Currently viewing the tag: "Fort Ritchie Community Center"

Over 60 participants turned out for the Fort Ritchie Community Center’s Spring Bass Fishing Tournament. The tournament, which is sponsored by Cobblestone Hotel & Suites, is held on Lake Royer located on the former Fort Ritchie property in Cascade.

Bobby Swomley of Williamsport won the event with a 15-inch bass. There was a three-way tie for second place: Gary Thomas of Sharpsburg, Brehon Sweeny of Thurmont, and Kody Brown of Waynesboro; each caught a 13.5-inch bass. Owen Cozort of Hagerstown took top honors in the youth division with a 15-inch catch, and Pierce French of Boonsboro was second with a 14-inch Bass. 

Funds raised through the Bass Fishing Tournaments support the youth programs offered by the Community Center, such as Summer Camp, Kids Club, Sports Saturday, and special events like the annual community Halloween Party and Breakfast with Santa.

The Community Center is in Cascade, located on the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army Post property. For more information on the Community Center or to sign up for the September 16 Bass Tournament, visit or call 301-241-5085.

Janet Sweeny, general manager of the Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in Waynesboro, PA, (left) pictured with Brehon Sweeny, Kody Brown, Gary Thomas, and Bobby Swomley at the Spring 2023 Bass Fishing Tournament.

Pierce French took second-place honors (left), and Owen Cozort (middle) was the winner in the youth division. Janet Sweeny (right) is general manager of the Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in Waynesboro, PA, which sponsors the tournament.

Empowering Residents to Improve Their Lives

Deb Abraham Spalding

In the glory days of the former military base called Fort Ritchie in Cascade, its recreation facilities were considered by some to be the “best-kept secret” in the Army! These days, the recreational facilities still exist and operate as the Fort Ritchie Community Center, Inc. (FRCC). “That statement is still true today!” claims FRCC’s Executive Director Buck Browning. 

The mission of this non-profit center is to improve lives. He assures us that, “We’re not just a fitness center.” Browning, along with Director of Operations Samantha Phillips, Special Events Coordinator Bev Coyle, and Director of Wellness Brenda Walker, work together to provide quality programs, classes, facility rentals, healthy lifestyle opportunities, and social recreation to local residents, regardless of their age.

For youth, the “Kids Club” is held twice a week and provides a great opportunity for parents to drop their kids off and go work out in the fitness center. “Sports Saturdays” begins on the 14th of January for kids (ages 6-13) to develop various skills or try out a variety of different sports.

Also in January, a Junior Staff program will begin where tweens (ages 12-16) can enjoy the FRCC and brush up on interpersonal soft skills. Browning said, “It’s our hope that they’re [Junior Staff program participants] prepared to become junior staff for our summer camp, as well as quality employees for other local employers.” 

If you’ve considered joining FRCC but would like to learn more about it, an Open House will take place on January 7. Anyone can drop in for free and enjoy class demonstrations that are ongoing from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Director of Wellness Brenda Walker assures that it’s a “Great way to determine your ‘thing’ to achieve your class goals.” If you decide to join FRCC, the special in January is unlimited group fitness classes for $25.00 (you have to be a member).

For those dedicated to fitness, FRCC has comprehensive equipment, professional trainers, and space to train the entire body from top to bottom.

FRCC boasts the “Fortress.” While the fortress requires an additional monthly fee to members, it provides a clean, spacious room with top-notch York dumbbells and barbells that are necessary for those dedicated to fitness. Also, when the “Blue” gym (multipurpose room) isn’t being used for classes, it is set up as an interval-style training place with battle ropes, plyo box, red viper, slam ball, and more. These provide heavy lifters (or anyone) a creative cardio aspect with Hiit circuits and interval training. 

In the fitness center, strength and cardio machines are available for use by members and guests. Recent upgrades to equipment include two new exercise bikes that are extremely user-friendly, especially for those who are completing rehabilitation following knee or hip replacement.

There are two personal trainers on staff, but only for members. Brenda Walker will chat with you first to determine your goals. FRCC provides very affordable one-on-one coaching that is especially suited to those who need to fill the gap between physical therapy and jumping back into fitness. Email Brenda directly at to arrange your chat. Five one-hour sessions are exceptionally affordable for only $150.

FRCC has entered into partnerships with Meritus Health and the Washington County Health Department, along with other organizations, including Frederick County-based agencies, to address the issues facing rural residents in Maryland. The Rural Health Initiative is a grant-funded program that aims to increase access to healthcare and improve the quality of life for rural residents.

Browning said, “This separates us from being ‘just a gym.’ The open houses are part of this grant. Rural Americans have higher rates of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease than their peers. A lot of that is a lack of access to health care, including prevention programs that promote healthy life habits. We’re trying, along with our partners, to improve access to health care through screenings, vaccinations, and other activities to improve their overall quality of life.”

Walker is very excited about the February Fitness Challenge next month. She says individuals or teams may enter the challenge. Participants will earn points for special workout sessions, completing “pop-up” challenges, and preparing food plans. She says it’s a fun way to be active, lose weight, and generally improve your life. In addition to earning points for special activities, participants are expected to work out a minimum of three times per week during the month. Walker says she likes the team approach to the challenge because people will hold each other accountable when they are expected to help their team. Prizes include cash, free fitness class passes, and gift cards. 

Many may have already shopped for some local arts and crafts at one of FRCC’s craft shows. They’re held in April, October, and December.  Indoor yard sales are held in February and November, annually. Other activities hosted by the FRCC include a Speaker’s Series, Breakfast with Santa, Halloween Drive-Thru, Easter Egg Hunt, and the Cruise In Car Show. The community center also features a variety of rooms available for special event rentals. Among the spaces available to rent are the gymnasium, multipurpose room, and meeting room.

You are invited to stop in and take a tour of the Fort Ritchie Community Center, including its Camp Ritchie museum, which features an exhibit designed by Ritchie Boy Guy Stern.

The FRCC is located at 14421 Lake Royer Drive in Cascade. You can take a virtual tour of the community center online by visiting

FRCC Director of Wellness Brenda Walker instructs Hannah Spinx.

Blair Garrett

Pickleball is one of America’s fastest-growing sports.

Despite its name, pickleball involves no eating or food-based projectiles. It’s a hybrid of tennis and badminton, meant for two or four players to face off in high-octane rallies by launching a perforated ball on each other’s side of the court.

Its similarities to tennis are plenty. Pickleball features a low net, and the cross-court serving and design are very close to its not-so-distant cousin.

Pickleball’s court size and speed of play relate more to badminton, and the slotted wiffleball-style ball takes some of the heat off power shots and serves but allows for creativity when hitting drop shots and shots with a “little bit of English on them.”

The paddles used in pickleball more closely resemble ping-pong paddles.

There are a few rules unique to pickleball, including a non-volley zone to limit spiking of the ball, and only the serving team can score. In doubles, once both serving players on a team lose a rally, the serve switches to the other team. Games are played to 11, and a team must win by two.

The sport’s popularity is due in large part to how easy it is to set up and how convenient it is for local community buildings to fit multiple pickleball games in one gym. It helps that the mechanics and general idea of the gameplay are pretty widely understood since they mirror other more popular games; and, while it can be a great workout, the cardio demand doesn’t involve quite as much back-and-forth running as tennis does.

Pickleball is an exciting new game for kids to get into, seniors who are looking to get their steps in, and just about everyone in-between. It’s a game that can be a pleasant, social outing with friends and family, or it can be a competitive, action-packed battle among seasoned players.

The game has come a long way since its inception, and the competitive scene is thriving. There are now 45 international pickleball associations, including Pickleball World Championships held each year to determine the best-of-the-best players across the globe. There is a $100,000 prize pool and tons of different divisions to give people of various ages and skill sets a shot at a championship.    

There’s a local option for new or experienced players at the Fort Ritchie Community Center, where they have pickleball pickup games open to members and to pickleball enthusiasts of all skill levels. It’s a great way to meet some new people and to try something completely new in a fun, fast-paced environment. 

Fort Ritchie Community Center has reserved time slots for pickup games throughout the week. So, if you’ve got a hunger for some pickleball action, check out a time that works best for you.

Whether your goal is just to get some exercise or to blaze up the professional ranks, it’s a great indoor and outdoor activity to get you moving.

Lucia Lamberson thought she was attending a Zumba fundraising event at the Fort Ritchie Community Center; however, her friends had secretly planned a surprise party in her honor. Lamberson officially became an American on Monday, April 12, 2021, in Philadelphia.

Friends she had made through exercise classes at the community center were so impressed with her, they decided they wanted to publicly acknowledge the achievement.

The original fundraising idea was actually Lamberson’s, as she and others challenged Fort Ritchie Community Center Director Buck Browning to take a Zumba class. Browning eventually agreed to try the Latin-themed dance exercise class after Lamberson and her friends said they would raise $1,000 if he would agree to the challenge. The challenge evolved into community center members bringing in various items that Browning would wear during the class if the goal were met. Items included fairy wings, a tutu, a beard and wig, and Mardi Gras beads.

The community raised close to $1,100 for the event, with funds being used to help provide the eight-week summer camp for local children. On Wednesday, April 14, Lamberson walked into the community center expecting to take the Zumba class with Browning and the other usual participants. Upon entering the gymnasium Lamberson said she saw a banner that read “Congratulations,” but it didn’t register that the banner was for her.

Around 40 people were present, as Browning, wearing the wig, beard, beads, tutu, and other items, thanked the crowd for raising the funds for summer camp. He then surprised Lamberson by asking her to come forward. An American flag and lapel pin, donated by Ed and Anne Orndorff on behalf of the community center, were presented to Lamberson. An American-themed red, white, and blue cake (and cupcakes) were enjoyed following the Zumba class.

Lamberson lives with her husband Jason and two dogs in Carrol Valley, Pennsylvania. She moved to the United States from Venezuela.

Please visit for more information on the Fort Ritchie Community Center and its programs and activities. Community Center Director Buck Browning, wearing a wig, beard, beads, tutu, and other items, plus 40 other people, surprise Lucia Lamberson with a party to celebrate her officially becoming an American citizen on April 12, 2021.

Guy Swormley of Williamsport, Maryland, won the annual Fort Ritchie Community Center Bass Fishing Tournament, held on September 19, 2020, at the Fort Ritchie Community Center in Cascade. Guy Swormley reeled in a 16¾-inch bass to take the top honors in the adult division. William Trovinger of Sabilllasville, age six, won the youth division with a 13-inch bass. 

Brehon Sweeny of Hagerstown earned second-place honors in the adult division, with Jason Day of Baltimore taking third place. Dominic Wade of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, age 17, finished second in the youth division.

The Community Center traditionally hosts two bass tournaments on Lake Royer each year; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the spring event was canceled this year. Cobblestone Hotel & Suites is the primary sponsor of the annual events.

Proceeds from the tournament support the programs and events offered by the Fort Ritchie Community Center.

For more information, please visit the website at

Pictured are: (top) Guy Swormley, winner of the Fort Ritchie Community Center Bass Fishing Tournament, with Janet Sweeny, general manager of Cobblestone Hotel & Suites, which sponsors the annual event; (bottom left) Brehon Sweeney; (bottom right) Dominic Wade. Not pictured: youth winner, William Trovinger.

James Rada Jr.

Everything that has happened in 2020 will make Halloween this year seem tame, no matter how scary things might be on October 31. It will actually be a nice break from everything that is happening; however, some changes to our regular slate of Halloween activities have been made.

Thurmont’s annual Halloween in the Park event has been canceled. However, trick-or-treating in Thurmont will continue as usual on Saturday, October 31, from 6:00-7:30 p.m.

As of mid-September, Emmitsburg’s Halloween events are still on. Trick-or-treating in town will be from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on October 31. Following trick-or-treating, people will gather at Federal and DePaul streets for the annual Halloween parade that will begin at 7:00 p.m. Due to COVID, social distancing and mask wearing is encouraged.

The Halloween parade route will run from Federal Street to North Seton Avenue, through the town square, then right onto West Lincoln Avenue to the rear entrance of the Vigilant Hose Company. You can enjoy refreshments as you wait for the announcement of the Halloween costume contest winners. First, second, and third place awards will be awarded for the most patriotic, scariest, most original, cutest, and best group costumes.

On the mountain in Cascade, Fort Ritchie Community Center will host Drive-Thru Trick-or-Treat from 4:00-6:00 p.m. on October 31.

Members of the Fort Ritchie Community Center can win a free T-shirt if they can properly guess their temperature upon entering the facility.

The Community Center has established a COVID-19 prevention protocol based upon guidelines from the CDC, State of Maryland, and Washington County. The protocol includes each member answering a series of questions related to their possible exposure to the virus, as well as having their temperature taken by a Community Center staff member.

“We came up with what we hope is a fun way for our staff to approach each member,” said Buck Browning, executive director of the Community Center. “It can be intimidating to have someone hold an infrared thermometer to your forehead, so we are trying to make it a little less awkward for both people,” he added. 

The Community Center features a fitness center, weight room, gymnasium, and multi-purpose athletic room, along with other amenities.  Equipment such as treadmills, stationary bicycles, and strength machines have been aligned so that they are at least six feet apart. Some machines have been closed off to improve the social distancing among members Browning said. 

The T-shirt initiative has been well-received by members. We had ten members guess correctly on the first day we offered the T-shirts,” Browning said. “I thought we might do this for a month or so, but at this rate, we will run out of shirts in a week or two,” he laughed. The initiative will continue while supplies last.   

The Community Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization, located in Cascade on the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army Post. In addition to the fitness center and weight room, the Fort Ritchie Community Center offers group exercise classes, youth programs, and a wide variety of community events, such as craft shows, holiday celebrations, and speaker presentations. 

For more information on the Fort Ritchie Community Center, please visit online at    

A Fort Ritchie Community Center staff member checks a member’s temperature upon entering the facility.

James Rada, Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A secret group of soldiers, who are credited with shortening World War II by two years, is being honored locally. The group, known as Ritchie Boys, was part of the D-Day invasion and subsequent march across Europe to defeat the Nazis.

An exhibit highlighting the impact of the Ritchie Boys during World War II is on display at the Fort Ritchie Community Center. The exhibit was recently donated to the Community Center from the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The Ritchie Boys were a military intelligence unit trained in psychological warfare, counterintelligence, sabotage, and other skills at Camp Ritchie in Cascade (later renamed Fort Ritchie). 

The Ritchie Boys consisted primarily of German-born soldiers, many of whom were also Jewish, that had fled Europe to the United States before the war. Because of their knowledge of the German culture and language, the U.S. Army used the Ritchie Boys for a variety of intelligence tasks, including interrogating prisoners of war, deciphering German communications, and various forms of psychological warfare. The name Ritchie Boys was bestowed upon the group due to their time being trained at Camp Ritchie.  

Guy Stern, a Ritchie Boy and former college professor, designed the exhibit using his firsthand knowledge, as well as access to other Ritchie Boys. Following its display at the Holocaust Memorial Center, the exhibit was placed into storage. At Stern’s suggestion, the museum agreed to donate the exhibit to the Fort Ritchie Community Center, where it will be open to the public. The exhibit will be available for viewing during the Community Center’s regular business hours for several weeks. 

The size of the exhibit is so large, the Community Center will not be able to keep it on display in its entirety indefinitely. The plan, however, is to feature parts of the exhibit in the museum, located in the Community Center. Photos of the complete exhibit will be available for viewing so that guests may still experience the impact the Ritchie Boys had during and after the war. 

Please visit for more information on the Ritchie Boy exhibit and the Fort Ritchie Community Center. 

One of the Ritchie Boys in Germany.

The father and son duo of Tyler and Steve Pinkley from Keedysville, Maryland, dominated the Fort Ritchie Community Center Bass Fishing Tournament. Tyler took first place honors with a 16½-inch bass, while his father, Steve, was one of three participants who tied for third place.

The tournament is held at Lake Royer in Cascade and is sponsored by the Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Forty-two anglers participated in the tournament held on Saturday, September 28, 2019.   

Garrett Gardenour of Smithsburg secured a second-place finish with a 16-inch catch. Joining Pinkley in the tie for third place with a 14¾-inch fish was Jared Vaughn of Knoxville, Maryland, and Gene Helmick, of Middletown, Maryland. Nelson Smith of Cascade recorded a 15-inch fish to win the Military Division. 

The youth division was won by Josh Gregory of Emmitsburg with a 16-inch bass. Hunter Coon of Sharpsburg, Maryland, won second place in the youth division with a 15-inch bass. Seventeen youth participated, including members from the Community Center’s “Kid’s Club” program that meets on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings.      

Proceeds from the tournament support the programs and activities at the Fort Ritchie Community Center. For more information or to register for upcoming events, please visit

The Fort Ritchie Community Center has been robbed! Gold recovered from a sunken Pirate ship on loan to the Community Center’s summer program has gone missing. Luckily, participants in the summer camp program are on the case collecting and deciphering clues as part of the Crime Scene Investigators theme week.

“We know one of the staff took the gold,” said a seven year old male camper, adding the gold would be too heavy for his bookbag. Participants will get some professional guidance to help break the case from the Washington County Special Response Team comprised of local law enforcement officers this week. A field trip is planned to see a local courtroom. Video surveillance of the room where the gold was on display will also help the campers identify the culprit.

“The CSI week was the first week to sell out in terms of registration this year,” said Buck Browning, director of the Community Center. “Our staff does a great job planning the activities for each theme week and then the involvement from agencies and other groups really help make the experiences memorable and exciting for the campers,” he added.

Browning credits the summer camp staff with designing the activities so campers use a broad range of critical thinking skills to collect clues and work together to identify suspects and then ultimately decide who they think took the gold.

The Community Center located in Cascade provides nine weeks of summer camp activities for local children between the ages of 6 and 13. Each week features a theme, such as Crime Scene Investigators, Sports, Outdoor Adventure, Robotics, and the Arts. Guest presenters, specialized activities, and field trips are incorporated into the traditional summer camp schedule.

The Fort Ritchie Community Center is located on the former Fort Ritchie property. In addition to summer camp activities, the Community Center features a fitness center, exercise classes, two gymnasiums, and a museum highlighting the history of the property. Programs offered through the Center include job skills for youth, senior citizen activities, and various community events such as craft shows and holiday celebrations. For more information regarding the Community Center, visit its website at

Emma Ginn, Finley Brodsky, BreElla Guildoo, Isabel Brodsky, Mitchell Hundley, Jaylyn Etter (staff), Sarah Henry, Hunter Stockslager, Casey Lowe, and Gabe Riling look over the crime scene as part of the CSI Week at the Fort Ritchie Community Center summer camp.

The Fort Ritchie Community Center has added a marketing and special events coordinator to its team.
fort-ritchie-write-up-jaiBuck Browning, executive director, said Jaimie Paterson (pictured right) has begun her new role, and he is excited to have her on board. “There are so many exciting things in the works here for Fort Ritchie and the community; we felt we needed to expand and add some new resources to our team. We found someone who we feel is the perfect fit in Jaimie.”

Paterson, a Shippensburg University graduate, said she is very happy with how things fell into place. “I have known Buck and most of the staff at the Community Center for quite some time. When the opportunity arose, I jumped at it, because I knew they were the type of people I’d love to work with. I think we’re going to do great things as a team, and I’m really excited to be here.”

Paterson graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in Communications/Journalism, emphasizing in Public Relations. She is from the Pittsburgh area, and currently resides in Chambersburg with her husband and young son.

The Fort Ritchie Community Center’s mission is to create and provide healthy lifestyle and leisure activities, foster community traditions, and promote cultural development through the arts, education, sports, technology, and natural resources, to enhance the quality of life for the residents and users of Fort Ritchie and surrounding communities. The Community Center offers a fitness center, free-weight room, fitness classes, and various events throughout the year.

M&T Bank contributed $6,000 to the Fort Ritchie Community Center in Cascade. The funds helped sponsor the 2016 Mountaintop Heritage Days event that celebrated the 90th anniversary of Camp Ritchie.

“M&T Bank’s investment in the community goes beyond sponsoring Mountaintop Heritage Days,” said Buck Browning, executive director of the Community Center. “All of our programs and events are better off because of M&T Bank’s support of our area,” he added.

Mountaintop Heritage Days brings crafts and food vendors, carnival rides and games, and performances by groups such as the U.S. Army Fife and Drum Corps to the former military post located in Cascade. The event concluded with a fireworks show over Lake Royer. The event has been restarted after a two year hiatus with hopes to restore its prominence throughout the region. An estimated crowd of more than 3,000 people visited the event this year.

The Fort Ritchie Community Center provides programs and activities for people of all ages. For more information on how you can get involved in the Community Center, visit
Anthony Bagley (back row, left) and Neil Davidson (back row, right) of M & T bank present Buck Browning, director of the community center, and three community center summer camp participants, with a ceremonial check in the amount of $6,000 to support activities and programs that serve local residents.

Holiday Craft Bazaar at Fort Ritchie Community Center

By Chris O’Connor

Nothing says, “Let’s go Christmas shopping,” like balmy, seventy-degree weather on a Saturday in mid-December.

Beverly Coyle, Fort Ritchie Community Center’s event organizer, stated that the turnout for the annual Holiday Craft Bazaar was impressive, though it generally is the best-attended of the three arts and crafts shows held at the Community Center throughout the year.

Since the bazaar’s inception in 2008, Beverly has noticed the show’s growing popularity, including the variety of arts and crafts, the number of vendors, and the public interest in the event.

The Holiday Bazaar was a convenient venue to do some shopping on the Mountain, with ample free parking and good food. There were a variety of handmade items and crafts, local distributors for Mary Kay cosmetics, palm oil scented candles and soaps by Mia Bella, and others too numerous to mention.

This year, there were seventy vendors, with ten on a waiting list for a space. If Beverly had known the weather was going to be so mild, she said she could have easily accommodated additional artists and vendors on the patio outdoors.

Instead, the exterior patio held tables and chairs, overlooking a wide field’s park-like atmosphere with folks walking their dogs or playing fetch; just beyond, the backdrop of Lake Royer was a picturesque and convenient place for buyers and sellers alike to enjoy fare served by the Sons of the American Legion, Cascade, Post 239.

Their menu included eggs and breakfast meats and lunch items, such as hot dogs, steamers, chili, chicken salad, and nachos, as well as an assortment of snacks and beverages. I wanted to order a quart of their chili after enjoying a chili dog on the aforementioned Fort Ritchie Community Center patio, while watching folks toss a ball back and forth.

The beauty of the Sons of the American Legion’s participation in the Fort Ritchie Community Center Holiday Bazaar is their magnanimous financial contribution to helping folks in need on the mountain.

Mtn Talk 2There were many vendors with treats available, including Pamela Wars of Sweet Blessings Cookies, a former elementary school teacher from Frederick, Maryland. Among her confections were peanut brittle, cake pops, and individually wrapped, exquisite Christmas cookies that might be edible works of art or double as Christmas tree ornaments.

Sometimes a craft show can be ho-hum for children, but all that changed when Santa visited to delight kids from 10:00 a.m.-noon.

Another attraction for kids was face-painting by artist Carolyn (Smith) Fogelsonger of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Carolyn, a member of Waynesboro (PA) Studio Art Club, works primarily in oils and acrylics and is known for her fine art paintings, which include an array of subjects from old buildings and other architecture to landscapes and nature.

She lived much of her life in Smithsburg, Maryland, finding ample inspiration for her works there. A print of a painting of the town of Smithsburg could be found at the presidential retreat at Camp David during the Bush administration.

Her works are available at Lotus Moon Gallery and on display at the Copper Kettle Restaurant, both located in Chambersburg. She has donated prints of her interpretation of the Civil War Battle of Monterey Pass, Blue Ridge Summit.

Some vendors carried handmade products, especially suited for children.

Mary Beth Chang of Sunberry Boutique in Hagerstown had an eye-catching array of handmade kids’ items that included a rainbow of tutus, hair bows, head bands, small purses, and pouches. Before we chatted about her products, she proffered an unsolicited shout-out to the Fort Ritchie Community Center staff, whom she described as ever helpful and the reason why she’s returned with her wares year after year.

She describes her products as an eclectic array, with varying fibers, which she enjoys changing up from time to time. There seems to be few limits to her knack with a sewing machine, let alone her imagination, recently introducing a line of children’s sun hats.

On the face of it, Mary Beth’s products seemed attuned to little boys and girls, but at some juncture during our conversation, I wondered aloud if I could get my dogs to wear tutus and hair bows—without diminishing their dignity, of course.

She said she occasionally dresses up her toy breed doggies and has designed, sewn, and dressed dogs included in their human’s weddings.

Craft shows are a dime a dozen. They pop up everywhere, but aren’t always worth attending, whether it’s because it’s a mob-scene, parking is a challenge, or the show doesn’t have anything one seeks.

Sometimes, though, one might take some time to attend a craft show and end up being pleasantly surprised by what is found there.

For myself? This show was close to home and convenient beyond compare.

But my heart was won by the delicious chili from the Sons of the American Legion Post 239, and the knowledge that they donate so much to our neighbors in need throughout the year.

They embody the meaning of “Christmas spirit.”

For further information regarding contact information for the vendors, call Fort Ritchie Community Center at 301-241-5085 or visit their website at

Photos by Chris O’Connor

Participants in Zumba at the Fort Ritchie Community Center made a financial contribution to Breast Cancer Awareness of the Cumberland Valley (BCA-CV). Heather DeLauter, a Zumba instructor at the community center, organized a special session of the class in which participants made a donation instead of paying the usual class fee.

“It was Heather’s idea to hold the class, and she had lots of support from her friends and family,” said Buck Browning, executive director of the community center. “She and the participants wanted to do something special to honor the memory of some close friends,” he added.

Unfortunately, DeLauter has seen the impact breast cancer can have in a family and a community. She has two friends that have each lost their mothers recently to breast cancer. She said that the $324.00 raised from the one-hour class is being donated to Breast Cancer Awareness of the Cumberland Valley, in memory of Shanda Eyler and Tricia Clopper.

“Thank you to Heather and her Zumba participants from the Fort Ritchie Community Center for raising      these funds to support our mission,” said Janet Lung, executive director of BCA-CV. “What an awesome way to give back to the community.”


Zumba participants posed for a quick photograph prior to class at the Fort Ritchie Community Center.