History lessons add to festival fun at Riverfest

Under the cover of, thankfully, sunny skies, this year's Riverfest found vendors in good spirits and close to 1,000 visitors to the outdoor celebration in Riverfront Park, according to Maureen Rogers, administrator at festival sponsor Laurel Board of Trade.

"I think everyone enjoyed the weather," Rogers said. Last year's Riverfest was held through a rainy, chilly afternoon that all but canceled the event.

Hayrides and face-painting were popular with the kids, and vendors offered hand-crafted items and activities such as sand art.

Privateer turned Navy commander Joshua Barney, who sailed on the Patuxent River near Laurel, was at the center of this year's Riverfest theme of pirates and the continuing bicentennial commemoration of the War of 1812. Among the vendors was an information table manned by representatives of Maryland Milestones, a program established by the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area group to promote a connection between history, culture and nature in northern Prince George's County.

Two stages offered continuous live music, and a third stage, the Living History Stage, was a platform for Venus Theatre founder Deb Randall to craft some theatrical history lessons, including mad-lib style improvisations that ended with the audience singing the national anthem.

"They had learned that 'the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air' was about the Congreve Rockets [British military weapons] and Joshua Barney's courage in the face of retreat," Randall said. "Everyone stood and sang at the top of their lungs."


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