Tiny Md. towns thinking big with anniversaries approaching

February 03, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Garrett County municipality of Friendsville turned 100 years old last year, but the Town Council is only now getting around to debating the merits of throwing a party.

On the Eastern Shore, Denton might have forgotten its bicentennial last year had a tree merchant not offered to sell the town elms to commemorate the occasion. And Oxford let the sesquicentennial of its incorporation come and go without celebration last year, content to have celebrated nearly a decade ago the 300th anniversary of its founding.

But in Sykesville, they're not about to let a momentous birthday slip into their history books without a grand gala. The Carroll County town doesn't turn 100 until May next year, but officials there are already making big plans.

"This is our history, how the town started and what it has evolved to," said Margaret A. "Peggy" Soper, the town's tourism director. "As towns like Sykesville get harder and harder to find, it is important to remember the roots."

Sykesville's Town Council is considering a budget of about $20,000 for the festivities and will issue formal invitations to county and state dignitaries and other officials.

For party ideas, Sykesville might want to check with New Windsor. That town celebrated twice in the past decade: the 100th anniversary of its incorporation in 1993 and the bicentennial of its founding in 1997.

Not every small town finds that kind of time or energy, said James P. Peck, director of research for the Maryland Municipal League. Such events often fall victim to more pressing town business. Grand-scale celebrations take time, planning, money and much effort, usually from volunteers, he said.

"We are talking about small towns U.S.A., most of them with no full-time employees," Peck said.

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