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ChambersFest celebrates perseverance of Civil War-era Chambersburg residents

ChambersFest celebrates perseverance of Civil War-era Chambersburg residents

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — It’s a celebration of rebirth and resilience of Chambersburg residents and those in the surrounding areas who will honor a historical period that forever changed the town.

They will come together to take part in the 31st annual ChambersFest from Friday, July 7, through Saturday, July 15, in commemoration of the 1864 burning of Chambersburg by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Events take place throughout Chambersburg. 

The festival attracts thousands of people who all come to honor the history of Chambersburg and explore the town’s local attractions, according to Janet Pollard, executive director of the Franklin County Visitors Bureau.

“It’s a great way to get the townspeople to celebrate the spirit of Chambersburg and what it means to live here, enjoy the area, and to show off everything that we have, “ she said.

‘On Fire’

One of the highlights of the activities is the light show, “1864: The Burning”, which will be a reenactment of the burning of Chambersburg, which will be 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 15, in downtown Chambersburg.

The light show will depict the Confederates ransoming Chambersburg with a demand of $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in Yankee dollars. The town was unable and refused to deliver the money, so the Confederates burned the town.

Bright lights of orange and red will be used to mimic flames, which will peak and then recede. 

Actors who play the Confederate soldiers will reenact the ransoming and will attempt to collect ransom money from within the audience. 

All of the funds collected will be donated to Franklin County Habitat for Humanity. The actors will also describe how the people of Chambersburg rebuilt the town, and how the town came out of the ashes. The colors will turn white and purple to represent Chambersburg’s rebirth.

The fire’s aftermath caused mass destruction among the people who lived in the town at the time. More than 2,000 people were left homeless and more than 550 structures burned.

“Most of the buildings and the structures of the town were burned down but the townspeople came together to rebuild the town and enabled Chambersburg to prosper,” Pollard said.

A variety of activities will lead up to the reenactment of the burning of Chambersburg light show. These activities include historic walking tours, living history, exhibits, prizes, giveaways; old-fashioned photo booth, book signings, and glow-in-the-dark face painting.

ChambersFest began in 1986 when local organizations came together to create a festival that would commemorate the town’s rebirth after its burning on July 30, 1864. On that day, Chambersburg became the only town north of the Mason-Dixon Line to be burned by Confederates during the Civil War.

Pollard noted that ChambersFest is a reminder of the town’s history and its importance to recognize the strength of its residents in being able to thrive after a loss.

“I think it’s important because it brings the community together to celebrate triumph and perseverance of Chambersburg townspeople who overcame tragedy,” Pollard said 

Highlights of ChambersFest

ChambersFest will kick-off on Friday, July 7, with First Friday: Stars, Stripes, and Straws from 5 to 8 p.m. in downtown Chambersburg. The event will feature the third annual summer beverage contest where participating businesses compete for bragging rights as the people’s choice for the favorite summer drink.

From 5 to 7 p.m. the Council for the Arts is presenting an opening reception for the summer show. The exhibit features works by Ski Holm and Katrina Hoopes and is on view through Friday, Aug. 25. The exhibit can be seen from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Tuesday through Friday or by appointment. 

Saturday, July 8, is jam-packed with exciting events for the whole family. The 14th annual Tim & Susan Cook Memorial 1-Mile Race begins at 7 a.m. at the Chambersburg Memorial YMCA, followed by ChambersFest Bike Day beginning at 9:30 a.m. at Chambersburg Bike Park.

Enjoy all-you-can-eat ice cream samples from local ice cream shops at the Scoop-a-Palooza event held from 11 a.m. to 3 the Chambersburg Area Senior High School. After gaining entrance into the festival, individuals will get unlimited access to a variety of area shops and will be able to vote for the best flavors in each of the five categories. Proceeds raise funds for educational programs offered through the Greater Chambersburg Chamber Foundation.

Listen to free live music and family-friendly movies at the Second Saturdays event all summer long from 5 to 10 p.m. at Chambers Fort Park. This month’s free outdoor concert features Pale Barn Ghosts along with opener Rebekah Foster from 5 to 8 p.m. Then beginning at dusk is a free showing of the dinosaur thriller “Jurassic Park” (1993).

On Thursday, July 13 the movie, “3:10 to Yuma” (R), will have two showings: 3 and 6 p.m. at The Capitol Theatre. The movie tells the story of a small-time rancher who agrees to hold and transport a captured outlaw to court in Yuma by train resulting in a battle of wills. The movie stars Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. 

“Visions of a Quilter” quilt show will take place on Saturday, July 15, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Falling Spring Presbyterian Church. More than 200 quilted works will be showcased at this quilt show, along with demonstrations of various quilting techniques and a beautiful hand quilted and appliquéd quilt raffle. Handmade items and quilting supplies will be available for purchase.

Old Market Day event is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Downtown Chambersburg which is a ChambersFest tradition. This free street festival in downtown Chambersburg features art, craft and food vendors, kids’ activities, entertainment on two stages and the North Square Farmers Market.

Celebrate music at Old Market Day from 9 to 11 a.m. at First United Methodist Church. The Cumberland Valley School of Music will present performances by local student musicians. Sam’s Music Camp Performance will be at 9 a.m. followed by Voice & Drama Camp at 10 a.m. featuring songs and scenes from “Seussical,” the musical.

ChambersFest 7s Rugby Tournament, CAMS South, starts at 9:30 a.m. Rugby 7s is the style of rugby adopted in the Olympics in 2016.

When the Circus Came to Town: The Old Jail event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enjoy a circus poster exhibit, photo opportunities, snacks, face painting, a bounce house and more.

“Dance is Life” show starts at 1 p.m. and will be held at The Capitol Theatre. The performance celebrates the art of dance through the exploration of movement and gesture in time and space. Dancers from the Chambersburg Ballet Theatre School Summer Dance Intensive will perform works from the classical repertoire as well as original, contemporary, and balletic works by guest choreographers. Admission is free.

Another highlight event preceding the 1864 light show is the final round of A Cappella & Unplugged event beginning at 7 p.m., performed on the steps of the courthouse. Spectators can vote for their favorite act and have their in-person vote tabulated with online voting to select the winner, who will receive $500 and bragging rights to the third annual talent search contest.

If you go…

WHAT: ChambersFest
WHEN: Friday, July 7, through Saturday, July 15 
WHERE: Downtown Chambersburg, Pa.
COST: Some activities have an admission charge
CONTACT: For a complete schedule, go to

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