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Tourism: Jonathan Hager Frontier Craft Days

Jonathan Hager Frontier Craft Days
by Pat Fridgen

Tourists, history buffs, nature enthusiasts, and young lovers may be strolling the terrain of the Hager House these days, but they are experiencing the calm before the storm. Come August, the peaceful grounds will explode with sights, sounds, and smells during the Jonathan Hager Frontier Craft Days. This 33rd annual event takes place from 11am-5pm on August 6 and 7, 2005, in Hagerstown, Maryland.
"This is the oldest and largest craft show in the area," said John Nelson, Historic Sites Facilitator at the Hager House. "It kicks off the late summer/fall craft season around here."
And what a kickoff it is. Weather permitting, organizers are expecting 8,000 visitors to the free event. A core crew of staff members, seasonal tour guides, and many volunteers are gearing up for the best ever craft show weekend.
Over 60 vendors from the four-state area are registered for booth space. They will be selling wares ranging from woodwork, jewelry, and paintings, to woven baskets and other handmade crafts. It will be a paradise for people who like to purchase goods directly from the creators. Much of the merchandise will be one-of-a-kind. And of course, people get hungry at these functions, so a number of food vendors will be offering nutritious, or just plain delicious, treats. Give up cooking for the day and have an outdoor meal, or at least drinks and snacks.
Music also plays a big part in the celebration. Four mountain music groups are scheduled, and the folks may be bringing out banjos, guitars, accordions, whistles, mandolins or something else not found in the high school marching band. The toe-tapping pickin' and a grinnin' starts with Saturday's first feature. Whippoorwill performs at noon and again at 2pm, specializing in fiddle and dulcimer. The Appalachian influence will be obvious to any ear.
Madeline McNeil follows at 1and at 3pm. "She's one of the absolute best hammered dulcimer players in America," said Nelson. She also plays the mountain dulcimer. McNeil has released several books and instructional videos, as well as performance CDs. She travels extensively and has been featured on public television.
On Sunday Little Maggie plays at noon and 2pm, and Furnace Mountain at 1 and 3pm. The Furnace Mountain Band is anchored by two Virginians, David VanDeventer from Berryville and Morgan Morrison of Taylorstown. He shines on the fiddle and vocals. She plays bouzouki and also sings. Others members of the band rotate in and out at their concerts. The band says its purpose through the years never changes. "The intention at the heart of Furnace Mountain still remains--which is the sharing of music as a celebration of life between friends and loved ones alike."
The Friends of Fort Frederick State Park will inhabit a section of the grounds as well. This non-profit organization aids the natural, historical, and recreational resources of the State Park, located 18 miles west of Hagerstown. Members are coming to Frontier Days to present a living history program on life during the French and Indian War. Meet civilians and soldiers of the 1700s. The experience may have quite an impact on visitors. Patty Smith of Greencastle, Pennsylvania, attended Frontier Craft Days in the past and the encampment left a lasting impression.
"I loved it," said Smith. "It takes you back to a different time period. It gives you a really great perspective on how far we've come. It helped me, as a non-native, see a piece of the heritage of this area."
To get far from the madding crowd for a little while, simply take a tour of the Hager House and Museum. Regular admission prices are $4 adults, $3 senior citizens, and $2 children ages 6-12. The younger tots are free. This 3-story house of uncut fieldstone sits beside a cool spring, and is surrounded by herbal and flower gardens. The house was acquired by the Washington County Historical Society in 1944 and has been restored to its former colonial beauty. When Jonathan Hager purchased 200 acres of land in western Maryland in 1739, he could not have foreseen that the home he presented to his bride the following year would be the centerpiece of massive festivities centuries later.
Parking should not be an issue, at least for those who get there first! There are city parking lots nearby as well as meter-free parking on the street.
How does Frontier Craft Days come together?
"We are always thinking about it," said Nelson. As soon as one ends, the organizers evaluate every detail and start planning the next one. Much work takes place over the winter. Musicians and vendors are contacted. Ideas from the public are considered. Publicity materials go out in the early summer. And before you know it, Jonathan Hager Frontier Craft Days are here again!
For more information, visit or phone 301-739-8393. The Email address is The Hager House is located at 110 Key Street in Hagerstown City Park.

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