Festival honors farmers' legacy

Family: The oldest descendant of a German father and son who left their mark on Howard community is named parade grand marshal.

June 04, 1999|By Jamal E. Watson | Jamal E. Watson,SUN STAFF

More than a century ago two Germans, a father and his son, boarded a boat to the United States to escape religious persecution and to launch a thriving farming business in the town now known as Savage.

Their legacy survives. In this Howard County community of 2,850, street signs and a bridge bear the name Vollmerhausen in memory of Conrad and Seiber Vollmerhausen, the two early settlers. Generations of their offspring stayed in Savage, refusing to relocate to other portions of the county, even after they sold the family's two farms to developers.

Tomorrow, the eldest living Vollmerhausen, Frank -- grandson of Seiber and great-grandson of Conrad -- will be honored as the grand marshal of the annual Savage Fest parade.

"I was surprised that they asked me to be the marshal," said Vollmerhausen, 74, who was born and raised in Savage. "I guess it's an honor."

The Savage Fest, in its 10th year, is expected to draw 5,000 to 10,000 people. Sponsored by the Savage Community Association, this year's festival will include pony rides, face painting, pedal cars, karaoke and more than 30 vendors.

The main event will be the parade, organized by the Savage Volunteer Fire Department. It will feature area children marching alongside firetrucks and antique cars through the town's streets. That's where Frank Vollmerhausen fits in.

"We generally try to pick someone to be the grand marshal who has done a lot in the town," said William Waff, president of the Savage Community Association. "We look for someone who has lived here for some time."

Vollmerhausen helped to manage his family farm before becoming a construction worker in Washington. For 16 years, until retiring, he was employed as a construction worker with the Howard County Board of Education.

In between being a life member of the Savage Volunteer Fire Department and the American Legion, Vollmerhausen spends much of his spare time building furniture and clocks and repairing antiques.

Several times each year, he is a guest speaker at local elementary schools, helping pupils understand what life was like in Savage several decades back.

"They're amazed," he said. "Sometimes I would take them on walks and tell them what things used to look like a long time ago, but now I can't do too much walking because of my legs."

After his first wife, Evelyn, died in 1992, Frank was reunited with his former sweetheart, whom he had not seen in 50 years. When he returned to Savage from the South Pacific after service during War War II, Gladys Whitehead had left.

"When I came back she was married and had moved," he said. "Years later, after my wife died, I found out that Gladys was living in Hagerstown. Her husband had died 12 years ago and we decided to get married and have been together ever since."

The annual festival provides Vollmerhausen with a chance to reconnect with former neighbors who have relocated.

That sense of community has always been important to him.

He recalls his grandfather Sieber winning the beer-drinking contest sometime in the 1930s at one of the Savage Day parades -- a precursor to Savage Fest.

This year's festival gets under way at 9 a.m on the Baldwin Commons next to the Carroll Baldwin Community Hall at Baltimore and Foundry streets in downtown Savage.

Sponsors include Carmax, Historic Savage Mill, Ma's Kettle, Rams Head Tavern at Savage Mill, North Laurel Auto Center and Gould Property Co.

Myra Phelps, organizer of this year's festival, said proceeds will go toward events in Savage. Money also will be donated to area churches that operate food pantries.

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