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October 15th, 2022 by WCBC Radio

As organizers of the 2021 and 2022 Heritage Days Festivals and the new Wills Creek Muster event, the Allegany County Historical Society (ACHS) owes thanks to many partners, including hobby and professional historians, community volunteers and the public sector agencies, that have helped revive one of Cumberland’s longest running annual attractions.

Seeds of Heritage Days’ turnaround were sown in 2019 by Allegany Museum Vice President Vic Rezendes, long-time Heritage Days organizer Gayle Griffith and local marketing executive Becky McClarran, for finding a way to implement a 2018 Maryland Heritage Areas Authority grant designed to energize the historical side of a community event founded in the late 1960s. The Board of Trustees of the Historical Society, a local 501c3 organization since 1957, agreed to accept a transfer of the grant, guarantee the needed matching funds and stage the revitalized event.

It was postponed due to COVID in 2020. Successful utilization of 2021 grant funds led to an increased 2022 MHAA grant (and a 2022 Canal Place Authority mini-grant) that allowed for expanded interpretive programming and creation of this year’s Living History Town Halls.

Under the coordinating direction of Suzanne Smith, from Oxbow Cultural Research, the society worked with principal partners including Allegany Museum, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Jane Gates Foundation, Allegany County Department of Tourism, Allegany County staff, and an exceptional group City of Cumberland public safety professionals in the Police, Fire and Public Works Departments to create and enlarge the Wills Creek Muster as new programming during the Heritage Days Weekend.

Volunteers provided critical contributions, including the Maryland Forces, General Wayne’s Legion, Let’s Beautify Cumberland, Civil Air Patrol, Fort Hill Sentinelettes, Woman’s Civic Club, Bishop Walsh LaSalle Campus Student Athletes, Allegany County Alternative Sentencing Division, Rocky Gap Casino and Golf Resort, Alhambra Wamba Caravan, Craft Table, and Sheetz Convenience Stores.

Specialized service providers were also key, including living historians from the American Historical Theater, American Rent All, Spring Gap Farm, George Washington historian John Koopman III, De Di’s Kitchen, Commercial Press, Steltek Graphics, Fielding Construction, Ryan Cuba, Charles McCord, Erica Nuckles, Kateri Fikar, Ellen McDaniel Weissler, local professional musicians, and Nightengale Sanitation.

Dave Williams, President Allegany County Historical Society "The citizens of Allegany County should be proud of how our community withstood the challenges of this decade. and be equally proud that we are entering 2023 with new energy in activities like Heritage Days. Your Historical Society is committed to build on the gains that Heritage Days made in 2022. We are working already to make Year Three even more enjoyable to those who attend and make it more valuable to our community by doing so "

Coming into 2022, ACHS set goals to increase the quality and number of craft and food vendors and increasing the size and efficiency of regional advertising. Social media advertising that included a 90 second digital video created by DeMartino Studios and McW2.0 reached over 400,000 on-demand viewers. Vendor count increased to 67 participating businesses and organizations, with many long-time vendors enjoying record sales going back to the heyday of the event.

Heritage Days fits the Historical Society’s Five-Year Plan for programming, stewardship, and sustainable operation of an educational mission that broadens awareness of Western Maryland’s rich heritage. As they execute and fund this plan, our Board of Trustees also is looking to improve our community’s quality of life and Mountain Maryland’s reputation as a place to live, work and visit.

We’re encouraged that the presentation of historical authenticity is a goal shared by so many people who are generous in their support of Heritage Days. 2022 was a total team accomplishment in that regard. We wish to express our deep gratitude to everyone who helped – a list too long to completely cover here. We are working to involve everyone who helped this year in expanding our 2023 programming in a way that rewards their continued interest.