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News Maryland Carroll County Westminster

Slow to warm up to Carroll Farm Museum open in winter

This year marks the first time since its opening in 1966 that the Carroll County Farm Museum has kept its doors open in the dead of winter.

In the past, the museum closed for the season with the end of its Christmas open house and remained shut down for January, February and March.

Its traditional reopening in April would be with a calendar full of events, including steam show days, the Maryland Wine Festival and living history camps for youth.

Now, staff has to start planning winter activities, too.

On Nov. 1, 2013, the Carroll County Office of Tourism took over the Farm Museum, after a decision by the Board of Carroll County Commissioners in August 2013.

The museum, which was previously under the auspices of Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks, is now open every day except for four holidays — Christmas, New Year's Day, Easter and Thanksgiving.

"We had a couple people tell us they took their family out there on such and such a day and it was closed," said Bonnie Staub, manager of Carroll County's office of tourism.

"The Visitor's Center is open every day except for Christmas, Easter, New Year's and Thanksgiving," Staub said. "We decided to do the same thing for the Farm Museum."

"That's the way it should be," said Bob Jones, an area resident who chaired the Hoff Log Barn Project at the museum. "It [the Farm Museum] is a very important spot for tourism. We're an excellent place for bus tours that come to Baltimore and ... go on to Gettysburg."

The administrative building has always been open throughout the winter, Staub said, so staff is already in place. The office building, along with the Farm House, where someone actually lives, all are heated, so there are no additional costs, she added.

Activities are limited, however.

"We're still in a transitional state," said Bonnie Hood, events coordinator for the museum. "Trying to get volunteers in the winter is a little bit challenging."

A small staff, including Hood and Dottie Freeman, manager of the museum, work year-round.

But volunteers help run the facility and its many programs during its peak season. Currently, only the farm house, Hoff barn and gift shop are open during the winter, so admission is free for the months of January, February and March.

"[People] are not getting the full impact of the Farm Museum," Freeman said of the limited number of sites to visit. "Safety first."

This winter's snow has kept staff busy shoveling paths and parking lots. Sliding barn doors can't open due to ice and snow. The nature trail has been closed after an ice storm brought down numerous branches.

"We're fighting the snow. It's been a battle," laughed Freeman. "It's been slow. I think the snow has had a big effect on people."

"I'm not sure, but I don't think it has had a lot of traffic," admitted Staub, of attendance at the museum. "It has been a bad winter to try it."

Still, there have been some visitors, according to Hood.

"We've had people come in, especially if schools are out and it clears up," Hood said.

There have been several ideas for future winter activities, according to Staub, including ice skating on the pond, a snowman competition and various classes, such as jewelry making.

"That's something that could have happened a long time ago, ice skating on the pond," Freeman said, adding the pond on the Farm House property is currently fenced off.

Freeman said cross-country skiing has also been discussed.

"There are all kinds of ideas floating around," Freeman said. "We'll see what happens."

Already, there is a group planning a visit from Carroll Lutheran Village on March 19.

During their visit, the group will see a presentation of a check for $2,500 at the museum.

The money comes after the Hoff Log Barn was nominated by Herbert Pletcher, a volunteer guide at the museum, for consideration by America's Farmers Grow Communities, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund.

"We are going to use it for educational programs geared toward the colonial period," Jones said, of the Monsanto "Grow Communities" grant. "Colonial history for third, fourth and fifth grades. We tried to tie it the time when the barn was built."

It is hoped that there will be spring-like weather for the presentation so everything can be open, Freeman said.

"Maybe there will be some interest in volunteering at the Farm Museum," Freeman said.

"I'm not a cold-weather person," she said "It's beautiful, but that's all I can say about it."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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