Several Anne Arundel county programs are offering events which… (Handout photo, Baltimore…)
On March 25, 1634, a group of weary travelers who had departed England the previous November aboard two small, crowded and surely unpleasant-smelling boats, The Ark and The Dove, emerged from those vessels in what is now St. Mary's County. They rowed to an island they named St. Clement's, erected a cross, prayed and declared Maryland a colony of England.
Two-hundred and sixty-nine years later, in 1903, the state Board of Education set aside March 25 as a day for Maryland schoolchildren to study their state's history. In 1916, Maryland Day became an official state holiday.
This weekend, Maryland Day is being celebrated in Annapolis and elsewhere in Anne Arundel County with events that include walking tours, butter-churning demonstrations and free or $1 admissions to historic attractions, including the William Paca House & Garden and Historic London Town & Gardens.
Carol Benson is executive director of Four Rivers: The Heritage Area of Annapolis, London Town & South County, which is sponsoring the collaborative event, now in its fourth year. The first two years, she said, it was held on a single day, from noon to 5 p.m., but "people found they couldn't get to all the things." It has expanded since then to cover the entire weekend, starting Friday. "This is a chance for everybody to have a special activity right at the beginning of heritage tourism season," she said.
One of several new events this year is a free walking tour exploring the rich African-American history of Annapolis, given by historian Janice Hayes-Williams. It begins at 10 a.m. Saturday on the steps of the Asbury United Methodist Church, 87 West St. in Annapolis, the city's first meeting house for African-Americans.
Also for the first time this year, participants can make their own "Taste of Four Rivers" recipe books. At least 14 venues are providing recipes that have a connection to the area's history and ingredients, such as the Irish potato pie recipe from the Deale Area Historical Society, a historic village and museum.
"It's an old recipe that was used in the area, that uses ingredients found on the farm," said Ruth Hazen, who chairs the historical society's Maryland Day Committee. "People who ate it did not feel like it was a deprivation."
The historical society is participating in Maryland Day for the third year, she said, on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
"It gets a little bigger and better every year," Hazen said. The museum is open to the public May through October, but only on Maryland Day does it bustle with activities.
Docents in Colonial costumes lead activities, including butter-churning and ice cream-making, and participants are invited to sample the results. In the one-room schoolhouse, children can sit at the desks, write on the slates and dip old-fashioned pens into blackberry juice to "learn how it would feel to write a letter back in those days," Hazen said.
A tobacco farmer will talk about his trade, women will demonstrate crocheting and candle-wicking, and an antiques dealer will bring in period furnishings for the day, she said.
On Saturday, the city is hosting a workshop to help people learn more about their own historic properties. Lisa Craig, the city's chief of historic preservation, said historian Jean Russo will guide participants in the use of deeds, photographs and title searches.
"The idea is to kind of put the tools in the hands of property owners," she said. The free event will be 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at City Hall. Coffee and a light breakfast will be served. Reservations are requested, so call 410-263-7961 or email firstname.lastname@example.org,
Though history is the focus, the region's environmental heritage is not ignored. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is also holding several events. It is inviting participants to meet at 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Philip Merrill Environmental Center to help clear the water of English ivy and other invasive species. At 4:30 p.m., a brief talk will be given about the bay and what can be done to improve its health. Attendance is free, but reservations are required. Call 443-482-2034.
The center will also host an open house from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday with a talk at 11 a.m. about the bay's condition.
The arts get attention too, with the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts hosting ArtFest from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. The event includes activities, art demonstrations and an exhibit by the Annapolis Watercolor Club.
"We have a large number of collaborating organizations," Benson said. "It's not just history," she said, but also an opportunity to explore the region's cultural and environmental resources.
If you go
The Four Rivers heritage group is hosting Maryland Day activities Friday through Sunday, with historical, cultural and environmental sites open throughout the weekend for free or $1, and many special events including walking tours, environmental workshops and art exhibits. The activities are throughout Annapolis and southern Anne Arundel County.
For maps and information, visit the Maryland Day website at marylandday.org.
To get to Annapolis from Baltimore, take the Beltway east to 97 south, then take the left exit for US-50 E/US-301 N, toward Annapolis and the Bay Bridge. Take exit 24, Rowe Blvd., toward Bestgate Road, Annapolis.
Many local restaurants, hotels, and bed and breakfasts are offering deals in connection with Maryland Day. For a list, visit the Four Rivers site at marylandday.org.
A good starting point for the day is the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau at 26 West Street, or the City Dock Information Booth. Both will have volunteers on hand to provide information, and will be giving out free History Explorers Guides.
For more information, call Four Rivers at 410-222-1805, or visit online at marylandday.org.