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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.

James Rada, Jr.

Most people in the country will receive a card in the mail by the middle of March, inviting them to participate in the 24th decennial census. Many people consider the decennial census merely a count of all the people in the United States—which is what the U.S. Constitution calls for as a minimum—but for each of the 23 U.S. Censuses taken, additional information has also been collected.

“The demographic information is very important. It gives us an idea of what type of life is going on in Thurmont,” said Jim Humerick, Thurmont’s chief administrative officer.

The U.S. Constitution requires the census to be taken every 10 years, and, by law, you must participate. The nine questions take just minutes to answer. The census has been conducted every 10 years since 1790, but this is the first time that census has offered an online response option.

It is not information collected simply to collect data on U.S. residents. The information is used for a variety of purposes, as governments determine legislative boundaries and school districts and decide where needs are for spending money from various programs. Non-profit organizations often use census data to support their needs when writing grants. Corporations use the data to determine where to locate new businesses. The federal government uses census data to determine where approximately $675 billion in federal program spending will go.

Locally, census information is used for planning and zoning and economic development decisions.

“The main thing I use it for is grants,” Humerick said. This is because grants often want demographic information about the community seeking the grant. The source for much of this information comes from the U.S. Census. It has been estimated that Frederick County and local municipalities lose $2,000 a year for each person not counted in the census.

“It’s extremely important that we get some of that massive amount of money that depends on census data back here,” said Emmitsburg Planner Zach Gulden.

The Town of Emmitsburg received an $8,500 grant that it will be using to make people aware of the census and encourage them to fill it out.

The Town of Thurmont will receive materials from the Census Bureau that it intends to send out with the water bills.    

Just as the law requires all U.S. residents, whether citizens or not, to participate in the census, the law also protects the information collected. According to the U.S. Census Bureau website, “Your answers can only be used to produce statistics—they cannot be used against you in any way. By law, all responses to U.S. Census Bureau household and business surveys are kept completely confidential.” This means that no government agency or court can use your information. It won’t be used by the sheriff’s department to locate a felon or ICE to find illegal immigrants. Income you list won’t be used in a divorce case, or your name won’t be used to track down a deadbeat parent.

The online census form goes live on March 12, but the official Census Day is April 1. If you haven’t submitted your census form by May, you can expect a census taker to show up at your door. The president will receive the official counts by the end of this year. By March of 2021, the states will receive the numbers that they will use to redraw their legislative districts.

You don’t have to go far to find a great atmosphere with great people.

Social gatherings bring out the best in us, and can often help attendees branch out and meet new people. There may be no better way to get out and experience town living to the fullest than an annual St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl.

Pub Crawls are a staple of the Americanized version of St. Patrick’s Day, one of this country’s most fun-centered and party-filled holidays. Cities across the nation light up green in honor of the Irish St. Patrick, and it’s not uncommon to find a bit of green in just about everything come March 17.

Even non-Irish pubs often serve shamrock green beers all day long, offering pub goers a refreshing and festive accent to a day full of celebration.

Nearly every major city in the United States has its own take on St. Patrick’s Day, and you don’t have to cross the pond to Dublin to get what feels like an authentic Irish celebration. Baltimore, Washington D.C., and plenty of other modern metropolises have various events and crawls where you can get discounted drinks and a driver to shuttle your group to and from each location. 

Pub Crawls typically feature a set of designated locations, where patrons have a limited amount of time to drink up until hitting the road for the next stop. The name comes from the slow pace of pushing from bar to bar at the crawl, with drinkers spending short amounts of time at each bar before heading to the next. Or, perhaps it derives from a bar crawl’s most rowdy participants, who may end up partying too hard and actually crawling to the final bars on the list.

Check out a few of the local and not-so-local options perfectly suited for your green-themed St. Patty’s Day fun.

Westminster’s Celtic Canter Pub Crawl/5K

The Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day (March 14) features a plethora of holiday events. Westminster’s Celtic Canter Pub Crawl draws crowds looking for some mid-day St. Patrick’s Day fun with some familiar locations, featuring stops at Maggie’s, Conah’s Bar and Grille, O’Lordans Irish Pub, RockSalt Grille, and many more. The crawl begins at noon, and features 10 bars with specials along the way. The crawl kicks off at the Westminster City Department of Recreation.

Crawlers are given a passport to have punched at each bar, with participants who complete the passport entered to win gift cards at the restaurants featured in the crawl. A free trolley is available for guests to safely tour the bars, shuttling passengers until 5 p.m.

Drinking and exercise is a seemingly strange pairing that has gained popularity in recent years, and Westminster also offers a 5K run the morning before the pub crawl.

A morning run may be the perfect way to prepare and compensate for the carb blowout that comes with St. Patty’s Day beers and food, so it’s worth checking out for those go-getters looking to celebrate the holiday from start to finish.

The race runs through historic downtown Westminster and has enough activities for kids and live music to keep the whole family entertained. Plus, finishers get a free T-shirt, and that is something everyone can get behind. 

St. Patty’s Day Margarita Crawl

Bar Crawl Unlimited is well-known for hosting outrageously fun pub crawls, packed with good bars and better beers.

The margarita crawl is a unique take on a traditionally beer-focused holiday. Margaritas aren’t just the perfect summer drink, and with the unusually warm winter, it may just be your first taste of Spring.

Rain or shine, the plan does not change for this pub crawl, so if a fun and concrete plan for a great St. Patrick’s Day is on your radar, a margarita crawl may be the perfect trip to start your Spring right.

This Baltimore-based Pub Crawl kicks off from popular downtown spot Power Plant, with six hours of drinking throughout scenic downtown Baltimore. There are plenty of giveaways, live music, and discounted drinks to keep the party going all day long.

Registration at Power Plant begins at 2:00 p.m. on March 7.

Chase The Green Bar Crawl

Washington D.C. is full of historic monuments, beautiful museums, and some of the most fun city tours in America.

It also has a great nightlife, and pub crawl promoters capitalize on the bar scene every St. Patrick’s Day with some of the best pub crawls on the east coast.

D.C. has plenty of crawls to offer the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, and Chase The Green pub crawl features six great bars all with a unique spin. Each bar plays different music, so no matter the taste or mood, you are sure to find a few that bring out your Irish side.

Food and drink specials keep the party going all night long, so patrons are free to contour their St. Patty’s Day experience well after the pub crawl is over.

The event expects more than 1,000 participants, so get your tickets early before they sell out for good.

Outside of Ireland, nobody does St. Patrick’s Day bigger and better than right here in the United States. Whether you choose to stick with one of the local parades, or head to your nearest Irish pub, you can’t go wrong tossing on a green shirt and some face paint to go see what towns near you have to offer.

Keep your eyes open for early-bird offers on tickets, because nobody wants to miss out on a great time with great people, and your perfect day trip is right around the corner.

Please note that, locally, Emmitsburg’s Vigilant Hose Company hosts a St. Patty’s Day Pub Crawl, but it was sold out at the time of this publishing.

Blair Garrett

Dedication is something that often takes a long time to cultivate.

For Thurmont native James “Jim” Wisotzkey, 95, bowling is something that has been an integral part of his life for a long, long time.

Wisotzkey’s roots in bowling run deep, as his passion for the sport began when he was just a teenager.

“I ran a bowling alley in Thurmont when I was 14,” Wisotzkey said. “It’s old and run down now with water damage, but that’s where it began.”

Wisotzkey has been an expert bowler for over half a century, but his passion for the game and a push from his doctor has kept the bowler throwing strikes for decades longer than your average senior leaguer.

“The doctor doesn’t want me to quit,” Wisotzkey said. “He says it’s the best I can do to keep me going.”

It isn’t just the longevity of Wisotzkey’s bowling career that has people singing his praises. As a Marine Veteran and a staple of the Frederick County bowling scene, Wisotzkey has built a bit of a legacy at Terrace Lanes in Frederick.

“I’ve been in this league for 30 years,” he said. “I started it back in 1990, and I’m the only one left of the originals.”

The league routinely packs the bowling alley every Tuesday, giving Frederick County seniors a physical outlet and a chance to get out and have some fun.  

Bowling competitively has kept the skills sharp for Wisotzkey, whose 2020 high score nearly breaks 200. While he may not throw the ball with the same power as he used to, the fundamental technique is as solid as ever for Wisotzkey, who continues to push the limits and wow his teammates and competitors.

Wisotzkey’s team, the Silent Bowlers, is comprised of four members, including Wisotzkey, John McBride, Mary Ann Anderson, and Jeff Dunefsky, who all recognize Wisotzkey’s efforts and dedication to the team and the league. The unit fully supports Wisotzkey and, like the rest of the league members, is astonished at his consistency and love for the game.

The future is bright for Wisotzkey, the Silent Bowlers, and the rest of Terrace Lanes Senior League, as Wisotzkey has no plans to slow down.

“I have a pacemaker, and they checked that about three months ago,” Wisotzkey said. “The lady turned to me and said, ‘I’ve got good news for you. Your battery is good for 12 more years.’”

Wisotzkey turns 96 on June 2, and while he certainly holds the title of the league’s eldest bowler, there’s one title he’s still chasing. “My all-time highest score was a 289,” Wisotzkey said. “I just missed out on the perfect game in the last frame.”

At the pace Wisotzkey is going, the perfect game is not out of the question. In addition to his regularly scheduled league games on Tuesdays, he also takes his talents to duckpin lanes each week to keep active.

With the senior league going strong, a cast of teammates behind him, and an iron will to keep knocking down pins, it’s clear Wisotzkey has a knack for defying expectations.

The Silent Bowlers prepare for its league game: (from left) James “Jim” Wisotzkey, John McBride, Mary Ann Anderson, and Jeff Dunefsky.


Mayor Don Briggs

Happy Birthday, Emmitsburg! Established (platted) in 1885, we are now 235 years old. Speaking to age… infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure…there are all kinds. Water, sewer, sidewalks, ADA compliance, parks and recreation, schools, youth activities, and seniors, to name a few. Every municipality needs and wants to provide and maintain its infrastructure.

Within the $3 million town square and sidewalk revitalization, unbeknownst to some, was the inclusion of $124,000 of decades of deferred water infrastructure work. Two years ago, we completed the construction of a $19 million+ wastewater (sewer) treatment plant.

Last year, lines under East Main Street were relined, and we’re about to start relining behind the post office to Creamery Road. In addition, a leaking water line under MD 140 at Tract Road will be addressed.

To accomplish all of this work, we have applied for state aid to upgrade water lines at part of North Seton Avenue and DePaul Street.

We have a new dog park, a new all-inclusive playground, a virtually new pool (after years of neglect), 10 sidewalk connections, and a road connection from Brookfield-Pembrook to Irishtown Road, not to mention $4 million solar arrays and first-time renewable energy savings. All of these improvements have been achieved with significant grants sourced by our great staff.

We have a budget, and we have worked within our means to catch up on years of deferred work. We’re on it!

It was good to have the Honorable John Kinnaird, our neighboring Thurmont’s mayor, at the State of the Union address to add dignity that speaks of Northern Frederick County values to the State of the Union.

At our February town meeting, Roger Wilson, the first Frederick County Director of Government Affairs, was honored. Roger, also a Frederick City Alderman, is leaving his county position. He was powerful, and an accessible friend to Northern Frederick County interests. He will be missed. A wonderful, competent person named Joy Schaefer is taking his place.

Like many, I was saddened by the death of Kobe Bryant, the iconic basketball player who died tragically in a helicopter crash with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others. The challenges of such a gifted athlete were many. To those challenges of training and playing at the highest level of competition also came those of human frailty to fame and fortune. He wasn’t perfect. Nor am I, but he was a father and a family man. What was most heartfelt for me was, yes, a consummate basketball player had died, but more so, a father with his daughter had died. Like all of us, we will know not the hour. But he and his daughter, with the rest of the family, had the blessing of attending a 7:00 a.m. Sunday Mass at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church together in Newport Beach, California, just hours before the crash.

The funeral service was private. A public memorial service was held on February 24, significant as his daughter’s jersey number was 2 and his 24. He left us with his own personal challenge and now tribute, “I want to outwork my potential.” I like that.

Here we are again; the county school board wants to close Sabillasville Elementary School, the only five-star-rated elementary school in the county. Furtively, it seems, only one-week notice was given before the first public hearing. I attended and spoke before the Board of Education to oppose the closing of the county’s only infrastructure improvement in Sabillasville-Harbaugh Valley. The meeting was in the Frederick County Board of Education Headquarters, which is an almost new multi-million-dollar facility, located one block from the $100-million-dollar Carroll Creek Linear Park. Inside was a packed room of supporters for keeping the school open. In my opinion, this is an insane and predatory action. Never has there ever been a peep out of anyone from the valley for anything even in light of what could be readily seen in luxurious-like investment in schools in other parts of the county. The school is the facility hub, serving not only students but also as a place for community groups to meet and hold activities.

Fifty years ago, Emmitsburg lost its high school, a void still felt today by many. In my remarks to the board, I asked if the Emmitsburg Elementary School could be next.

So much more to write about, but I will leave you with, “Enjoy your Lent, and bring it on, spring!”


 Mayor John Kinnaird

The United States Census 2020 is less than one month away! U.S. households will receive 2020 Census Invitations between March 12 and March 20. During this time, invitations to participate in the 2020 Census will start arriving at houses. It is critical that all residents are counted. Billions of Federal Tax dollars are distributed based on Census information. Any shortage in our count can lead to less Federal spending in local programs. Funding for highway planning, public transportation, Head Start, teacher support grants, special education programs, housing assistance for the elderly, wildlife restoration, school lunches, Pell Grants Children’s Health Insurance, Medicare Part B, Department of Aging, hospitals, and many others depend on accurate Census counts. Each person not counted could cost our community $18,000 in Federal support over the next 10 years.

The invitations will remind respondents to include everyone living in the household, whether they are related or not. This includes young children. It is also essential that household members serving in the military are counted, and marriage relationships are very important to report. Your response will impact communities for the next decade.
“The Census Bureau is ready for the nation to respond next month,” said Census Bureau Director Dr. Steven Dillingham. “Millions of Americans are applying for 2020 Census jobs, more than 270,000 local and national organizations are engaged, and in less than 30 days, the majority of U.S. households will receive an invitation to respond to help ensure that every person in the U.S. is counted.” “The Census Bureau has successfully tested its data collection systems, has built backup systems to support resilient operations, and is ready to receive responses from all around the country,” added Dillingham.

This invitation will include instructions on how to respond to the 2020 Census online or by phone. By April 1, most households will have received an invitation, delivered either by mail or by a census taker. In areas of the country that are less likely to respond online, a paper questionnaire will be included in the initial mailing to households. Reminder mailings will be sent to households that do not respond; in the fourth mailing, every household that has not yet responded will receive a paper questionnaire.

The best way to fill out the Census will be online. If you do not have a computer at home, you can use the computers at our local libraries. The Senior Centers will also be set up to assist with the Census. Thurmont residents that do not have the ability to go to the library or Senior Center can call the town office at 301-271-7313 or call me at 301-606-9458 for assistance.

Mark Your Calendar with these Important 2020 Census Dates: March 12-20: Initial invitations to respond online and by phone will be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Areas that are less likely to respond online will receive a paper questionnaire along with the invitation to respond online or over the phone. March 16-24: Reminder letters will be delivered.
March 26-April 3: Reminder postcards will be delivered to households that have not responded. April 8-16: Reminder letters and paper questionnaires will be delivered to remaining households that have not responded. April 20-27: Final reminder postcards will be delivered to households that have not yet responded before census takers follow up in person. May 13-July 31: If a household does not respond to any of the invitations, a census taker will follow up in person.

Mayor Don Briggs of Emmitsburg and I will be doing our best to see that all of our residents are counted! We will have a contest to see which community can get the highest percentage of Census participants. It is my hope that we both get over 90 percent participation, and it would be fabulous if we both tied at 100 percent.

Let’s make sure we are all counted!

As always, you can email me at or call me at 301-606-9458 with any comments or suggestions.


FEBRUARY 2020 Meeting

by James Rada, Jr.

Baseball will be Played in Town this Summer

The Thurmont Little League will play games in Emmitsburg on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Emmitsburg Commissioner Frank Davis has been working to ensure Emmitsburg baseball players will have opportunities to play locally. He said CYA has been trying to do more in Emmitsburg. “We’re starting to come together as one, which I always hoped we could,” Davis said during a town meeting.

Town May Annex Daughters of Charity Property

The Town of Emmitsburg may consider annexing the Daughters of Charity property to help the town comply with mandated MS4 regulations to aid Chesapeake Bay restoration. MS4 requires an area equal to 20 percent of the town’s impervious land to be used for runoff control measures by 2023.

Town Planner Zach Gulden told the commissioners during a town meeting that one way the town can meet the regulations is to increase tree plantings, but they need more open space to have the room to do this. A combination of annexation and conservation easements of the Daughters of Charity can accomplish most of the need.

Another action that will help meet the MS4 mandate is Silo Hill Stormwater Management Basin retrofit. This could cost as much as $250,000, but it will fix the failing basin while also making it attractive for residents and useful in meeting MS4.

The town is also considering annexing the town-owned land where the wastewater treatment plant is located.

Town Receives a Clean Audit

The Emmitsburg Mayor and Commissioners recently received the results of the annual review done of its finances by an independent auditor. The town received a clean and unmodified audit, which means the town presented its financial information statements fairly.

Waysides Get Approved

The Emmitsburg Commissioners approved changes to one of four new historical waysides that will become part of the town’s historical walking tour. The commissioners had delayed their approval because of a couple factual changes that needed to be made to the wayside about the Chronicle Press building. The cost of the waysides is paid for with an FY2020 Maryland Heritage Areas Authority grant of $12,032. The other waysides will explain the history of the Great Fire of 1863, Vigilant Hose Company, and Carriage House Inn building.

Defensive Driving Course Added to Employee Handbook

The Emmitsburg Commissioners approved the addition of policies offering a defensive driving course, preventative maintenance for vehicles, and hand-held cell phones to the employee handbook. Much of what was added was already being done, but the formalization of the policies should allow the town to receive credits on its insurance costs, which could save the town a few thousand dollars.

The defensive driving course policy requires all employees who operate town-owned vehicles to take a four-hour-long online course when they are hired and every four years. The cell phone policy follows Maryland law regarding the use of cell phones while driving.


FEBRUARY 2020 Meeting

Town Considers Options for New Press Box

Members of Thurmont’s CYA organization presented revised plans for a new press box at Eyler Field. The new 30-foot by 80-foot building would serve as a storage facility and press box. The field and building are used for CYA soccer, cheerleading, lacrosse, and football teams that serve hundreds of local children. Estimates of the proposed building will cost around $200,000, and CYA only has $10,000 set aside for building. The CYA organization is hoping to get help from the town, and the Thurmont Town Commissioners are considering how they might be able to help.

Special Activities Committee Donates to the Thurmont Food Bank

The Thurmont Special Events Committee presented Rev. Sally Joyner Giffin with a check for $2,585.04. This is the amount collected during the town’s Halloween in the Park event for the food bank.

Help Needed

The Town of Thurmont is forming a new Internet Commission. If you are interested in volunteering to serve on this commission, please contact Elliot Jones at 240-831-7749.

The town is also seeking volunteers to serve on the Special Events Committee, Board of Appeals, and Police Commission. If interested, please contact the town office.

Yard Waste Drop-Off Permit Needed

Anyone using the Moser Road yard waste drop-off site must have a Yard Waste Permit issued by the town. Permits were mailed out with the last town electric/water/sewer bill. If you do not have the permit when you go to the site, you will be asked to show your driver’s license to verify town residency.

New Sewer Lateral Inspection Policy Being Enacted

The Town of Thurmont is implementing a new sewer lateral inspection policy. The policy allows town staff or its contractors to inspect lateral sewer lines on private property. It also requires property owners to make required repairs within a set amount of time. The policy protects the integrity of the town sewage system, as well as helping the property owner avoid paying for sewage leakage.

Whether it’s Indy Cars, NASCAR stock cars, prototype sports cars, or G.T. race cars of almost all makes, Thurmont’s Scott Michael has built them and raced them. And whether it’s been in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, or Australia, Scott has raced there. In a career that’s spanned 30-plus years, he says he’s “simply blessed to have chased my dreams and worked with my childhood heroes.”

Voted the biggest dreamer of Catoctin High School’s graduating class of 1982, Scott always knew exactly what he wanted to do in life and wasted very little time in reaching his goals.

He started in racing by helping local racecar drivers, Dave Lawyer and Dave Weddle, both of Thurmont, with dirt track cars at Hagerstown Speedway while he was still in high school. After high school, Scott pursued a mechanical engineering degree at West Virginia University, but became frustrated with the slow progress of becoming an engineer. He left college and quickly began working on all types of modified sports cars at local Summit Point Raceway, located near Charles Town, West Virginia, on the weekends, while holding various streetcar mechanic jobs during the week.

It was there that he met several drivers from the Washington, D.C. area that wanted to go semi-pro racing. From that starting point, through hard work and sheer determination, he worked his way up through the ranks from a “weekend warrior” and helper mechanic to truck driver, “over the wall” pit crew member, second mechanic, chief mechanic, and eventually, crew chief for many different racing teams. Throughout those years, racing became his full-time occupation, and the cars he worked on changed from modified street cars to purpose-built NASCAR stock cars, custom sports racing prototypes, and eventually full-blown Indy Cars, as he climbed the racing career ladder.

“Over those years, there were career highlights and lowlights,” Scott laughs. “Sure, being the crew chief on the winning G.T. car at the biggest sports car races in North America, the 24 Hours of Daytona, in 1996 is one of the highlights and qualifying 34th for the 1998 Indy 500 (only 33 cars start the race) is surely one of the lowlights.” There were other achievements along the way: being voted by his peers as the Indy Lights Mechanic of the Year in 1999, and later being asked by four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt to be a part of running a second Foyt team car for the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 in 2011.

However, one of the funniest highlights happened when Scott was the crew chief on a Porsche racecar at Watkins Glen, New York, for co-drivers Kyle Petty and John Andretti. “I never thought that I’d be standing on pit lane with Richard Petty on one side and Aldo Andretti on the other side (Mario’s twin brother and John’s father), two members of the racing world’s dynasty families, while they asked me questions about race strategy and the pit stop procedures in sports car racing. That was pretty crazy.”

After many years moving from state to state and wearing out suitcases by traveling constantly, all while working for professional racing teams based in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Florida, and Puerto Rico, and missing many family events while on the road, Scott knew that it was time to begin to slow down on the travel schedule.

So, to be closer to friends and family, he moved from Indianapolis to Pennsylvania, now residing outside of Allentown, where he maintains cars that predominately race on the East Coast. “I still run about 12 races a year these days, but they’re normally within a thousand miles of home, so that makes the travel part simple.” Scott went on to say, “I do make the occasional run to the West Coast, but that’s once every several years now, not several times a year like the old days.”

As time has marched on, many of the cars that Scott helped build and race when they were new have now begun to race on the vintage racing circuits.

Since he cut his teeth as a mechanic working on many of these cars, it’s only natural that he is now beginning the next phase of his career: restoring and racing these now-historic racecars. “The really appealing part of this next phase in my career is that it’s part mechanic and part historian,” adding, “therefore, it’s important to keep them in top mechanical condition while also keeping them historically correct.”

“One project that I’m particularly fond of is a 1984 Corvette that ran in the SCCA Trans Am Series. Although I didn’t work on it when it was new, I was mesmerized by its beauty when I saw it race at Summit Point as a kid.”

As time went on, the car was raced both professionally and later in amateur races until it was destroyed in an accident at Watkins Glen, New York, in 2009. Being one of only four of these cars ever built by the DeAtley team, the parts to repair it are basically non-existent. Still, Scott was given the task of putting it back together. “It was a part-time, five-year labor of love to take a bent frame, broken suspension parts, and completely destroyed body panels (the molds to which were tossed away years ago) and rebuild the car from a pile of junk. Working on it between races and over the off-seasons, it took considerable time. The car turned out so well that it is now on permanent display at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.” Scott added, “Basically, the owner told me that it is now too beautiful to race.” However, there is talk of getting the car out of the museum and racing it some in 2020.  If talk turns into reality, Scott will be there to oversee this historic car returning to the track.

There are still many projects to complete for Scott, both now and in the future. Currently, he is restoring a Corvette that was built specifically for, and raced in, the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. The car went on to race in both Europe and the United States, winning several championships along the way. It was a complete “barn find,” having been stored in a warehouse in England for about 12 years before the current owner bought it and shipped it to the United States. After that project is finished, next up is restoring another historically significant Corvette that raced in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2001 with Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr., as part of the driving ream. Sadly, this was one of the last cars that Dale Earnhardt Sr. ever completed a race in, tragically losing his life weeks later in the 2001 Daytona 500.

When he’s not traveling, Scott enjoys time back in his hometown of Thurmont, visiting with his childhood friends and family that live in the area.

But, for most of the last 30 or more years, his real home has been on pit lane. “It’s the one place in the world where I feel the most comfortable.”

1984 DeAtley Corvette that Scott rebuilt from scrap (2002-2007) now resides in National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Photo captions from cover: (top left) Scott working on Indie Car in 2000 at Nazareth PA Speedway; (top right) Scott (pictured back) pushing Indie car out to qualify for the Indy 500 in 2011; (bottom) NASCAR Busch Grand National Series at Hickory Motor Speedway in 1994. Scott was on the team that buildt and raced this Ford Thunderbird.

GT de Las Americas Series Chevrolet Camaro in 1996 at Salinas Speedway, Puerto Rico.

Blair Garrett

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start planning for a night out with your special someone.

Chocolates and flowers are nice, but for those of us who are searching for a memorable evening with our significant other, options for a fun or romantic night out are a welcome change from the norm.
There are plenty of great date spots that work outside of just Valentine’s Day, too, and if you’re in desperate need of ideas, you’ve come to the right place.

Big and bold plans can be fun and exciting, but your date night doesn’t have to break the bank. Your options are only limited to your creativity, and the most important thing you can spend this Valentine’s Day is your time.

Let’s take a look at a few great local and non-local options for your perfect February night out.

1. Antrim 1844
     If a romantic getaway is more your style, look no further than Taneytown’s Antrim 1844. Built on an old plantation, Antrim 1844 offers customers a variety of historic housing options for a weekend stay close to home you won’t soon forget. With 11 different local houses to choose from and dozens of room options among them, a new and exciting experience awaits couples looking to celebrate.

The property often hosts weddings and work outings, so, naturally, there are food accommodations. Antrim 1844’s Smokehouse Restaurant has been named “Best Historic Restaurant in America,” and with all of the options available to guests, it’s easy to see why.

Whether it’s a six-course meal or a trip to the restaurant’s 20,000 bottle wine cellar, you’re in for a classy, laid back evening at Antrim 1844.

2. Carroll Creek Park Walk
       This free, open to the public day trip gives visitors gorgeous views of downtown Frederick. On the walk, you can see some of the best murals and artwork Maryland has to offer, all at your pace and leisure. There are tons of shops and restaurants you can make a stop at along the way, so the trip is really what you make it.

This former floodplain is now one of the premier attractions to Frederick and has been renovated as recent as 2016. There are also electric bikes for rent to add a workout or faster mode of transportation to your self-guided tour. A bike also allows you flexibility to branch out and see more of the city.  
3. Firestone’s Culinary Tavern
       If beautifully prepared meals with a fine glass of wine suit your ideal night out, Firestone’s Culinary Tavern in Frederick has all that and more. Firestone’s features a “Raw Bar,” consisting of upscale seafood delicacies with an intimate setting. Draft beers, fine wines, and signature cocktails accompany some of the finest oysters the east coast has to offer.

At Firestone’s, there is always something new to try, and you’ll never get tired of their extravagant dishes. With Frederick’s largest selection of beer and ale, there is an accommodation for just about everyone.

4. Order Take-out
     For an intimate stay at home night, bring home a special take-out dinner. See our article in this issue about Celebrations Catering in Thurmont, where a special Friday Night Valentine’s Menu offers upscale delicious meal options.

On Valentine’s weekend, several local non-profits are hosting dinners or events, where carryout is an option as well. Take a look at those opportunities in the Around Town Section and Community Calendar in this issue.

5. Ice Skating
       There’s no better time to lace up the skates than with local ponds starting to freeze over. Although the Greater Catoctin area is typically not as cold as our neighbors to the north, and sometimes our outdoor ponds aren’t entirely frozen over, don’t fret.
There are some great local spots to ice skate—indoors and outdoor.

Ski Liberty hosts outdoor skating daily, and both Hagerstown and Frederick have indoor ice rinks with weekend public skates.

No gear? No problem. All options listed have rentals available upon request, so ice skating is an easy and fun way to kick off your February.

Ice skating is something most people are either proficient at or terrible at, and it makes for a lot of laughs if the latter is the case. Dates are all about having fun and spending time with a person you care about, so what better way than to watch each other slide around like a newborn calf taking its first steps.

6. escape room
       Nothing focuses more on communication and problem solving—two cornerstones of a relationship—quite like an escape room. For those of us who have never taken an escape room challenge, couples or parties must work together—and sometimes compete—to solve riddles, puzzles, and equations to find a way out of a themed escape room.
       When the door locks behind you, the timer starts, and carefully inspecting each item in the room is the key to finding your escape key and freeing the group. Solving an escape room together is a great way to get out and do something unique and creative. The riddles are often funny and challenging, allowing you to share a few laughs while working together.

There are several excellent options, just a short drive away, with each offering a one-of-a-kind experience. Frederick has ClueIQ, Surelocked In Escape Games, and Escape This. Escape Gettysburg and 1863 Escape Room are also great options north of the Mason Dixon line. So, there is no shortage of great local spots for a fun night out.

The value in the year’s most romantic holiday is designating a specific day dedicated to the most special person in your life. Whether you’ve dated for six months, or you’re celebrating your 50th anniversary, date nights are a healthy outlet to keep relationships flourishing.

Great date ideas are everywhere, but it’s up to you to make it a memorable one. If it’s once a week or once a year, taking a trip to do something out of the same old routine is an easy way to put a smile on the face of those you care about most. So, don’t be afraid to get out there and make your dream night out a reality.

Ski Liberty’s outdoor ice rink, open daily at the foot of the mountain.

by James Rada, Jr.


JANUARY 2020 Meeting

Pedestrian Bridge Over Flat Run Closed

The pedestrian bridge along MD 140 over Flat Run is now closed. The contractor will remove it soon. This means that pedestrian traffic on eastbound MD 140 will be closed until the spring. All pedestrian traffic has been moved to the sidewalk along westbound MD 140.

Town Seeking Small Business Tax Credit

The Town of Emmitsburg is seeking state authorization to implement a small business tax credit. The proposed credit lasts six years and is based on the increase in real property tax assessments due to a business’ expansion. To be eligible, the business would need to add at least 2,500 square feet of space and employ at least five full-time employees for two years after the expansion.

Ballfield Fees Approved

The commissioners approved a set of ballfield usage fees for 2020. For next year, there is no charge for ballfield usage. The mayor and commissioners can extend this fee schedule at the end of that time. If they choose not to, the new fees will be as follows.

For single-day use, non-profits will pay $10 an hour, which is fully refundable if the area is left in good condition. Residents will pay $10 an hour, which is 50 percent refundable if the area is left in good condition. Non-residents will pay $20 an hour.

Resident leagues will pay $50 per team, per field, per season. Non-resident leagues will pay $100 per team, per field, per season.

Youth tournaments will pay $50 per day, and adult tournaments will pay $75 per day.

Historic Wayside Approval Delayed

The Emmitsburg Commissioners postponed approval of the new set of historic waysides in town to make edits to one of them.

Emmitsburg received a FY2020 Maryland Heritage Areas Authority grant of $12,032 to create four new waysides that will be erected at historic spots in town. The waysides are about the Great Emmitsburg Fire, Vigilant Hose Company, Chronicle Press building, and the Carriage House Inn building.

At the January meeting, Commissioner Joseph Ritz, III, raised a factual issue with the Chronicle Press building wayside and also with what information was presented on the waysides.

Commissioners Give Approval

The Emmitsburg Commissioners approved amendments recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission to the town forest conservation ordinance and other areas of the code affected by it.

Logging stand 6 also received approval from the commissioners. This 45-acre group of white oak, red oak, and tulip poplar trees are expected to earn the town $45,000 to $50,000 when harvested. The request for bids will go out in May, and harvesting should begin in July.

The commissioners also approved the creation of a sewer and water connection fee payment plan.

Finally, they approved a $1,000 fine against anyone who connects to a town fire hydrant for a non-emergency purpose.


JANUARY 2020 Meeting

Town Plans to Purchase Radio Lane Property

The Town of Thurmont will purchase an 11.87-acre property at 99 Radio Lane for $285,000. The property, which contains a house that the town will rent, was listed as $300,000 initially. The main reason for the purchase is that when the electric substation is decommissioned, a location for a new larger station will be needed. The property could also be used for a stormwater management facility to alleviate some of the flooding in the area. If the Thurmont Trolley Trail is extended to the north, it could come through this property without needing to negotiate a right of way.

Commissioner Liaison Appointments Made

Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird recommended new commissioner liaison appointments for 2020, which the commissioners approved. They will be as follow:

•    Commissioner Wayne Hooper—Thurmont Senior Center, Planning and Zoning Commission back-up.

•    Commissioner Bill Buehrer—Police Commission, Parks and Recreation Committee

•    Commissioner Marty Burns—Planning and Zoning Commission

•    Commissioner Wes Hamrick—Thurmont Addictions Committee, Economic Development Commission

•    Mayor John Kinnaird—Board of Appeals

New Police Officer on the Job

Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler introduced Officer Nathan McLeroy to the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners during a recent town meeting. McLeroy is the newest Thurmont Police Officer. He worked formerly with the Frederick County Highway Department. He is a native of Rocky Ridge, but he currently lives in Pennsylvania. He is currently in the Sykesville Police Academy, as he prepares to work in Thurmont.

“I like to do a lot of community policing,” McLeroy said. “I served three years in the army as a police officer, and police work seems to be my niche.”

Thurmont May Get State Solar-Energy Exemption

The Frederick County legislative delegation plans to introduce a bill to exempt Thurmont from Maryland’s solar energy mandate. The mandate requires the state to provide 14.5 percent of its energy from solar energy by 2030. The mandate is part of the Clean Energy Jobs Act. It capped the percentage from electrical cooperatives at 2.5 percent. This did not apply to municipalities like Thurmont, which operate their own power companies. Without the cap, costs could increase $250,000 for Thurmont residents. This is because Thurmont would have to purchase solar energy credits to reach 14.5 percent.


Mayor Don Briggs

Infrastructure comes in many stripes. Sewer lines, water lines, sidewalks, streets, power lines, the list goes on. The number one infrastructure priority of town staff and elected officials right now is the discolored water service experienced by some of our residents. Our attention to this concern has remained unaltered. To our efforts and our lab testing, we have invited the assistance of the county and state.

Other infrastructure needs include mitigating the effect of flash flooding occurrences at the North Seton Avenue, Federal Avenue, and Provincial Parkway intersection. Flooding has occurred at this point forever. I have seen an old photo of the intersection flooded long before Provincial Parkway was opened and the development of the Northgate subdivision (late 1980s-early 1990s). Town staff is working on a grant to fund a street conceptual plan to reduce the stormwater runoff discharged along the stretch of North Seton Avenue that slopes toward the intersection with Federal Avenue and Provincial Parkway.

Whoa! What a couple of days of 60-degree weather in January can do for you. It was a good break for those among us who are restless from TV football fatigue and possibly girth expansion. To wit, I took our youthful yellow lab, Finn, out on an expedition through Community Park. Perhaps sparked by an equal genesis, the park was busy with plenty of old and new friends for both Finn and me. A good “pack” seemed to be enjoying the new dog park: several families and tots at the new all-inclusive playground, both pick-up baseball and basketball games, joggers, and walkers—what an excellent resource for the community.

At the January board of commissioners meeting, we were honored to host the State Champion Catoctin High School Cougars football team and coaching staff. First, for hotdogs (as many as they could eat and some did), cold drinks, and other treats. Thank you to Mrs. Umbel for the use of the senior center. Then, introductions and presentation of a proclamation from the town was received by Head Coach Doug Williams. Thank you to Commissioner Frank Davis’ family for providing the food and service for the team.

After Christmas, I was honored to attend the Boy Scout Troop 727 awards dinner. Wonderful event. Congratulations to Matthias Buchheister, Thomas Lowe, and Joseph Legare on earning the prestigious Eagle Scout rank, the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America. We will honor the lads at an upcoming town meeting. Troop 727 has done many service projects for the town; there is a scout project planned for Community Park this spring.

With spring comes a whole host of youth sports, including baseball again in Emmitsburg. Bring ’em on.  Also, don’t forget, Lent and Easter are on the way.


 Mayor John Kinnaird

The Town of Thurmont has started our 2020 Master Plan Update. The current plan has been in effect for about eight years and needs to be reviewed. The Master Plan guides the Town’s growth, development, and conservation, and has been updated about every ten years since the 1970s. This update will take six to nine months to complete, and residents are encouraged to get involved in the process. The first public workshop took place on Thursday, January 16, with 50 or so residents attendance.

During this first workshop, there was an introduction to the Master Plan, followed by an exercise where the participants broke into smaller groups to discuss several questions. The questions were: 1.—What would Thurmont look like if you had the power to make it any way you wanted?; 2.—What would you preserve about the Town, and what would you change about it?; 3.—Imagine you are in a future generation of Town residents and tell us what would impress you most about the vision of today’s citizen planners?

After discussing the questions, everyone got back together to read each group’s answers. Not surprisingly, the answers were very similar. Most want to keep our small-town feel; to plan future development so that it benefits our residents; to provide more public amenities such as parks, trails, and community centers; and to improve roads and other infrastructure. The results from these discussions will be complied, presented at a future meeting, and incorporated in the update.

Future meetings and workshops will discuss land use, planning, zoning changes, the growth boundary, and other related topics. There will also be public meetings, where maps and other parts of the plan will be displayed for residents’ review and comment. As part of the update, there will also be a Comprehensive Zoning Review. This review allows residents and property owners to apply for a change in zoning for their property.

The requests will be reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission; applications for zoning changes must be received by March 15, 2020.

I encourage you to get involved in this process by attending the meetings and workshops or by watching the meeting on Cable 99 or via stream video from the Streaming Video page on This can be a long and involved process, but is worth every minute spent on it. As an active participant, you will be able to take pride in being a part of the 2020 Thurmont Master Plan Update.

The 2020 United States Census will be underway in the month of March. Everyone needs to participate in the census! Among other things, the census will determine the distribution of Federal Funds. Any shortage in census figures for our area can hurt the Federal Programs and services on which many of our residents depend. The census can be taken online, or you can provide the information to Census workers that will be canvassing the community. Be on the lookout for more information as the date for the census approaches.

Please contact me at 302-606-9458 or by email at with any questions, comments, or concerns.

James Rada, Jr.

The Town of Emmitsburg found and repaired one leak in its water lines that may have been causing the brown tap water problems some residents have been experiencing for months. A second leak under Waynesboro Pike has been identified, but, because of its location, repair crews haven’t been able to fix it yet.
    Residents started complaining about brown water in late October. At first, it was believed to be a result of hydrant flushing, but when the problem continued, town staff realized it was something else.
    Water drawn at the plant and various points in town was tested for lead, copper, chlorine, turbidity, bacteria, and pH.
    “All testing came back within the limits requested by MDE and EPA,” Commissioner Frank Davis said during the Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners meeting in January.
    Despite being within the accepted standards, the water was obviously discolored. Residents had light-colored clothes washed in the water ruined. The water also stained tubs and sinks. Particulates clogged filters.
These frustrated residents showed up at the January meeting to voice their displeasure. Many of them complained about having to buy filters and bottled water because of the brown water. Others worried about what drinking the water might do to them or their children.
    Allison Calhoun had her water in Brookfield tested independently and found it had high levels of iron and manganese in it. She also said it had black flecks in it that stained her tub and smelled like tar.
    She said that despite staff saying the water was safe, “When presented to town staff, no one would even consider drinking it.”
    Barrett Turner, West Main Street, said, “A filter that would last me a month, I’ve been changing every week for my house.”
    Some residents demanded compensation, not only from their increased water usage from trying to flush their water lines but also for the costs of bottled water and filters. While the commissioners seemed open to this, they did not know what they could legally do. A leak on North Seton Avenue was repaired the middle of January, but fixing a leak under Waynesboro Pike has been delayed.
    The commissioners held a special meeting on January 22 to discuss the water problem, the repairs, and the possible compensation due to the brown water. The commissioners also talked about the issue of tuberculation, which could be causing problems in the older water lines. The problem is when pipes installed before 1952 begin to corrode and pieces of the corrosion fall into the water during times of high water flow through the pipes.
    Both the Maryland Department of the Environment and Frederick County are working with the town to fix the problem.
    “We’ve got to make this our No. 1 priority,” Commissioner Frank Davis said.
    The big problem for Emmitsburg is finding the funds to make the repairs. The water fund has been operating at a deficit, and money in the general fund can’t legally be used for water line repairs.

Deb Abraham Spalding

On Friday, January 24, 2020, former Catoctin High School (CHS) basketball players from the 1979-80 and 1980-81 teams were invited on the court at half-time during the Catoctin Boy’s Varsity basketball game against Williamsport. It was CHS Boy’s Basketball Alumni Night.

Dave Ammenheuser, former CHS graduate and statistician for the boy’s teams as a student at CHS during those years, announced the returning players able to attend the Alumni Night reunion.

Players present included John Campbell, Duane Gigeous, Dennis Grandstaff, Larry Martinez, Charlie Brown, Michael Hill, Mike Valentine, Dwayne Snyder, Jim Hamilla, and Coach Steve Lengkeek. Mark Williard had flown in for the event but was unable to attend this gathering due to illness.

Catoctin’s Athletic Director Keith Bruck said it was probably the biggest crowd they’ve had for a home game in about 20 years. Thus, Alumni Night was a success.

Following the game, many alumni gathered at the Ott House in Emmitsburg to enjoy a nice evening out.

The next day, Saturday, nine of the players (including Mark Williard) came to the gym for about an hour. Midway through the hour, Coach Steve Lengkeek pulled out his whistle and told them to line up on the court. They looked at him crazily, like, “Is he serious?” He was.

He put them through a basketball drill for about 20 minutes. Dave Ammenheuser said, “It was pretty funny.”

Some then went to a local restaurant and others headed home.

It was a great weekend.

Pictured left to right are Dave Ammenheuser, John Campbell, Michael Hill, Charlie Brown, Matt Stitely (son of Mike Stitely deceased), Mike Valentine, Duane Gigeous, Dwayne Snyder, Larry Martinez, Dennis Grandstaff, Jim Hamilla, and Coach Steve Lengkeek. 

Joan Bittner Fry

Note: The Red Men’s Hall was a part of Sabillasville’s local history for a long time. It is now a residence.

From a “programme” dated May 9, 1914, for Cranberry Corners, a comedy drama held at the Redmen’s Hall. Local actors were Alvie Harbaugh, Jesse Poole, Francis Manahan, George Small, Earl Eby, Kennard Harbaugh, Miss Bernice Wachter, Mrs. Mabel Eby, Hazel Eyler, Eva Harbaugh, Francis Rowe, and Mary Wachter.

Note: I can remember all these people as adults. My house was purchased from Eva Harbaugh’s estate.

Two other playbills are A Minstrel Show, presented by the Sabillasville Minute Men, Company 822, November 1942, and George in a Jam, a comedy in three acts, presented by Sabillasville School PTA, April 1943.

Starring in the minstrel show were an entire group, and specials were a dance by Glenn Wolfe and Lewis McClain, a playlet by Glenn Wolfe and Lester Sanders, and a monologue by Harold Bittner. Others listed are Francis Manahan, Edgar McKissick, Harold Wolfe, George Eby, and Glen Brown. The play was directed by E. Maurice Clarke, the principal of the elementary school.

Note: At this time, World War II was happening and everywhere our patriotism showed. My father, Harold Bittner, sang “White Cliffs of Dover,” as it was mentioned many times later when he would sing it to us. 

The White Cliffs of Dover are the first and last sight you see when departing from or arriving in the port of Dover and is a sentimental symbol of England. The cliffs’ symbolic value to the English is exemplified in the famous World War II-era song.

“White Cliffs of Dover” lyrics

I’ll never forget the people I met braving those angry skies.

I remember well as the shadows fell the light of hope in their eyes.

And though I’m far away I still can hear them say “Thumbs up!”

For when the dawn comes up

There’ll be bluebirds over

The white cliffs of Dover tomorrow, just you wait and see

There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after

Tomorrow, when the world is free

Later, starring in George in A Jam, also at the Red Men’s Hall, were Lewis McClain, Margaret Leatherman (teacher), Karl “Bud” Gray, Helen Ratas, Harold Bittner, Naomi Waynant (teacher), Virginia Kuhn (teacher), Alice Dysert, Oliver Kipe, and Glenn Wolfe. This play was directed by Edgar Wachter.

In 1954, the Sabillasville PTA presented Look Out Lizzie for the benefit of the Blue Ridge Mountain Vol. Fire Co. No. 1. The play was held at the fire hall and was directed by Maurice Clarke and Harold Jarrett. The players were Harold Bittner, Mary Benchoff, Joan Bittner, Helen Beard, Lewis McClain, Geneva Shindledecker, Bob Fox, and Raymond Kipe.  Prompters were Ada McKissick and Catherine Clayton.

Every time Lewie McClain saw me thereafter, he called me Hazel and I called him Hank, our “stage” names. I was 16 at that time. Advertisers in the brochure (all with old phone numbers) were Stanley Bros., Dingle Brothers, Blue Ridge Coal Co., Davis and Shuey Construction Co., Hull’s Super Market, Bohn’s Shopping Center, Weikert’s Garage, Summit Sales and Service, Smith’s Esso Station, Highfield Liquor Store, V.L. Pryor and Son, Harry E. Harbaugh, New Shirt Laundry, Winebrenner Motors, Trostle’s Grocery, Coffman’s Taxi, First National Bank, Ray Birely’s Men’s Wear, Flohr Lumber Company, Cornerette Beauty Salon, McClain’s Diner, Luther N. Martin, Traceys, Spangler’s Electric, Pauline Kramer Antiques, Jefferson Standard, L. M. Barton, J. Bob Benchoff, Clarence Smith, G. Ross Pryor, Park View Tavern, Sam’s End of Trail, Gearhart’s Pharmacy, Knox Welding, Angell’s, Gonder’s Gas & Electric, Geesaman’s Inn, Benchoff’s Grocery, Ressler’s Metal Works, Monterey Tea House, and the Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Company No. 1.

Those were the good old days!

PDG Susan Bonura, District 22 W

The Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) is the charitable arm of Lions Clubs International, the world’s largest service club organization, with more than 1.4 million men and women members in more than 200 countries and geographical areas worldwide. LCIF helps Lions improve peoples’ lives around the world, from combating vision problems to responding to major catastrophes to providing valuable life skills to youth, and much more.

In 2018, LCIF launched a comprehensive fundraising campaign at the annual Lions Clubs International Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. The most ambitious fundraising effort in LCIF history, Campaign 100: LCIF Empowering ServiceSM will span three years, with a goal of raising $300 million by June 30, 2021. Campaign 100 will empower Lions to serve 200-plus million people each year.

Campaign 100 will expand Lions’ commitment to communities, with a focus on vision, youth disaster relief, humanitarian causes, diabetes, hunger, childhood cancer, and the environment.

•   Vision — LCIF leads the global charge to reduce preventable blindness and visual impairment, to eradicate blindness caused by infectious disease, and to improve the quality of life for those who are blind or visually impaired.

•  Youth — LCIF serves youth through inclusive social and recreational opportunities, positive youth development, improved access to quality education, and vital health services.

•  Disaster Relief — LCIF engages in disaster relief efforts and prepares for, and responds to, natural disasters whenever and wherever they strike.

•  Humanitarian Causes — LCIF sponsors and delivers programs that address the needs of at-risk and vulnerable populations such as the disabled, the elderly, orphans, and others disproportionately impacted by social and economic factors.

•  Diabetes — This campaign allows Lions to respond to the global epidemic of diabetes, by increasing public awareness, sponsoring diabetes screenings, emphasizing healthy lifestyles, and other comprehensive health initiatives designed to improve quality of life for those living with this disease.

•  Hunger — LCIF works toward a world in which no one goes hungry, expanding resources and infrastructure needed to address food shortages worldwide.

•  Childhood Cancer — LCIF helps strengthen medical and social services, increasing the  life expectancy of children living with cancer and enhancing the quality of life for them and their families.

•  Environment — LCIF protects the environmental health of our global communities, generating long-term, positive ecological impact.

A $100 donation provides immediate relief to four people in the wake of a natural disaster; provides the measles vaccination to 100 children; provides diabetes screenings for 18 at-risk individuals; gives access to clean water for 14 people; feeds 14 disabled, elderly, or low-income people; or, funds two cataract surgeries. One hundred percent of your donation to the Lions Clubs International Foundation goes toward one of the following two global funds: the Empowering Service Fund, supporting all LCIF causes, or the Disaster Relief Fund, reserved for disaster relief. Visit to donate and make a difference in the lives of millions

Dominance from Start to Finish

Blair Garrett

Catoctin High Football clinched its second state championship Saturday, December 7, defeating the Poets of Dunbar High School (Baltimore) 31-8 in a Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 1A matchup.

The Cougars stormed through the playoffs, yielding opponents just 41 points over the team’s five playoff victories while posting a monstrous 213 points on offense.

It was a clash of the best of the best, with both teams flattening semifinal opponents by more than 40 points. An unstoppable force versus an immovable object scenario set a collision course for the 1A State Championship game, with only one possible victor.

The teams’ last matchup against each other came back in Catoctin’s historic 2009 run, where they edged Dunbar 13-12 en route to the team’s first-ever state championship. The parallels to this season were apparent, and the Cougars had the confidence to replicate that result once again.

“The coolest thing about it is there were only three of us [coaches] when we won our first championship,” head coach Doug Williams said. “Getting to be there with my assistant coaches and players who haven’t done that is special.”

With everything on the line, the only thing left to do was execute, and Catoctin did that in a near-flawless manner from start to finish.

As the Cougars took the turf at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, the boys came ready to play, exposing Dunbar mistakes to shock the Poets over the first quarter.

On the first play of the game, Dunbar fumbled to the benefit of Catoctin, laying the groundwork for a theme that would plague the Poets all night long. Turnovers repeatedly cut possessions short for the perennial 1A playoff powerhouse, and the Catoctin defense was ready at every turn to send its offense back onto the field.

“Our defensive coaches had Dunbar very well scouted,” Williams said. “The staff and players all bought into the program, and it made us successful.”

The Cougars had too much firepower to put the ball in their hands with excellent field position, and quarterback Ryan Orr made quick work of the defense in the first half, connecting passes across the middle to put the boys in blue within striking distance. As it has all season, the running game continued to chew up yardage with each play.

Dunbar had successful drives down the field, but a mental mistake led to a red-zone interception for Catoctin, effectively thwarting any momentum for the Poets and preserving the shutout.

A series of mistakes kept the Catoctin offense on the field, but the Cougar defense managed to punish the Poets with a pick-six to continue frustrating the opposing quarterback.

Despite the lopsided turnover ratio, the Dunbar offense had its moments where possessions were threatening. After 24 unanswered points by Catoctin, Dunbar made its first significant impact of the game with a beautiful ball over the middle to Deairus Carr, who slipped between the defense, shook off a tackle, and cruised into the end zone to get his team on the board.

Dunbar’s message was loud and clear, the team needed to stop the bleeding, and shutting down Catoctin’s run game was necessary if the Poets were going to turn the game around. The Cougars’ bread and butter all season was its slashing runs with running back Carson Sickeri, but Dunbar had keyed in and cut his drives repeatedly short throughout the second quarter.

Fortunately for Catoctin, Sickeri did what he does best and found a running lane to break through the Poets’ defense for a huge chunk of yardage. Sickeri’s run eventually set up another ball over the top to Travis Fields, for his second touchdown of the game.

With a 31-8 lead at halftime, the Cougars just needed to play solid defense and maintain long possessions to close out the game and capture the team’s second championship of the decade.

Coach Williams and company continued to pour on the pressure, bottling up Dunbar’s offense and preventing the Poets from stringing together a successful drive.

As Catoctin continued burning the clock, the Gatorade bath watch was on, and the Cougars successfully doused several coaches in the only ice bath a person would ever be excited about.

The final buzzer sounded, the crowd went wild, and players stormed the field in what was undoubtedly the most exciting game of their lives.

Through the biting cold temperatures, the fans stood in unison as their hometown friends and family celebrated a near once-in-a-lifetime achievement.

“The community we live in is amazing,” Williams said. “We were the smallest school of the championship winners, and we were the loudest. That’s awesome.” The 2019 Catoctin football team’s legacy of dominance has been solidified, with the team’s 13-1 season ending with the MPSSAA 1A Championship trophy in hand. A big congrats to the players, coaches, and families that made this season so great. Go Cougars! 

blair Garrett

From small-town journalist to big-time sports director, Dave Ammenheuser, a native of Thurmont, has done it all.

Ammenheuser, 57, is now the sports director for a major news network, USA Today, but his journey began like many of us, humbly, in a small town, shadowed by the Catoctin Mountains.

Developing into a great sportswriter requires time, attention to detail, and intimate knowledge of your sport of choice. Athletes can make great sportswriters, knowing the ins and outs of their particular area of expertise, but a devotion to writing has to be there.

For Ammenheuser, that passion for writing was always there; yet, his entry into the sports world is as unique as his rise to success. “I was the worst athlete ever,” Ammenheuser said. “I always liked the competitiveness of it, and liked to write, so I kind of put the two together. It’s kind of ironic I ended up making my career in sports.”

As a student at Catoctin High School, Ammenheuser cultivated his love for sports as the high school newspaper sports editor and the statistician for the historic ’79-80 basketball team.

The ’79-80 and ’80-81 teams were the two most-successful Catoctin basketball teams at the time, and Ammenheuser’s most-recent visit to the area is to organize a reunion for the players who garnered so much success some 40 years ago.

Although Ammenheuser now lives near the USA Today headquarters in McClean, Virginia, friend and family ties bring him back to where it all began from time to time.

Ammenheuser’s professional writing career took its first steps at the Catoctin Enterprise, a small paper located in Thurmont. He then graduated to the Frederick News-Post, where he wrote and developed while attending Hood College. As a communications major, with a minor in gerontology, Ammenheuser continued to craft sports stories throughout college, gaining valuable experience and laying the groundwork for his future.

In the early 1980s, as a rising young sports editor, Ammenheuser stumbled upon the opportunity of a lifetime. The Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies were set to face off head-to-head, in a series that will forever remain special to Ammenheuser.

“I got to cover the 1983 World Series when the Orioles won, and that was my childhood favorite team,” Ammenheuser said. As a lifelong Orioles fan, he had the chance to see his team up close and personal as they won the greatest title in baseball, a feat that they have yet to replicate.

From the Frederick News-Post, Ammenheuser was ready for greater challenges. He later became the sports editor for the Carroll County Times, taking on new stories and responsibilities.

Breaking new ground is nothing new for Ammenheuser. Over his career, he has had many highlights, but one sticks out even to this day.

“When I was the sports editor in Carroll County, Maryland, I covered the first college football game ever played in the former Soviet Union,” Ammenheuser said. “Western Maryland College, now known as McDaniel, played there, and I went with the team. That was a cool experience.”

Sports journalists often have to adjust and adapt to each assignment, especially with drastically changing environments, and that is something Ammenheuser has become accustomed to over his 40-year career.

Traveling across the world has proven to be a theme for Ammenheuser, and his ventures have shaped his writing and guided him to where he is today.

After his local positions at the Carroll County Times and Frederick News-Post, he eventually moved on to Charlotte, Connecticut, California, Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville.

Many challenges come with adjusting to a new job in a new city, and Ammenheuser has established himself in many new assignments and cities. This skill, combined with a unique attention to detail, has contributed to his career development tenfold. “People write differently across the country,” he said. “A writer in Connecticut and how you would manage him or her is quite different from how you would manage a writer in Southern California or Nashville.”

Writing styles, tones, and content differs from place to place. Ammenheuser has become an expert at navigating that balance, and it has had an impact inside and outside the office. “Every person I’ve met throughout the way has helped me grow professionally and personally,” Ammenheuser said.

Throughout his career, Ammenheuser has written, developed, and managed content for various publications. He hit his final stop in February of 2019, after decades of hard work.

“Earlier this year [2019], I was named the sports director for USA Today Network, so I’m the sports editor of USA Today, but also our company owned 109 companies across the country, where more than 500 sports journalists report up to me.”

With such great responsibility in managing so many writers and editors, Ammenheuser does not get to write as much as he would like to these days. Instead, he focuses more on big-picture management.

“I was in Tokyo for a week, where we’re coordinating what we are going to do for the Olympics next year,” he said. “We’re taking 65 sports editors across the country to cover the Olympics.”

Part of covering such a massive global event is conceptualizing and eventually executing all of the moving parts that go with it. Ammenheuser plans to get everything set and organized to provide the best coverage possible, and that sometimes includes things one might not expect.

“I was looking at the venues, trying to figure out where our office will temporarily be, hotels for where we’ll put people, and more,” Ammenheuser said. “It’s big-picture stuff and strategizing how all of those people are going to work together.”

While NBC has exclusive broadcast rights over the production of television for Olympic Games through 2032, Ammenheuser and his team of sports journalists have big plans for Olympic coverage in 2020.

“No one covers the Olympics bigger than USA Today other than NBC,” he said.

Ammenheuser’s career trajectory has taken him to a place he may not have expected, but it was certainly a goal for the long-time sports editor. “It’s a dream come true, really,” he said. “This is it until I retire.”

Call it a stroke of circumstantial luck or even fate, but a seemingly innocuous event may have foreshadowed Ammenheuser’s move to USA Today.

“I remember back in 1982, when USA Today started, walking into the 7/11, and grabbing a USA Today,” Ammenheuser said. “It was the very first issue, and today, ironically, that issue is hanging in my office. It’s yellowed in its frame now.”

When all is said and done, Ammenheuser can look back on his career and near endless list of accomplishments fondly. From Olympic coverage to watching his childhood team capture its last World Series, this former local has clearly made a global impact.

Hit the Slopes this Winter

Blair Garrett

Winter is here, the snow is falling, and the ski slopes have never looked better.
Snow may not currently be falling on your driveway, but you don’t have to travel too far to find your nearest winter oasis. With four ski resorts nearby and dozens of trails to hit, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. 

Skiing and snowboarding are two of the most popular winter sports around, and ski resorts provide different and challenging trails, perfect for first-timers and the most seasoned skiers.
Let’s check out a few excellent local options for you and your friends to take a day off and hit the slopes.

Ski Liberty

Just across the Pennsylvania line in Fairfield is Ski Liberty, a mountaintop known for its elaborate trails and challenging parks. The resort offers skiers and snowboarders 22 different trails for hours of rides and exploration. If skiing and snowboarding are not your cups of tea, tubing is also available. A mountainside plunge on an inflatable tube might be more your speed.
For locals, access to the slopes is nothing more than a short drive away. For the out-of-town crowd, the Liberty Hotel’s Alpine Lodge provides the perfect getaway for a cozy stay, just at the foot of the mountain. 

Liberty offers packages for the casual rider and for patrons who can’t get enough of the mountain. With various learning programs, there is availability for everyone to pick up a new sport at their own pace.

Keep your eyes open for sweet deals, too, particularly if you’re just picking up skiing and snowboarding. January is “Learn to Ski/Snowboard Month,” so every Thursday in January offers a discounted package for beginners, fully equipped with rental gear and programs to improve your abilities almost overnight. 

Personalized learning is vital for kids to develop the skills necessary to carve down the mountain safely. With full-size classes and one-on-one instruction, there are many learning opportunities for everyone.

With dozens of musical guests, taproom takeovers, and multiple mountaintop events, Liberty has everything you could want in a weekend trip and more.

Ski Liberty is located at 78 Country Club Trail in Fairfield, Pennsylvania.

Whitetail Resort

Whitetail is a great spot to find a mix of balanced trails and more difficult ones, with 23 different routes to ride and numerous trails that lead into others. The shift from trail to trail can add a bit of a challenge, as some of the popular, easier trails may peel off into higher-skilled black diamond runs.

Like Liberty, Whitetail provides instruction for learning the basics, along with rails, boxes, and ramps for riders who like to add a dash of excitement to the slopes.

If you get hungry after a few hours tearing up the snow, don’t fret, there are plenty of options for even the pickiest of eaters. The resort has a pizzeria, café, and a marketplace with a multitude of culinary options.

Whitetail has plenty of great slopes to check out, but you can’t forget their “Ski in the New Year Celebration” event just on the horizon. On New Year’s Eve, riders can ski and snowboard from 2019 into 2020, with lifts staying open until 1:00 a.m. New Year’s Day. The marketplace will also have a DJ and dancing, so there is no shortage of ways to celebrate a brand-new decade.

Whitetail Resort is located at 13805 Blairs Valley Road in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.

Ski Roundtop

Ski Roundtop is the oldest of the three local mountains, celebrating its 55th year in business. Roundtop rounds out the trio, with 20 slopes and parks and multiple excellent amenities available—the makings for a great night are on your horizon.

If you’re new to the mountain life, Roundtop’s sports shop has a variety of services available, including ski and snowboard tuning and expert advice on equipment and brand-name apparel.           

Having programs designed to teach young kids valuable skills to stay safe while riding is a valuable option for any parent leery of their child’s well-being on the mountain.

Roundtop’s Mountain Explorer’s Program is a multi-week course, offered several times throughout the season, designed to get your child from just strapping on the skis to being well on their way to autonomously exploring the mountain. Children get to learn from the same instructor each week and make a few friends along the way, so it’s a great way to get kids into a learning environment that provides them with constructive technique proficiency and a whole lot of fun.

Roundtop Mountain Resort is located at 925 Roundtop Road in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania.

wisp resort

The farthest of the four slopes, Wisp Resort lies just inside the Maryland/West Virginia border, but it still draws quite the crowd.

With events offered almost daily, there is always something new and exciting to experience at the resort. Wisp offers a nice balance of trails, with about 33 percent of the runs falling into the beginner category, and a near equivalent number in intermediate and advanced.

Even if skiing and snowboarding is not your style, Wisp also has tubing, ice skating, and a mountain coaster to get your blood pumping on a cool winter day.

Wisp is the only resort in Maryland opened year-round, and typically keeps the slopes running for 120 days per year. 

Wisp Resort is located at 296 Marsh Hill Road in McHenry, Maryland.

For new skiers and snowboarders, one of the biggest deterrents to getting out and enjoying the mountain is the struggle to learn the mechanics of how to ride effectively. All four resort options offer instructional courses with experienced riders to give newbies—young and old—a chance to dive into a fun, new winter sport.

Regardless of which mountain you choose, there are challenging courses tailored to your skill level, ranging from bunny slopes for kids to double black diamonds reserved for pros and the overly ambitious. And don’t forget, tubing is available at all three resorts, with options for a solo ride or a linked tube with you and a handful of friends.

So, if you’re in the market for some winter adventures, zip up the jackets, strap into your ski boots, and hit the slopes for a day packed with snow-filled fun.  

James Rada, Jr. and Blair Garrett

Catoctin Banner Journalists, Jim and Blair, Face-off!

Does 2020 mark the beginning of a new decade, or is it actually the end of a decade? What do you think?

Let us know at (Subject line: Decade Debate)

Jim’s Stance

In the debate over whether the decade is ending or still has another year, it’s a simple matter of counting to 10. Let’s count. We all learn to count early in life: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Now apply that to years. Year 1, 2, 3, etc. We don’t say there is a Year 0. There wasn’t.

When whoever started counting years, the first year was Year 1. That means at the end of Year 100, 100 years had passed, and thus ended the first century. At the end of Year 1000, the first millennium ended. At the end of 2020, the second decade of the second millennium ended.

If you want a simpler way to look at it, count out 10 pennies. Do you start by saying 0? No, you start with 1.

Part of the problem is that 0 is a unique number. While every other number represents something, 0 represents nothing. It is the point where nothing happens to something happening.

Yes, I know a big deal was made about the millennium ending on December 31, 1999, but think about it. The date tells you that only 1,999 years had passed under the way we keep time. Not 2,000 years. It may have looked aesthetically pleasing to say that when the 1 in 1999 changed to the 2 in 2000, a new decade started, but the numbers literally do not add up (in this case, to 2,000).

Stance: December 31, 2020, is actually the end of the decade.

Blair’s Stance

Well, Jim, let’s take another look at the numbers. Over the course of history, decades have always been chunked into groups of 10, as we can both agree, but you never hear people refer to the roaring 20s as 1921-1931, do you? We break them into the simplest and most accurate representation of what we’re referencing.

The problem in determining who is right and who is wrong and where the decade begins and ends is more of a philosophical one than a physical one. Yes, if we count from the very beginning of the Common Era, the 10-year cycle restarts on year 11, and all the way until modern times at 2021.

It’s true, there was no year 0. So, at some point, we needed to decide where to begin the FIRST decade. That decision was made long ago, likely in the very first decade of the new era.

Years 1-9 represent the very first decade, if for no other reason, because it makes everything fall on an easy, readable, flat number. Technicalities bog everyone down with what ifs and unnecessary questions. 

The start from this New Year 2020 (January 1, 2020) will be our baseline number for this experiment. Each year has 365 days in it. If we multiply that by 10, the number of years in a decade, we get an even 3,650 days in a full 10 years. Do you know where we end up with that? On a nice, flat and new decade. 

We have to ask ourselves this: Do we want to complicate the decades by including 364 full days from a new set of tens, or should we keep ringing in the new decades the same way we have for the last 2,000 years?

The answer is simple. For simplicity, and common sense really, there’s no need to shift the decade to include 2020 and 364 full days. 

Therefore, when the clock strikes midnight and transitions to the New Year, it must be the start of a brand new decade.

Let’s just agree to continue with January 1, 2020, for everyone’s sanity, shall we?

Stance: January 1, 2020, is actually the start of the decade.

James Rada, Jr.

Catoctin High School recognized its graduates who have gone on to find success post-high school during its 5th Annual Distinguished Graduates Induction Ceremony on November 26, 2019.

Principal Jennifer Clements told the audience, “During the past 50 years, the staff at Catoctin High School has always strived to foster learning, character, innovation, compassion, perseverance, and service. Today is a great opportunity for us to celebrate that with some special graduates, and hopefully, it’s an opportunity for us to challenge our current students to aspire to do great things.”

The Catoctin High School Distinguished Graduate Organization formed in 2015 to honor alumni in the areas of academics, arts and humanities, athletics, business, and public service.

This year’s alumni were honored for achievements in academics, public service, and arts and humanities.

According to Senior Isabel Rozo, the honorees “have made a difference in the state or nation.”

“Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, names from the class of 2020 and 2023 will join this honor group,” Rozo said.

The ceremony also recognizes former Catoctin High staff who have had a significant impact on students.

Besides the honorees and their guests, the Catoctin freshman and senior classes were in attendance.

Former teacher Carol Forman taught mathematics classes at Catoctin for 30 years, from remedial to A.P. She gave the students some tips for getting through life successfully: (1) Don’t be afraid to change your goals; (2) When opportunities present themselves, don’t be afraid to try new things; (3) When the unexpected happens, do what you can in the situation and pray; (4) When things get overwhelming, consider prayer or at least find someone with whom to share your concerns; (5) It is never too late to do something you like to do in a different way; (6) Be bold, energetic, and stay true to yourself; and (7) Don’t ever give up.

Former teacher and coach George Kuhn was also recognized. He worked as a physical education teacher and athletic director at Catoctin, beginning in 1969. He also had tips for the students about how to live their lives. He also challenged the students to go home that evening, hug their parents, and tell them they loved them. “You’ll be surprised what that will do for your relationship with your mom and dad,” Kuhn said.

Dr. John Chatlos, Class of 1970, was the academics inductee. He is an associate professor of psychiatry at Rutgers University-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. His expertise is dealing with mental disorders and addiction in teens. He is the director of a community outpatient substance abuse treatment program at the university and the medical director for the Wei Ji Point outpatient detoxification program, Human Faith Project.

“I never would have had the confidence to tackle what I did if not for Catoctin High School,” Chatlos said.

Susan Favorite, Class of 1982, was the public service inductee. She has worked with a number of nonprofit organizations over the years and was named a 2011 Wertheimer Fellow for Excellence in Volunteerism. She has also received a number of Lions Club awards for her volunteer service.

Favorite encouraged the students to count their blessings every day. “Not only will this put you in a more positive frame of mind and make you happier with your life, but, as importantly, when you take a little time each day to count your blessings, you realize how much you truly have,” she said.

Kelly Quesinberry, Class of 2000, was the arts and humanities inductee. She is a journalist, currently working with WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her reporting and stories has won her many awards, including two regional Emmy Awards.

Quesinberry thanked her family for encouraging and supporting her. “Learn the importance of asking questions and advocating for yourself,” she said. “Don’t wait on somebody to give you what you want in life. Go after it.”

Pictured arefrom left are Carol Forman, George Kuhn, Dr. John Chatlos, Susan Favorite, and Kelly Quesinberry.

James Rada, Jr.

With the announcement that a Thurmont landmark, the Shamrock Restuarant, will end its 56-year-run on December 30, 2019, The Catoctin Banner thought it would share some of its reader’s memories of the Irish-themed restaurant.

The late Mike Fitzgerald opened the Shamrock in 1963. He said in a 2014 interview that the restaurant had a rough start, “There were days and nights in a row that I wouldn’t go home. I would be working here doing whatever needed to be done, and then I would sleep here.”

The Shamrock Restaurant building has been around since the 1950s. It was originally a dance hall that didn’t have the best reputation, resulting in Fitzgerald being able to purchase it at an affordable price.

It also helped that the Shamrock Restaurant was a family business. Fitzgerald, his wife, his mother, and his nine children (as they grew old enough) all worked in the restaurant. Two of the Fitzgerald children, Dawn Knox and Donna Demmon, took over the business in 2016, but they are ready to retire.

The Shamrock was known for its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and it won a national award for having the best St. Patrick’s Day party in the nation years ago. It was also the first restaurant in Frederick County to get a liquor license in 1965.

The website announcement of the closing reads in part: “We have worked with hundreds of employees, many of whom have been as close as family. It will be very hard to part with some who have worked with us five to thirty years; others who worked here many years ago and came back as the seasons of their lives have changed. And more recent, workmates who already fit into our operation just like the old-timers. What a wonderful gang!! We have met and become friends with thousands of patrons. The warmth and affection that permeates this business is the root cause of our longevity. We cherish the kindheartedness and loyalty we’ve been blessed to know from our staff and customers.”

Shown below are postings on the Shamrock Facebook page of what some had to say about the restaurant closing, sharing their memories and speaking their own personal “goodbye.”

I have been coming to the Shamrock since President Nixon stayed at Camp David as a member of the White House Press. Mike and I became friends, camped, and rode horse back in the mountains. My family and children enjoyed Mike’s cabin and wonderful food at the Shamrock, watching Mike’s family grow up. I have known Donna since she was a little girl and their dogs chased me on top a table.

                          –Ron Bennett

I was so happy to have the opportunity to eat there last month…and am so glad I bought my t-shirt as a remembrance. The first time I ate there was at our EMI class graduation dinner back in 2009. Living in Texas, it took a decade to get back again. My husband and I were traveling in the area, and I couldn’t wait to introduce him to a place that held such a special place in my heart.

                          –Deb Doyle

I read this with mixed emotions. Sorry to lose an icon in Frederick County but am happy for you, Donna and Dawn. You have worked hard. Your parents would be so proud of you both.

                          –Nancy Ferrell Piper

So sad to hear this, but it is time for you to get to relax and enjoy quality time together. Will miss being able to talk with you, Donna, about Ireland and Irish relatives. And the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant. Also the delicious food.”

                          –Kathleen Cogan

What a wonderful place! We always stop by there and eat on our way up to PA. Will be missed! Always had great fresh food and wonderful service! Bought several baubles over the years in the front part of the restaurant.”

                          –Gail Glassmoyer

Great place! I will always remember the good times at the Shamrock when I lived in Thurmont during the 1970s. Happy retirements!! Who gets the crab cake recipe?

                          –Marty Madden

May you all enjoy your new lease on life! My husband and I discovered the Shamrock a few years ago as we drove to Herndon, VA; it was the best discovery we ever made. Whenever we made that trip, we would plan our time so we were at the Shamrock by afternoon or mid-day. We certainly agree that you all have done wonderful work and we do appreciate your hospitality!

                          –Judith Hansen

James Rada, Jr.

Twenty-five years ago, John Kinnaird of Thurmont, thought he would give his kids a Christmas surprise. He dressed as Santa Claus and climbed onto the roof of his house, so he could pretend to climb down the chimney when his kids could see him.

Someone else saw him on the roof.

“Some neighbors saw me and asked if I would play Santa for their kids at their house,” Kinnaird said.

And with that, a new Santa’s helper was born.

Nowadays, Kinnaird dons his Santa outfit 25 to 30 times a year to help the jolly old elf in Frederick and its neighboring counties. His events generally start the first week in November and run through Christmas.

Another Santa’s helper, Frank Schmersahl of Emmitsburg, has been playing Santa even longer than Kinnaird, with 31 years of service. “In those [early] days, I had to wear padding,” Schmersahl said with a Santa-like laugh.

Schmersahl plays Santa a handful of times each season, including playing the chief of the North Pole Fire Department at the Frederick County Fire Museum during the Museums by Candlelight event in December.

His favorite event is acting as Santa’s stand-in during Emmitsburg’s Evening of Christmas Spirit. He’s been the event’s Santa since it began. He was a member of the Emmitsburg Business Professionals Association (EBPA) back then and volunteered for the job, which he hasn’t regretted. He is now seeing the children of children for whom he once played Santa.

“When Santa greets you by name, you better straighten up,” Schmersahl said.

Kinnaird’s favorite event of the season is Christmas in Thurmont. “That’s when you get to see all of the local kids and a lot of the adults and talk to them,” Kinnaird said.

That’s important for Kinnaird. He wants to be there for the community. He even asks for contributions to the Thurmont Food Bank in lieu of payment.

Schmersahl said he has to be careful not to promise anything when he’s sitting in for Santa. “You tell them: ‘We’ll see what we can do,’” Schmersahl said. He must also remain cool if he happens to have a “leaker” on his lap.

Despite all of the good cheer and laughing children, both men said the hardest part of playing Santa is speaking with a child who has a sad story. A relative has died. A parent has lost a job or been in an accident.

“Those are the ones that really drive home the problem some families have,” Kinnaird said. “You tell them you can’t make people better or find jobs for them. What you can do is bring some joy into their lives.”

Both men said their ideal Santa from television and the movies is Edmund Gwenn, who played Santa in the original version of Miracle on 34th Street. Many people must agree with them since Gwenn won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.

“To me, he is Santa Claus,” Kinnaird said.

Joan Bittner Fry

The following rendition of the story of the Newey murders that occurred in Sabillasville on New Year’s Eve in 1830 is one that I don’t recall seeing before.  This account is detailed and sometimes gruesome. The location of the action is about a half mile from where I was born. The internet states a Newey cemetery is located in the Harbaugh Valley, just south of the Washington County line on Fort Ritchie Road in Frederick County.

In the late Virginia Kuhn Draper’s book, Dandelions, Mushrooms and Moss-Covered Stones, she tells of being fortunate enough to be taken to the Newey graves in the woods up on the mountain. Paul Wade and Thad Calimer raked the leaves off the fieldstones that marked the graves. They found more stones than the three or four that her mother-in-law, Ona Draper, had seen in 1959.

Later, she and her sister, Jeannette, with Thad Calimer as a guide, found the moss-covered stones marking the foundations of the Newey cabin and barn.

The Newey Family

John Newey, his wife Lydia Tressler Newey, their children, Ruth and Ann Newey, and an unborn child were murdered around midnight, between New Year’s Eve in the year 1830, and January 1st, 1831 in Frederick County, Maryland.  Also present were Lydia’s father, Jacob Tressler, who was visiting in the log home, and John Coombs, an indentured servant.  Lydia’s husband, John Newey, was having problems with a nephew, John Markley, who had been accused of taking property from his home in December 1825. John Markley was arrested and sent to prison for five years. John Markley threatened his uncle, saying that when he got out he would burn their home to the ground.  John Markley broke down their door with an axe around midnight the last day of 1830.  He killed everyone in the home then burned it to the ground.  John Markley was the first person in Frederick County, Maryland to be tried, convicted, and sentenced to death based on circumstantial evidence. He was sentenced to be hanged.

The story as written: In our frantic age, one can scarcely imagine a more sequestered spot than the site of the George Flautt home on the top of South Mountain. Except for the arrivals of the wagons and their boisterous drivers seeking food and rest or an organized hunt for the predatory fox or wildcat, the spot, practically surrounded by forests must then have been as quiet as the grave; however, on Wednesday night, December 31, 1830 a tragic event broke the silence, stirred the mountain community to its very foundations, and is, even now, 137 years later, heatedly discussed when mountain folk get together.

On land adjoining Buck Range, at a point about one quarter of a mile from the Flautt home in the depression between the top of the mountain and the entrance to Harbaugh Valley, John Newey had built a cabin for his family which consisted of himself, his pregnant wife, Lydia, two small children, his father-in-law, and an apprentice boy.  On the night of December 31, 1830 all were murdered and the cabin set on fire.

For very valid reasons, the finger of suspicion was immediately pointed to one John Markley as the perpetrator of this dastardly crime. Five years before, at the time of the marriage of John Newey and Lydia Tressler, Markley and a cousin were accused of stealing a wedding suit, a watch, and $250 from the bridegroom, their uncle. On testimony of the bride, both were found guilty and sentenced to terms in the penitentiary, Markley receiving the longer sentence.  Markley never forgave Mrs. Newey’s damaging testimony and vowed that when free, he intended to kill the whole family. When the cousin was released from custody he warned the Neweys that Markley intended to carry out his numerous threats.

Markley was released from the penitentiary on November 25, 1830 and soon appeared in the vicinity of the Newey home. After the murder, Markley was apprehended in Baltimore and during his examination there, these facts of the case emerged (as reported in the Frederick Herald January 22, 1831, as copied from the Baltimore Patriot).

“That Markley was thought to have an accomplice described as a stout, good looking fellow, fair complexion, sandy hair and whiskers, and about 5 feet, 10 or 11 inches high, and is supposed to have accompanied Markley to Baltimore after the murder. This man was later identified as Christian Frydinger and was tried and found innocent of any part in the Newey murder.  That when arrested, Markley had in his possession a pair of velvet pantaloons, identified by their singular appearance as having belonged to John Newey.

That Markley was seen the day before the murder and arson was committed within two miles of Newey’s dwelling, and made inquiry whether Newey still resided in the same place, threatening that he would destroy the whole family and then give himself up to be hung.  On the night after Markley and his companion stayed in Smithstown (Smithsburg), distant by six miles from Newey’s house.  They sat up all night and departed by daybreak the next morning.

After this testimony, Markley was remanded to jail to await a later trial in Frederick, Maryland.  Newspapers of that time from the Gettysburg Star to the Washington, DC Spectator gave wide coverage to the story of the murder on South Mountain, some claiming that Markley had made a full confession but which was completely untrue. Reporters, then as now, tried to color the news, condemn the prisoner before the trial began, and sway public opinion to their own wills. One reporter described Markley as a man of the most athletic and vigorous frame, and, quoting Shakespeare, painted him as “a fellow by the hand of nature marked, to do a deed of shame.” Another reporter described Markley’s features as indicating mildness and ignorance, rather than the diabolical passions.

The trial began in Frederick, Maryland on May 18, 1831 before Chief Justice Buchanan. Markley was arraigned on two indictments, one for the murder of John Newey and the other for the murder of Lydia Newey. James Dixon was the State’s Attorney and William Ross and Joseph Palmer were appointed to represent the defense which could not produce a single witness for Markey’s behalf.

George Flautt, Newey’s nearest neighbor, was the first witness for the state.  His testimony follows in part as reported in the Fredericktowne Herald May 21, 1831.

Witness:  In the morning I called up my boys early, a few hours before day – when my wife arose from bed she looked out the window and remarked that there was a great smoke over toward Newey’s – one of my boys ran down and returned with one of Mr. Newey’s horses and told us the house was all on fire and he saw no one about. I went down – the house was on fire. We had a good view of all the inside of the house and saw Newey lying on the floor with his feet towards the bed and his head towards the door – the hair was burned off his head and the skull and skin appeared quite white. And on the right side of his head there was a hole – it appeared to have been done with an axe. The skull was broken in – there were small cracks from the main wound like the cracks of an egg shell. I examined it particularly, as I expected I would have to testify on the subject.

Question:  Did you examine the skull clearly?

Witness:  I did not as the house was burning. I sent my son to collect the neighbors. I also blew a horn but it did not bring them together directly. By the time the neighbors came up, the head of Newey was entirely burnt to ashes.

Question:  Did you see Mrs. Newey while the house was burning?

Answer:  I did see her after the neighbors came up – she lay in the bed downstairs – her head was burned off – she was otherwise much burned – old Mr. Tressler was burnt up entirely – the infants were less burnt – the bound boy was nearly consumed. I saw the linens of Mrs. Newey’s which had three holes in it as if made by a knife. (The counsel for the prisoner objected to the validity of this testimony.) After some discussion among counsel the witness was permitted to proceed.

Witness:  I did examine the linen, the linen was bloody – I examined the stab wounds on the body, particularly one about the abdomen – the rent (hole) in the linen was crosswise and seemed to have been cut – we applied the linen to the body and the holes in the lines corresponded with the wound in the body.  Later, Mrs. Newey’s body was exhumed and this testimony was proved to be correct.

Question:  Was there any report in the neighborhood about Markley when you went to the Newey house?

Witness:  There was.  I heard that Mr. Newey was warned to be on his guard for his house to be burnt down.  When the witness testified that though the floor of the cabin was burning he could clearly see the bodies, this question was put to him:

Question:  Could it be possible if the floor was burning all around him that there was no smoke near the body to obscure it?

Witness:  The smoke was in the heavens – there was none about the body – when we burn trash, there is smoke enough in the clouds, but none about the flame.

George Flautt further testified that when he saw Newey’s body, the clothing had been removed.

The second witness was John Flautt, George’s son, who corroborated his father’s testimony.  Having reached the fire first, he said that it appeared to him that the house had been set on fire at both the top and the ground floors.  Jonas and John Manahan and Daniel Benchoff all gave similar testimony concerning the wounds on Mrs. Newey’s body.

The third witness, John King, a son of Mr. Newey’s sister, Sarah King, testified that at Markley’s first conviction he said he would have revenge.  John Williams was at the jail on the day of Markley’s former sentence and testified that the prisoner had said “The states attorney and the judges were no better than Newey and the witnesses or they would not have believed them” and swearing very hard to it: “If ever I get out I will have the satisfaction if I have to kill and burn up the whole of them.”

Another witness, John Black, who lived on the road leading from Emmitsburg to Waynesboro, stated that Markley had come to his place on the evening of December 21 seeking supper and lodging for the night.  He gave his name as John Markley and said he lived in the Middletown Valley and had taken sheep and hogs to Baltimore.  He wore a yellow ‘warmuss’ and left the next morning without paying his bill.  Black identified both Markley and his warmuss at the trial.

Barnard W. Wright of Smithstown (Smithsburg), Washington County, testified as follows:  The first Friday after Newey’s murder about sunset Markley came to my house, 7 miles from Newey’s. Another man was with him. Markley had a knapsack, roughly sewed and well filled with clothing.  He gave it to me to keep. They took supper and both seemed very hungry – told me they came from Huntington County, Pennsylvania. Newey’s murder was known.  After these men went to bed and myself also, I reflected that they might be the murderers. I became alarmed, got up, and set up all night – they arose before day.  Markley pulled out his purse containing perhaps seven or eight dollars in silver.  I noticed Markley’s purse particularly and thought it the very purse that I saw Mr. Newey have at my house about two weeks before.  When they left my house, they said they were going down the New Cut Road towards Frederick – spoke of stopping at Jacob’s Tavern on that road – has no doubt that this is the man at his (Wright’s) house.  Testimony proved that Markley proceeded to Baltimore and stopped at the tavern of one Joshua Kelly, paying in advance for a week’s board and lodging which amounted to $2.50 – gave his name as John Markley and opened in the bar a bundle of clothes from which he selected a blue coat which he took out with him to be scoured.  While at the tavern he read and discussed with other patrons the story of the Newey murder. 

The next day, Sunday, January 10, Markley was arrested and given a hearing before James Blair, magistrate, who held him for a jury trial.  Before this magistrate, he said that he had been born near Hagerstown, Maryland – that he had never been arrested before nor had he been in the penitentiary and that he had been in Chambersburg on the night of the murder.  However, he testified before Judge Shriver that he was in the neighborhood of Chambersburg on Monday previous to the murder, and at Westminster on Friday after the event.  When pressed as to his whereabouts on the night of the murder, he answered – If I must tell the truth, I was on a spree from the Tuesday previous to the murder until the Friday after and can’t tell where I was.

When he was then asked why many articles of clothing in his pack were too small for him, Markley could give no satisfactory answer.  The bundle of clothes which Markley carried with him to Smithsburg and to Baltimore proved to be his undoing.  Mr. King, son of Newey’s sister, Sarah, identified the pantaloons found in Markley’s pack as belonging to his uncle, John Newey, and said that on the day of his uncle’s wedding he had borrowed them to wear to the ceremony and that his mother, finding a tear in the side, had mended it with white thread, The stitches of which King identified.  Mr. Manahan also identified the pantaloons as having been the property of Newey.  Sally Manahan stated that the handkerchief found in the bundle and bearing a yellow patch had belonged in the Newey home where she had washed it during her service there.

A Mr. Nichols testified that two vests taken from the bundle had belonged to Newey and Mrs. Newey’s brother stated that another vest had belonged to the apprentice who was killed with the family.

From a mark on the handle, Mr. Oyster identified a razor in Markley’s possession, also a shaving box and razor strop.  He testified that while Newey was a stout man, he was not as large as Markley.

Other witnesses gave testimony similar to that given above, all detrimental to the prisoner after which the jury retired to return after a deliberation of half an hour with a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree.

After an impassioned castigation of Markley for his heinous act, Chief Justice Buchanan sentenced him to pay with his life for the murder of the Newey family – to be hanged by the neck until you are dead.

While waiting at the barracks in Frederick for execution, Markley admitted to his court-appointed confessor, the Rev. Mr. Shaeffer, the commission of every conceivable sin except that of murder.  On the scaffold on June 24, 1831 he was twice given the opportunity to admit his guilt but each time he protested that he did not know who killed the Newey family.  And so John Markley went to his death never admitting the murder.

Several members of the Flautt family have had the entire account of this murder and trial sent to them by Dr. Bowman.  A copy will also be filed with the Flautt papers in the Maryland Historical Society.

Out of compassion for the Newey Family and an intent to preserve local history, Dorothy Buhrman, owner of the old Newey property, designed and funded the marker shown above that marks the Newey burial site that is several miles away from the home site.

blair garrett

Each year, our phones add new ways to communicate and entertain, and each year, they become a bigger part of our lives.

Cell phones are almost an extension of yourself, with unlimited knowledge at your fingertips, hours of addicting games, and mass communication outlets just the push of a button away. In the world of mobile applications, there is no limit to what you can learn and do. So, let’s take a look at a few useful, practical, and flat out fun apps.

Mario Kart Tour

Mario Kart has been one of the most beloved competitive arcade racing games, as well as a staple of the Nintendo world, for nearly three decades.

Initially launching in 1992, Mario Kart has transcending game systems like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the N64, Gameboy Advanced, Gamecube, DS, Nintendo Wii, Wii U, Switch, 3DS, and now straight to your mobile phone.

Mario Kart Tour is now the 10th iteration of the series, and the first you can play on Android and IOS systems, competing instantaneously with players from around the world in the same fast-paced, arcade-style game we have come to know and love.

Whether you are waiting to catch a train, killing some time on your break, or just looking for a bit of mindless fun, running a couple of laps on the track with friends or foes is always good fun.


Fitness apps have exploded in popularity in 2019. Knowledge and awareness of proper nutrition and exercise, as well as the dangers of obesity, are at an all-time high. This app, in particular, allows beginners to experience the world of consistent running and fitness at a modest pace. Easing into something that would otherwise be difficult to dive straight into is a great way to build manageable, healthy habits.

C25K or “Couch to 5k,” gives users the fundamentals to train themselves mentally and physically to live healthier lives. This app introduces first-time and experienced runners to regimented workouts, where you can track calories, distance, and map your runs. It also offers audio coaching to provide that bit of extra motivation to push through the home stretch.

Finding in-app playlists has never been easier, and the built-in coach gives audio/visual cues to know when to take it up a notch and when to start your cooldown. The app does the motivational legwork, while you do the physical legwork, and that combination is key to forming healthy and continuous good habits.


When it comes to convenience and practicality, there is nothing easier to use than Venmo for sending money wirelessly to friends and family.

Need to split a dinner bill with coworkers? Want to send a cousin some birthday money? At the push of a button, you can immediately deposit money into your account, or send to a friend, with no added fees whatsoever.

Venmo has been around for a couple years now, but with over 40 million active users, it has never been more popular than it is today.

It’s particularly useful for paying monthly bills like rent or for just keeping payments in order throughout everyday life.

Each year, new apps come around and revolutionize the way we think, feel, and live. Keeping up with the latest and greatest things can be difficult to manage and stressful, but don’t fret. Soon, there will be an app for that, too. 

The Season of Christmas

Blair Garrett

There may not be a more beautiful time of year than that first December snow.

With snowflakes lightly trickling down, breaths of warm air greeting the cold, and layers of fresh powder coating the pavement to create the illusion of uncharted territory, there’s nothing quite like the first glimpse of true winter.

With winter comes holiday shopping, quality family time, and the usual hustle and bustle of Christmas-time traffic. The December rush often finds us scrambling to get everything in order—from holiday meals to travel plans—but we can’t forget to take a minute to stop and enjoy the beauty of wintertime amidst the swirling chaos around us.     

Picture this: Driving down the road with close friends or family, safely bundled up and ready to brave the cold, stepping out of your vehicle to see the soft glow of candlelight dancing across the needles of trees, splashing light in the world around you. To your left, Christmas lights illuminate every fine detail in the stained glass of your local church. To your right, groups of people are laughing and taking pictures, soaking in the season with the people they care about most.

Holiday tours to view the splendor of Christmas have been an important pillar of winter in communities across the world for hundreds of years, and Frederick County is no different. Big cities like New York, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia all offer tons to see each day leading up to Christmas. Fortunately for us, we have a few great options to explore right at home.

Rocky Ridge Holiday House Tour

Walk through true home-town Christmas splendor in seven homes, ranging from historical to new, during the Rocky Ridge Volunteer Fire Department’s (RRVFD) Holiday House Tour. A fundraiser for the RRVFD, people are really enthusiastic about being a part of the event. A craft and food fair in the Rocky Ridge VFD activities building will take place at the same time the house tour is taking place.

Candlelight Tours Christmas Past

The Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg puts together 1,000 luminaries, sure to light up the night in a way you may not have seen before. This guided tour allows visitors to see where Elizabeth Ann Seton lived and worked, along with stories of her efforts, kindness, and her life, all through the glow of candlelight under the night sky.

Mother Seton’s work in Emmitsburg and in the Catholic church was instrumental in providing avenues for sisters of the church to practice religion in the United States, and the candlelight tour is sure to shed more light on her legacy.

Emmitsburg Christmas Church Tour

Visit eight churches in Emmitsburg to see them decked out for the holidays. This guided tour will start at St. Anthony’s Church and move to another church every half hour, where a presentation is planned. Visit all or visit one or two, but don’t miss the last church visited, Trinity United Methodist Church, where a supper will be held for everyone. 

Frederick Candlelight House Tour

The city of Frederick has run candlelight tours through private homes over 30 years, and there is a tremendous amount of rich history to gather on just about every block. These self-guided tours give locals a chance to see and appreciate the lights, decorations, and a holiday spirit that makes this time of year so special.

A candlelight tour is a perfect weekend activity, sure to put a smile on the face of every person participating. You can get your holiday fill the first weekend in December, with tours kicking off December 7.

Antietam National Battlefield Memorial Illumination—Sharpsburg

Over 157 years ago, the Battle of Antietam claimed the lives of nearly 23,000 men in one of the deadliest battles in the Civil War, and the bloodiest one-day battle in U.S. history. Since, we have recognized and honored those who gave their lives in various ways, including Sharpsburg’s lighting of 23,000 luminaries across the battlefield to symbolize the casualties.

This driving tour is a five-mile trek through monuments and rolling hills, with each light guiding the way, offering a sobering look at what is a near-inconceivable amount of lives lost. This once-a-year event is set for December 7 and is sure to be not only a gorgeous journey, but also a true dose of historic perspective.

Candlelight Tour of Historic Houses of Worship

Frederick hosts its 33rd annual church tour the day after Christmas, giving guests 11 stops to witness the beautifully historic architecture, and to hear the bells, choirs, and holiday music to close out 2019 with a bang. Several stops serve refreshments, so if you enjoy a cup of cider to go with your Christmas songs, this candlelight tour might just be for you.

Museums by Candlelight

Arts, entertainment, and a whole lot of candlelight highlight the itinerary for Frederick’s Museums by Candlelight. Many of these tours provide refreshments and activities for kids, while still providing the opportunity to focus on the history embedded in Frederick County.

Of course, with any proper holiday gathering, music is a big part of what makes these tours so great. Make plans soon, though, as this event is held just once a year. This December’s Museums by Candlelight is held December 14.   

There are countless ways to liven up your holiday season, and no right or wrong way to go about it. A cup of cider by the fire is a good start, but a trip through time learning about what history your local community has to offer by candlelight is an even better way to kick off the Christmas countdown.

These tours and gatherings bring people together, and in the spirit of the holidays, joining your neighbors and friends for a night out can help to build lifelong relationships. So, if you are struggling to find something fun and unique to do this December, consider spending a night by the candlelight, and take in all that your local area has to offer.

One of the beautiful homes featured in the Rocky Ridge Holiday House Tour.