Recent momentum fuels annual C&O Canal Days
The town of Williamsport has a lot to celebrate lately about its section of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. The U.S. National Park Service recently opened the renovated Conococheague Aqueduct and broke ground on a new C&O Canal headquarters and visitors center at the former Miller Lumber Co. property on West Potomac Street.
The town will recognize these accomplishments and honor the heritage of the canal at the 43rd annual Williamsport C&O Canal Days on Saturday, Aug. 24, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Byron Memorial Park and other sites.
Emily Rider, town clerk and treasurer, and co-chairwoman of C&O Canal Days, along with Crystal Danfelt, said the town will run a shuttle bus from the park to the Barn at Springfield Farm to Cushwa Basin and Conococheague Street and back to the park.
The park will feature around 100 food and merchandise vendors. Food will range from traditional concession fare by the Williamsport High School Blue Band, to food trucks with ice cream, barbecue, tacos and seafood, with Williamsport Lion’s Club funnel cakes for dessert.
“It’s a family and friends kind of event,” Rider said. “There is stuff for all ages. There is a playground right there next to the vendors so the kids can play if they want.”
There will be artisan vendors including Reels and Wheels river art of Sharpsburg; Spoon Me up-cycled jewelry of Williamsport; Hagerstown-based F and D Apiaries; independent sales consultants with Thirty-One Gifts, Origami Owl, LuLaRoe, Scentsy and more.
“People will sell jewelry, books, wood crafts, all different things,” Rider said. “It’s a good opportunity for them to showcase their products and for people to come to the town of Williamsport. It especially recognizes and showcases the local artisans.”
Singer/songwriter Jason Teach and rock band Drew Adams Project will perform live music Saturday. Country music station 104.7 WAYZ will provide entertainment Sunday.
For the past several years, Canal Days was set up on Conococheague Street. There was an evening concert and alcohol was available for purchase. This year, the evening street concert and alcoholic beverages were eliminated, and the core of the event was moved to the park.
History buffs can stop by the town museum at the Barn at Springfield Farm. The barn, which overlooks Byron Memorial Park, was built in 1755 by Otho Holland Williams, the founder of Williamsport. The town of Williamsport purchased the barn, which is said to be one of the largest in the state of Maryland, in 1987.
The Town Museum is situated in the old milk parlor on the back side of the Springfield Barn and features local memorabilia as well as a Williamsport High School alumni board and school room.
“People can come in, enjoy all different kinds of food, shop all the different vendors. They can go to the barn, listen to music and go down to the basin,” Rider said.
Shops and restaurants will be open on Conococheague Street to welcome visitors to Canal Days.
“We want to show off all we have to offer within our town,” Rider said. “People will really have a chance to learn about our history and heritage.”
The National Park Service will offer boat tours at the site along the Potomac River where Victor Cushwa partnered with Charles Embrey & Son in the operations of Cushwa Basin Coal company during the 1870s. Canal boats used to load coal and bricks during canal trips between Cumberland, Md. and Washington D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood.
Around 2,000 people typically participate in the festival.
“Vendors and visitors really enjoy it. It’s an eventful day,” Rider said.
Top photo: Former Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II, C&O Canal Superintendent Kevin Brandt, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Assistant Commerce Secretary Tom Riford, Williamsport Mayor Bill Green, Williamsport Town Manager Donnie Stotelmyer and others ride across the newly renovated Conococheague Aqueduct during a ceremony on Aug. 8. (Herald-Mail file photo)