Townhomes rise on a hillside in the town of Thurmont, at the base… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
In the little town of Thurmont (population not quite 6,200), the recession has taken a heavy toll on Main Street, but things are picking up as residents prepare for next month's G8 Summit at nearby Camp David.
The Cozy Country Inn has been busy booking reservations, and Rocky's New York Pizza is scheduling extra employee shifts to prep more dough and sauce. The county sheriff's department is preparing contingency plans for large-scale protests and telling deputies to expect hours of overtime.
Even protest groups are getting ready, communicating with others about balky cellphone reception and related issues that might affect demonstrations against the Group of 8, a gathering of leaders from Germany, Japan and other world economic powers.
"They've never had anything of this magnitude at Camp David," said Blaine Young, president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners.
When the summit convenes May 18 and 19 at the presidential retreat, nestled in Catoctin Mountain Park beyond the mottled springtime canopy of hills just outside Thurmont, it will bring a handful of the world's most powerful men and women to the area. Falling in line behind them will be their many aides, dozens of members of the press and, some believe, a crowd of protesters.
Young expects the event to have a positive impact for the area — whether the protesters come to town or not. "There will be other people who will need rooms to rent and who will eat dinner," he said.
Other residents are more wary. They're not sure whether the event will be a boost to the local economy, a burden on their small-town resources or a stage for heated protests.
"Everybody seems to be kind of up in the air about what's going to happen," said Virginia LaRoche, owner of the Timeless Trends Boutique, which sells antiques and home decorations. "We're just a small town. It's not like being on the world stage."
Thurmont residents have seen some big names and a few protesters pass through town before, during events at Camp David. But the G8 summit is different.
The summit is thought to be one of the largest events — if not the largest — ever on the secured presidential compound. The G8 is made up of heads of government from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
Young expects traffic congestion along Route 15 from Frederick to Thurmont, as motorcades make their way to Camp David.
John Kinnaird, a town commissioner and former chair of Thurmont's economic development committee, said businesses are hoping for a "shot in the arm" — whoever provides it.
"We realize there are going to be some protesters, and we welcome protesters," he said. "If they want to come up to Thurmont peaceably, that's fine with us."
Skip Misner, owner of the Thurmont Bar & Grill Restaurant, said he would prefer if protesters didn't come, but would love a boost in business. "That would be nice, because I'll tell you, things have been slow for everybody," he said.
By last week, journalists had already booked almost every room at the Cozy Country Inn — which has a small Camp David Museum with photos and other memorabilia — an employee said. The Super 8 has been booked for the summit ever since the White House announced last month that the event would be based at Camp David, said Rich Coover, the hotel's night manager.
Coover said he's heard rooms are also booked as far south as Frederick and as far north as Gettysburg.
'Plan for the worst'
The G8 Summit has a history of spawning protests. Demonstrations in Genoa in 2001 left one protester shot dead and many others wounded from what they claimed was police brutality.
The promise of protests in Chicago, where this year's summit was originally scheduled, has been credited by some protesters as being a key reason why the White House relocated the event to Camp David. But officials deny that sparked the change.
Now, because Camp David is so inaccessible, many in Thurmont and Frederick expect to bear the brunt of protests.
And they might be right.
In a series of posts on social media, protesters, including members of the Occupy movement, have expressed interest in coming to Frederick County.
Tom Dodge, a member of the Occupy Frederick movement, said he has been in talks with protesters in Chicago, New York, Cincinnati and other cities. He has noted the rural land near Camp David, and told them about the poor cellphone reception and lack of reliable Internet service.
"People from Chicago didn't quite understand that," Dodge said.
Authorities — from theU.S. Secret Serviceto the Thurmont police — are preparing for the possibility of protests.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources said it will close nearby Cunningham Falls State Park and its two campgrounds during the event, citing "security concerns" expressed by the Secret Service.