Potomac On Saturday, Sept. 19, candleliers will sparkle as they lead the way to the Historic Great Falls Tavern, the bonfire will flicker in the night, the River Run Band will play dancing music — and bar-b-que and libations will satisfy the appetites of the many who love the Canal and have come out to support it by partying into the night. The evening is sponsored by the C&O Canal Trust to benefit the C&O Canal National Historic Park (NHP) and will feature “Tenacious” Topper Shutt, chief meteorologist for WUSA9 as the emcee.
The evening will begin at 6 p.m. and top donors will be able to attend a pre-reception held on the decks of the canal boat, the Charles F. Mercer. A signature cocktail — the “Canal Mule” — will enhance the dinner, accompaniments and desserts. Both live and silent auctions will be held and special awards given.
Adventure expeditions await the bidders for the silent auction. One can bid on an F-35 Lightning aircraft simulator experience at Lockheed Martin or on skydiving jumps from Skydive Orange and DC Skydiving Track. Always wanted to become a race car driver? Then place a bid to experience a Friday At The Track (FATT) driving experience at Summit Point Motorsports Park.
More sedate experiences are also available for the auction. One could choose to lunch with New Horizons: The First Mission to the Pluto System scientists, or take a sailing trip for four, a Civil War and Wine tour with historian Dennis Fry at Big Cork Vineyards or bid on Washington Wizards courtside tickets, artwork of the park, a tour for 10 of Ford’s Theater with dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill or tourism packages and gift certificates for restaurants, theaters, shops and more.
A live auction will also be held to benefit the Canal Classrooms Education program which offers curriculum-based education to more than 8,000 students each year, exposing them to the arts, science, technology, mathematics, and engineering concepts. Park After Dark is the largest fundraising event held annually to benefit the park. Last year, the evening raised more than $148,000 and, this year, the Canal Trust is hoping to raise even more. Funds from the event help to sustain the historical, natural and cultural heritage and recreational opportunities within the C&O Canal NHP.
Robin Zanotti, president of the C&O Canal Trust, said, “Park After Dark is unique in that it takes place under the stars after the park closes. Our guests will have the park to themselves and will be able to enjoy a roaring campfire, music, and great food. And they’ll have the satisfaction in knowing they are helping the park that so many of us are passionate about. This year, we will honor the many adventures available in the park that so many people take advantage of — including hiking, biking, bird-watching, canoeing, paddle boarding and kayaking.”
This year, Roy Sewall, founding chairman of the C&O Canal Trust board of directors will be awarded the William O. Douglas Stewardship Award in recognition of his ongoing support of the C&O Canal Trust. During Sewall’s tenure, the Canal Quarters project and the Canal Pride Days were started.
“The Canal Quarters project was our biggest decision because it was a financial challenge and took a monumental effort on the part of the board, a small staff and the Park Service,” Sewall said. “We pondered whether the public would come and use the facilities. We also raised $100,000 to repair the breach of the Canal near Old Angler’s Inn. This was very significant. I’m flabbergasted to be receiving this award and very honored. I feel like my work as already been acknowledged by the Park Service, and I’m very touched to be honored again.”
The evening will also feature the first-time presentation of the new Canal Pride Volunteer Service Award to Robert Mertz, a former board member of the C&O Canal Trust.
“I’m delighted and pleased to be receiving this award — but I also have to give credit to a number of people who advised me, found and made furniture and did so much to help,” Mertz said. He took on the task of furnishing each of the six Canal Quarters Lockhouses with furniture and accessories from different time periods — 60, 90 and 150 years ago. Each lockhouse tells a different story about the development of the C&O Canal. Mertz said, “Before we could start working on a house, we had to figure out what we were going to do. We talked to people on the Erie Canal and the Great Allegheny passage, gathered thoughts and ideas and decided to go forward with the project. Our next project will be restoring the Swain’s Lock Lockhouse — and we are really excited about that one. We have a lot of ideas on how it will be used.”
Tickets for “Park After Dark” are on sale now for $175 per person ($125 of that price is a tax-deductible donation to the C&O Canal Trust.) Tickets are available at www.ParkAfterDark.org. This is a rain or shine event, and attire is Canal Casual.