R Talley Recreation Center, 121 N. Bentz Street, Frederick.

•   Frederick County Board of Elections, 340A Montevue Lane, Frederick.

You can also vote in-person on Election Day at the William R. Talley Recreation Center (the closest) from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Social distancing guidelines will be observed at these locations, which could lead to long lines or wait times.

In Frederick County, you will be voting for president, vice-president, congresspeople, state judges, and county board of education members.

You can check to make sure your ballot was counted by visiting and clicking “Look up your Voter Info” and following the directions. You can also call 1-800-222-8683 and ask a State Board of Elections representative to check the status of your voted ballot. The information will be posted about 10 days after the election.

John Kinnaird

Memorial Day means many things to many people. To some, it is the first weekend of the summer; to others, it’s a day off to spend with the family.

To Joe Keller of 107 East Hammaker Street in Thurmont, Memorial Day is the day to remember his brothers in arms who died in action while stationed with him in Vietnam.

Joe has erected a moving memorial to his fallen brothers and has the names of each one on display. I stopped to visit with Joe the afternoon of Saturday, May 23, and it was a moving experience. He knew each of these guys and reminded me that his friends and each one of the 58,220 who died in Vietnam had a name and a story. So often, we hear the number of soldiers killed in action but seldom do you know their names or anything about who they were.

I remember watching the evening news in the 1960s and seeing scenes of battle from Vietnam and hearing the daily casualty lists. I left Joe’s house this afternoon with a renewed appreciation for the sacrifice each of those men and women made on our behalf.

Memorial Day started out as Decoration Day and reaches back to before the Civil War. Soldiers graves are decorated with flowers or flags so their memory will be carried on to the next generation. Joe is making sure his brothers are remembered and honored for their service and sacrifice.

I encourage each and every one of my friends to take a drive past Joe’s house and experience this moving memorial for yourselves. If you see Joe there, stop and say “Hi.” Take a minute or two to hear a little about the American Heroes and the personal friends Joe is honoring.

John Kinnaird stands with Joe Keller in front of Joe’s memorial to his fallen brothers.

James Rada, Jr.

Although the Hagerstown and Frederick Trolley last ran more than 65 years ago, the former trolley route has become a popular walking trail through Thurmont, from East Main Street along the side of Memorial Park to Moser Road.

The trail is less than three-quarters of a mile long, but plans have been made to extend the trail to the north and south. The H&F Trolley Trail Association formed to try and develop the trail so that it can connect with other trails in the county.

“Eventually, we would like to connect to the Carroll Creek Trail in Frederick off of Rosemont, and even get to Emmitsburg,” said Bryant Despeaux, president of the H&F Trolley Trail Association.

A fully connected trail could be an economic boon for the town and county. A 2012 Economic Impact Study on The Heritage Rail Trail in York County, Pennsylvania, found that the trail drew in 281,185 annual visits, resulting in over 4.4 million dollars in revenue to the local economy. The Heritage Rail Trail is similar to the proposed trolley trail, so it is hoped the results would be similar.

The southern trail extension runs from Moser Road south past the library and wastewater treatment plant and loops around a pond. This will extend the trail about 3,000 feet, and also takes the trail to the edge of the Thurmont municipal boundary. This extension will probably be the first one built.

The northern extension starts at Sunset Street and continues to the boundary of property owned by Mechanicstown, LLC. Mechanicstown, LLC has committed to extending the trail on the property as they develop the property. This would bring the trail to Radio Lane and close to the ultimate destination of Eyler Park. This extension probably won’t start until next year.

Despeaux said the estimate is that it will cost about $64,000 to develop these extensions. A large portion of that amount will go towards renting an excavator. The association has applied for three grants that will help reach this amount, although two of the grants will still require matching funds.

“We are hopeful we will receive at least one of them,” Despeaux said.

The organization is also soliciting donations and fundraising through various events.

You can learn more about the extension and the association at the Thurmont Greenfest on June 6. The H&F Trolley Association will be there building bluebird boxes.

Find out more by visiting

Trail Photos Courtesy of Bryant Despeaux

Photo by James Rada, Jr.

Board of Education Votes for More Time

Deb Abraham Spalding

Applause and cheers concluded a meeting on Wednesday, February 27, 2020, at the Frederick County Public School’s (FCPS) Central Office in Frederick, when Frederick County Board of Education (BOE) members listened to the voices of residents in Northern Frederick County by voting to take more time—through December 31, 2020—to explore and weigh all factors involved in the consideration of shutting down Sabillasville Elementary School. 

At a January 22, 2020, Board of Education meeting, FCPS staff presented an enrollment update to the Board that sparked concern about low enrollment at the Sabillasville Elementary School. In response, BOE members asked FCPS staff to investigate.

The topic was routed on a seemingly high-speed path, surprising and shaking up the Northern Frederick County school’s staff, students, and residents. The report, that was released the morning after an informal February 20 informational community meeting led by FCPS Superintendent Theresa Alban and BOE President Brad Young at the school, supports the closure of the school and the re-assignment of its students to Thurmont schools.

Dr. Theresa Alban commenced the February 20 informational meeting with a public apology. She explained that she had talked to a reporter with the Frederick News-Post about the report before communicating with the school, staff, or community. People read the news article and thought the decision to close the school had been made without community input. She assured the community that was not the case.

She went on to explain the process of considering shutting down a school under Board Policy 200. She outlined the schedule of opportunity for public comment with meetings planned in March, leading up to a Board vote at the end of March.

Alban said, “We are not looking at this lightly and easily. When you look at the factors that a Board has to consider when a Board is determining whether they need to close or consolidate schools, you’ll see that it’s pretty comprehensive.”

Alban referenced the “Consideration of Sabillasville Elementary School Closing Superintendent’s Report” that would be released the following morning and reviewed the factors being considered in the report: student enrollment trends in relation to state rated capacity; age and/or condition of school buildings; transportation; educational programs; racial composition and levels of poverty of student body; financial considerations; student relocation; impact on community in geographic attendance area for both the proposed closing school and schools impacted by relocating students; and any other factors the Board deems relevant to rendering its decision.

Though this meeting was intended to be informational, Dr. Alban and Young invited questions and promised to answer truthfully and to the best of their knowledge.

Many people in the audience asked questions or raised points of consideration.

Marty Burns, former mayor of Thurmont and current Thurmont Town Commissioner, received a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of his thoughtful and passionate delivery about the potential closure. He said, “We feel [the residents of Northern Frederick County]…that we’re not being represented appropriately…It doesn’t make any sense…when we’re [Thurmont] doing this Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that we can’t develop when we have over-crowded schools. We chose not to develop Northern Frederick County, and we’re being punished by closing our school. We feel like you don’t care. I’m asking you to reconsider… It shouldn’t happen.”

A couple of hundred people attended this meeting, and several citizens took the opportunity to ask questions or deliver concern or statistics, including George Kuhn, president of the Northwestern Civic Association; SES parent, Colt Black; resident, Jim Bittner; community supporter, David Harman; resident, Mark Harman; resident, Steven Firme; supporter, Walt Ellenburg; a man from Wolfsville who was concerned about his school being next; SES parent Penny Rice, and several others.

The community was invited to the February 26 Board of Education regular meeting to make comment and learn about the report. At this meeting, public comment was heard, including SES Staff representative Barb Doney, who read a letter from the staff; Thurmont Town Commissioner Marty Burns, who asked the Board to, “…reject the report.”; SES third grade student Hope Rice, who read a letter, addressing the wishes of the students; SES PTO representative Drew McGinness; neighbor, Rich Calimer; Military Family Transition Specialist Tashina Adris; and, most notably, Northwestern Civic Association President George Kuhn. Kuhn implored collaboration and said, “We want the BOE to exhaust every option and possibility that is available to you before you consider closing this school. We want you to find out if there’s any way that we can be in complete compliance with the State and Federal regulations. We want you to seek a waiver, both from the State and Federal government. We would like, as a community, to have input into the formation of that waiver. We want to make sure that that waiver gives you the accurate facts.”

It was Board member, Liz Barrett, who inspired a change in the course of the implied shutdown of Sabillasville Elementary when she stated, “I like the idea to use the space and provide a more equitable experience for all the kids in north county…We haven’t had to close a school in many years. I don’t feel comfortable not considering all the options… not promising [a change in the result]…but feeling artificially constrained by this deadline that we set for ourselves.”

She made a motion to keep the school open and explore collaboration. That motion was approved.

Board President Young addressed the time constraint. He made a motion to extend the decision to December 31, 2020, while evaluating all the options. This motion passed unanimously.

The March 11 meeting was canceled.

These votes bought time and allowed for another year of school at SES. These decisions mark the beginning of collaborative research and work by several entities: FCPS, Frederick County Government, Frederick County BOE, SES students, SES staff, Northern Frederick County residents, and other interested parties.

Banner writer James Rada, Jr. was formerly a school staff reporter in Allegheny County and reported the closure of three schools there. About this situation, he said, “You can rush it and be wrong. In most cases, you regret it.”

“Don’t close our school!” is the sentiment SES students express, as parents back them up at a recent gathering organized by parents at the school.

Third-grade SES student, Hope Rice, adjourned the meeting.

Former Thurmont Mayor and current Thurmont Town Commissioner, Marty Burns, spoke passionately about Northern Frederick County on February 26.

Retired FCPS teacher and Northwestern Civic Association president, George Kuhn, spoke at the February 20 community meeting.

James Rada, Jr.

This year marks 50 years of celebrating the area’s maple-syrup-making heritage at the Cunningham Falls Maple Syrup Festival.

“A lot of families produced maple syrup on their farms and homesteads, and we wanted to preserve that heritage and teach people about something not well known about this area,” said Ranger Travis Watts at Cunningham Falls State Park.

This year’s festival will be held on March 14, 15, 21, and 22 at the Houck Lake Area of the Park. Open from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., you can purchase breakfast and maple syrup products. Also offered for the first time this year, you can buy Maple Festival souvenirs. Children can enjoy games, and a maple-syrup-making demonstration will be held every hour. Local bands will provide live music.

“We will also have some new things this year, such as an antique tractor display, and we will be demonstrating new tapping equipment,” Watts said.

About 3,000 to 5,000 people are expected to attend over the four days.

Admission is a $3 donation in lieu of the park entry fee. All of the money collected goes to the Friends of Cunningham Falls State Park and Gambrill State Park, a non-profit group that supports the park.

Maryland Park Service rangers and volunteers demonstrate the traditional way to make maple syrup.

1.   It takes a tree about 40 years before it is large enough to tap.

2.   Quebec produces two-thirds of the world’s maple syrup.

3.   Many producers uses sap pumps rather than taps and buckets to gather sap.

4.   Thieves stole $18 million worth of maple syrup from Quebec in 2012.

5.   Quebec maintains a huge syrup reserve that can be distributed to members during lean years.

6.   You can’t tell the difference between maple sap and water by looking at it.

7.   A tablespoon of maple syrup has 52 calories.

8.   IHOP has only one restaurant among its 1,400 that serves real maple syrup.

9.   It takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup.

10. Maple trees yield 5 to 15 gallons of sap per season so it takes around three trees to produce a gallon of syrup.