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‘Park After Dark’ Draws Crowds

Fundraiser benefits C&O Canal National Historical Park.

The 19th Street Band rocked.

The 19th Street Band rocked.

— About 230 people came out to the C&O Historic Great Falls Tavern on Saturday, Oct. 13 for a boot-stompin’ fun-filled evening of music, dancing, chili with all the fixins’, experiential auction items and re-enactments of the Civil War — and all for a good cause. They partied to benefit the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

The second annual “Park After Dark” was held on one of Potomac’s most beautiful fall evenings. As the party-goers gathered, the sunset burst into an array of colors. Dark settled in and the evening was crisp.

The festivities began with music from the 19th Street Band, grog from the bars, three kinds of chili and plenty of cornbread, brownies, pecan pie and cheesecake. Matt Logan, president of the C&O Canal Trust presented Advisory Board member Jim Norton with the William O. Douglas award for supporting many of the restoration projects along the C&O Canal. Norton is also responsible for launching the C&O Canal Current Initiatives/Catoctin Aqueduct Fund. Logan also saluted the many volunteers who support the vision of the Canal Trust.

Live auction items kept the crowd involved and bidding to support the need of the canal. Each experiential event was bid-up and funds were raised while people anticipated special events that they would be able to experience with friends and family. These included the “Rocky Mountain High” – a 7-night trip for four to Estes Park. Colo., “Georgetown to Old Town: A Getaway for Two” – two nights at the Ritz Carlton Georgetown and a roundtrip cruise from Georgetown to Old Town, Alexandria, “Kayak the Rapids with a World Champion” – a kayak adventure with world champion Davey Hearn, “Antietam to Shepherdstown: A Civil War Overnight” – a morning tour of Antietam followed by lunch and conversation with Nicholas Redding at the historic Ferry Hill Place, dinner at The Press Room and an overnight at the Bavarian Inn, “Wine and War: A Conversation with Tim Snyder” – wine, cheese and conversation with Civil War author Tim Snyder and an overnight in a lock house, and “Come Sail Away for a Day” – a day on a sailing yacht which included breakfast, lunch and drinks. All of the auction items were sold for a total of nearly $12,000, plus another $15,300 were raised in donations toward the Canal Trust's newest fundraising initiative to support education programs in the park. Total results were not yet available.

Sarah and Mike Ulica attended for the first time. “We use the canal every day,” said Sarah Ulica. “I ride my bike or walk on it, and my husband likes it because he can ride his horse on the canal — and he even bikes to work on it. We are happy to support the canal because we want to continue to enjoy this wonderful park.”

Linda Clinch added, “I run on it and truly enjoy its ever-changing beauty. Park After Dark is such a unique event and I am proud to be a part of it.”

The Silent Auction featured a paddleboarding adventure, a Potomac River cruise and dinner, a party for 20 on the Mercer Canal Boat, wine tasting with local wine expert Scott Greenberg, skeet shooting at Actor’s Hill Farm in Keedysville, Md. and two framed photos of the Canal. The crowd was thrilled by the silent auction items, and was actively competing for each selection. Another crowd-pleaser was the fire-pit where party-goers could rest their tired feet and spin yarns about the evening.

Barbara Brown serves as a volunteer on the canal bike patrol. She has also performed in “Life and Death” which takes place on the canal.

Davey, Jennifer and Jesse Hearn were also happy to attend the event and to support the Canal Trust. “It is just amazing how they recreated the 1860s,” said Jennifer Heran. Davey Hearn was an Olympic kayaker who currently teaches kayaking. He donates a kayaking lesson to the silent auction every year. “Our entire family uses the park, especially the white water, said Davey Hearn. “Last year I took a group of six out to Riley’s Lock — and we really had a great time. I’m looking forward to this year’s group.”

Re-enactors set down their bedrolls and proceeded to tell stories of their Civil War experiences. Chris Fisher of Gettysburg displayed surgical instruments and explained that medicine took great strides during the Civil War: “Doctors learned a great deal about anesthesia, removing limbs and caring for the wounded. One of the most renowned doctors of the Civil War was Dr. Letterman. He realized patients were either waking up during surgery or dying from the amount of anesthesia that was given to them. He studied the science and learned controlling the dosage and only administering a specific amount — a new concept for that time.”

Re-enactor Buddy Mellor of Westminster, Md. brought what the typical soldier would carry with him to war. This included some paper books, a game of checkers, cribbage or cards, a Bible and a cherished photo or two. He would also carry a change of socks, a warm blanket and some “long-johns.” A typical backpack with a musket would weigh 60 pounds. “A soldier had to be in good physical shape,” he said. “I tried marching with a full backpack for 50 miles and it got to be really heavy. The average weight for a man during the1860s was only 160, so he carried almost 1/3 of his body weight.”

Last year, Park After Dark raised $58,000 for the canal. With government funds being cut, private support for this local resource in the backyard of Potomac is needed. To sign up to volunteer or to give a donations, go to www.CanalTrust.org.