Town's fall festival sees patriotic colors

Mount Airy street fair ends tonight with vigil

October 07, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Mount Airy's annual Festival on the Ridge took on a different hue this year. Instead of the traditional crimson and gold decor, organizers went with red, white and blue in keeping with the patriotism gripping the country since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Ordinarily, you can't mix fall colors with red, white and blue, but this year it works," said Jennifer Heflin, who helped organize the two-day festival that continues today. "It is our whole theme this weekend. We have to keep our flags flying."

The town, which straddles Carroll and Frederick counties, lost two residents in the attack on the Pentagon. Mount Airy has established a scholarship fund for the families of Ronald Vauk, 37, a member of the Naval Reserves who was serving as a watch commander in the Naval Command Center; and William R. Ruth, 57, who worked for the Army and was a member of the Army Reserve. Ruth was installed as commander of the Mount Airy Veteran of Foreign Wars post the night before the attacks.

"The Vauks have a 3-year-old son and are expecting a child in November, and Bill Ruth has a son in college," said Mayor Gerald R. Johnson. "People here are stepping up to the plate and helping."

"This is a family-oriented town and these men were part of our community," resident Wendy Norris said.

The festival opened yesterday with a Civil Air Patrol color guard presenting the American flag, a brief prayer by a local minister, and the singing of the national anthem and "God Bless America." The ceremony will be repeated today.

"It sets the tone and makes us realize that even in a festive time, we need to step back and feel for the people who are grieving here and everywhere else," Johnson said.

The patriotic theme showed itself in flags, T-shirts printed with "God Bless America," striped and scented candles, a mailbox painted with stars and stripes, and whimsical red, white and blue wind chimes.

Residents could have their hair colored red, white and blue -- with the promise that the colors would wash out.

"Americana is outselling fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving," said Ricky Lawson, a local merchant who cannot keep flags in stock. The 36 that arrived last week at his store on Main Street are already gone.

"I am always into anything to do with patriotism," said shopper Hazel Mullinix. "I better be -- I have a grandson in the Army."

The last few years, Festival on the Ridge has ended in the red, the mayor said, but he expects a different result this year.

Several merchants have donated services and supplies to help cut costs, and sales of town memorabilia -- with all proceeds going to the Vauk-Ruth fund -- were as brisk as the weather yesterday.

"What better way to show these families that we care than giving scholarships for their children?" resident Charlene Singleton said.

"This fund will go on, and we will add to it through the years," she said.

Cassidy Stoner, 10, and Joanna Lambert, 11, were doing their part. The girls hoped to run out of some 200 pins they had strung with red, white and blue plastic beads. The pins were given to all who donated to the scholarship fund.

"Everybody was talking about how sad the attack made them," Cassidy said. "These are bright and will cheer people up."

The festival continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today along Main Street. The weekend will end with a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. in Watkins Park on Route 27. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, who represents Carroll and Frederick counties and Western Maryland, will deliver the address, and the South Carroll High School band will play taps.

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