Friday, October 13, 2017, marked the beginning of the 54th Catoctin Colorfest weekend in Thurmont. On this morning, the streets were busy with locals snagging a great deal at the yard sales that were set up all over town. The town had started to bustle. Some locals were preparing for the busy weekend by getting their errands done early to avoid the clog of crowds expected to attend the festivities beginning early Saturday morning. Vendors were seen throughout town setting up their own temporary storefronts. Some even set up camp. After a few rainy days leading up to the weekend, the forecast was showing sun.
By Saturday morning, the crisp fall air and overcast skies snuggled the area, still with no chance of rain. By 9:00 a.m., the sidewalks were busy on Church Street with families and their children, or groups of friends, walking purposefully in the same direction—towards the center of town. Individual people disappeared and many became a crowd as they swarmed in search of great finds like hand-crafted items, gifts, and home decor, or delicious food from diverse vendors.
For some ladies, Colorest is a chance for a “girls day” while they carried wooden tables, bags and carts of home decor down the street. Children passed by with colorful painted faces while indulging in funnel cakes. Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird cruised the streets, kindly offering a ride on his red “Mayor Mobile” golf cart to those walking a distance.
By the time visitors had passed the square, the aromas of the unique food vendors filled the air. Just around the turn, on Frederick Road, area local Scott Haines beamed with excitement for the first day of the festival. In the spot that was once occupied by “Gertie’s Hot Sauce Pretzels,” he and his dad, Allen, sold wooden handmade Maryland flags. “I still flip the Gertie’s neon sign on, just to have people come up and ask (his dad Allen) about the pretzels,” Scott laughed.
Across from the park, the Stebbing Family displayed a wooden forest of beautiful handmade sculptures. Locals Mandy Stebbing and her daughter, Sophia, busily answered questions about the carvings from intrigued customers. As she enjoyed an oversized snow cone, Sophia exclaimed, “I love Colorfest! I love seeing all of the different vendors and what they have to offer…and the snow cones across the street are delicious,” she added, pointing to the trailer.
At the entrance of the grand Catoctin Colorfest at the Thurmont Community Park, people waited patiently for one of the Thurmont Community Ambulance Company’s famous apple dumplings. Some attendees make it their single goal to purchase one of these fresh desserts. “Every year I’ve come to Colorfest, I don’t leave until I’ve had a dumpling,” explained Brittney Wivell, as she enjoyed her dumpling while touring the craft tents.
In the middle of the park, Scott Hornbaker, a craftsman from St. Mary’s, Georgia, displayed his wrought iron hummingbird feeder hooks. He said he looks forward to Colorfest every year, “It’s great, I can even camp out behind my booth.”
Right down the path, local writer and author, Jim Rada, and his son, Sam Rada, sold Jim’s books. By mid-Sunday, Diaries of Catoctin had sold out. Jim took the opportunity to sneak off and do a little shopping of his own while Sam (age fifteen), manned the booth and greeted the interested customers. “I love the fact that everything is handmade. You can see some really beautiful stuff here,” Sam reflected, as he showed his appreciation for a steampunk style necklace he purchased earlier in the day. It’s like early Christmas for Jim. He returned with a new small metal figurine of a time machine that was made by a neighboring vendor. Even though the Radas have only been setting up for three years at Colorfest, they’ve been attending for nine years. Jim makes sure he gets a new little metal robot for his collection every year.
Criswell Auto made space for a variety of vendors, while also taking the opportunity to display the best of their new vehicles. As husbands would gather around the decked-out trucks, their wives would meander into the nearby craft tents. You’d even hear a few razz their husbands, “We aren’t here to buy a new truck,” as they moved on to the next place.
Away from the main Colorfest drag, crowds traveled around Thurmont’s Memorial Park over to East Main Street. Hobb’s Hardware housed several vendors, including locals John and Kathy Dowling of Old Field Woodworking. Brenda Rigby, an enthused Colorfest attendee, makes it a point to visit their display every year. She said, “It’s a great chance to get friends together; we’ve made a tradition of attending.” On Sunday, the Thurmont Historical Society’s Beer Garden provided a shaded oasis on the eighty-degree afternoon. Adults took the opportunity to enjoy a cold beer and try Josh Bollinger’s Uncle Dirty’s BBQ. Robert Eyler and other Historical Society volunteers were upbeat about the outcome of the weekend, and look forward to bartending again next year. Silas Phillips, Megan Setlock, and Timothy and Brittany Renoylds stopped by the beer garden to take a break on the busy afternoon. Megan claimed that they look forward to the Colorfest activities every year as an opportunity to get together with their friends.
As five o’clock neared on Sunday afternoon, crowds began to dissipate, and the Town of Thurmont rejoiced and reclaimed its streets. Vendors packed up. Buses delivered tired shoppers back to parking lots that were now sparse with vehicles.
Life started to return to normal in the town, as the work to remove the rubbish from thousands of people began. While cleaning up, the plans began for the 55th Annual Catoctin Colorfest.
Photo by Grace Eyler
Mandy and Sophia Stebbing proudly display wood carvings at their Joe Stebbing Sculptures booth during Colorfest.
Thurmont’s Scott and Allen Haines are shown at their Colorfest display.
Sam Rada shows one of his father’s book covers at their James Rada, Jr. Book Sale booth at Colorest.
Neighbors Skeeter and Willie watch the crowds of people come and go during Colorfest in Thurmont.