Bigger plan at Highland celebration

A three-year-old community group is revamping historic town's festival

September 30, 2005|By SANDY ALEXANDER | SANDY ALEXANDER,SUN REPORTER

Highland traces its history back more than 250 years, but the western Howard County town's annual festival is just getting started.

This year, the Greater Highland Crossroads Association has taken over organizing Highland Days, and the three-year old citizens group is determined to make tomorrow's event bigger and better.

Previously, "it was kind of informal," said Dan O'Leary, president of the association. "It has been different each year. You never could tell what you were going to get."

This year, a main stage will provide a focal point for the event, featuring live music and entertainment.

There will be a beer garden, food and drinks, animal demonstrations, historic guides in period dress and visits from county and state officials.

"We wanted to expand it to the point where we exposed the people in the community ... to anyone who was interested in providing goods and services to the community," O'Leary said.

About 50 businesses and community groups will have exhibits at the event this year, he said, adding, "It will give a lot of people a chance to meet each other too."

The Greater Highland Crossroads Association started in 2002 when residents got together to oppose a 12,000-square- foot funeral home being planned at Routes 108 and 216.

The project was defeated, and since then the association - which has grown to about 100 families - has worked closely with developers and business owners to shape projects at the crossroads.

The group has also created guidelines for future projects, erected signs at the Highland borders and researched the history of the area to create a video about the town.

This year, "we just kind of looked at Highland Days and thought this would be a good place for the organization to direct its energy," said Charlotte Williams, an association board member who is a professional event planner.

"The vision has grown for what this [event] can be," she said.

That has meant a bigger budget - supported in part by a significant donation from Realtor Terri Westerlund, donations of good and services from local businesses and fees from exhibitors - and more publicity, including 4,000 fliers sent to homes in Highland, Fulton and parts of Clarksville and Dayton.

Brad Fincher, owner of Hunter Crest Farm in Fulton, has been impressed with the changes.

Fincher plans to bring his horses to the event and have some of his riding students demonstrate their skills.

"Every year it comes and goes before I know about it," he said. "This year it's just incredible what they're doing. ... It'll be really nice to meet some new people in this area."

Introductions

Organizers hope to introduce people to their town and their neighbors.

They have planned a scavenger hunt that will take participants into local stores and landmarks to learn about the past and present of the crossroads.

To enter a drawing for a gift certificate for Eggspeactation restaurant, people will have to explore the Highland Bank building, thought to be the second bank in Howard County; the Grange Hall, which was an important meeting place in previous centuries; and the post office, among other locations.

"I think there is so much new that is coming up all around us that it is important not to lose track of what was here originally and where we all sort of came from," Williams said. "Even if we're new to the area, we should have a sense of what came before us."

Atmosphere

She said Highland Days also will help solidify the community atmosphere that the association wants to foster.

"It is so nice to be able to go to the crossroads ... and know the people who work in the stores and encounter your neighbors and your friends," she said. "It's a wonderful feeling."

sandy.alexander@baltsun.com

Highland Days

Highland Days highlights merchants in the Highland area and offers entertainment, demonstrations, food and family activities at the Highland crossroads.

When

Tomorrow, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where

At Routes 108 and 216

Entertainment

Groups scheduled to appear include the Maryland Accordion Club, the Kangaroo Kids precision jump rope team, the Briggs Chaney Dance Center, rock guitarist Gene Gregory, the Young Artists Theatre and others. A scavenger hunt, horse and dog demonstrations and living history activities also are planned.

Parking

Free parking is available on-site. Shuttle buses will be available from satellite parking if necessary.

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