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From art in the windows to lambs on the farm, Carroll County neighbors get creative to bond while social distancing

How do you continue to be social while distancing? How do you come together while staying apart?

Individuals around Carroll County have been reaching out and making connections even while confined to their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic. And they have gotten creative in doing so — from a neighborhood art gallery walk and Easter egg hunt, to an online scavenger hunt, to online visits to a local farm. All aim to enable people and communities to stay connected and enjoy themselves in the process.

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Art in the neighborhood

Easter was different this year. And this was especially true for children.

Due to the pandemic there were no large gatherings for Easter egg hunts, and no visiting the Easter bunny at the mall, as children were confined to their homes. And yet there were those, like Annie Wagner of Hampstead, who were determined to find a way to still celebrate and enjoy the holiday with others.

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Wagner, a substitute elementary school teacher, organized a neighborhood art gallery walk and Easter egg hunt during Easter weekend.

“I have a love of art, and I have a love of kids,” said Wagner, who reached out to her neighbors in the Roberts Field area by way of social media to coordinate the event.

The idea behind the gallery walk was for those in the neighborhood to create art and then display it in their windows for others to enjoy during their walks around the neighborhood. The Easter egg hunt involved spotting the homemade and brightly decorated paper Easter eggs in windows during the walk.

“I realized that people were walking the neighborhood more often,” said Wagner, who coordinated a similar neighborhood gallery walk in late March. “And I wanted people to have more to look at.”

All while engaging budding young artists from the neighborhood.

“They were making their art for a purpose,” Wagner said of those participating. “They knew that neighbors were going to walk around and see their creations. It gave it a little bit more meaning.”

Sari Overby and her nearly-2-year-old daughter, Liliana, have been active participants.

“She loves to finger paint,” Sari said of Liliana. “We’ve been doing a lot of art. It is a way to keep her occupied.”

Sari is currently working from home as a result of the pandemic while looking after her young daughter. Her husband has lung cancer and often cannot help with the little girl. Given that her husband is undergoing chemotherapy, his immune system would be comprised in the best of situations — never mind during a pandemic.

“We really have to stay away from people, even more so than most,” Sari said. “This was a way for us to participate. Just having something exciting to look forward to that other people are also excited about makes me very happy.”

Sari and Liliana not only made art to display, but also took a walk to admire the artwork of others. “She really enjoyed it,” Sari said of Liliana.

On their stroll, they were greeted with Easter eggs and even blue and purple bunnies, as well as a large homemade poster that shouted from a window, “Hello! Happy Spring!”

“I love that it gave us a purpose to reconnect with the people that are right here surrounding us,” Wagner said.

On the hunt

Members of the Taneytown Neighborhood group Facebook have been given daily challenges — should they decide to accept them.

As part of an online scavenger hunt, group members are assigned various tasks. Some are more physical, such as finding 10 different things smaller than a penny, and then posting pictures of the finds. Others are more mental, asking participants to recall a favorite childhood memory.

“I’m just trying to give everyone an opportunity to do something fun for themselves,” said Taneytown resident Judith Fuller, who created the online scavenger hunt.

It is a simple gesture but, for some, a meaningful one.

For example, the post asking for a favorite childhood memory was flooded with responses as those participating took a moment to remember and share with others the happy days of their childhoods. The responses ranged from posts about baseball cards clipped to bike spokes, to jumping rope and playing hopscotch, jacks, and hide and seek, to favorite cartoons (“Flintstones”) and candy (jawbreakers) and even a favorite pony. One person posted a photo of a box of old toys and books, noting that they were hers “from many years ago.” Other posts had no words but just images of, say, a Barbie doll or a “Space Invaders” video game.

“Part of the fun is in the effort, I think,” Fuller said.

And that effort can lead to some surprising detours. One of the challenges Fuller posted was to find a favorite Christmas decoration, post a picture of it and explain why it was special.

“I had someone contact me and say, ‘You know, I was looking for my Christmas decorations, and I came across a whole bunch of pictures that I hadn’t seen in forever,’ ” Fuller said. “It took me hours to get out of the closet because I was sitting there looking at these pictures.’ That’s kind of the point. I want people to get off track if it means something like that.”

Especially when many do have time on their hands as so much in society comes to a temporary halt in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“I hope this is a way to keep them joyfully distracted,” Fuller said. “I want to give them an opportunity to sit down and think about something other than life and stress.”

She added, “It’s just something positive. We need that right now.”

Through social media posts, Amy Rigler of Wait-A-While Acres in Taneytown has introduced people to Ferdinand, the only black sheep born this spring.
Through social media posts, Amy Rigler of Wait-A-While Acres in Taneytown has introduced people to Ferdinand, the only black sheep born this spring. (Amy Rigler/Courtesy photo)

A visit to the farm

For Amy Rigler, there is nothing better than farm life. And during these worrisome days of the pandemic, she has found solace in it.

“Being outside and with the animals makes me feel a lot better,” she said. “It gives me a break from all this COVID-19 stuff.”

And she has been sharing that respite with others — even if at a distance.

Wait-A-While Acres, a farm in Taneytown, has sheep and, now that spring has sprung, lambs. Rigler, who lives on the farm with her parents Carroll and Sherrie Hahn, delights in posting photos and videos of the sheep — including just-born (five minutes old) lambs — to the Taneytown Neighborhood Facebook group.

“It doesn’t always have to be gloom and doom,” Rigler said. “Life goes on.”

And, “Everybody loves babies,” Carroll said of the allure of the lambs.

Through social media posts, Amy Rigler of Wait-A-While Acres in Taneytown has introduced people to Big Daddy George, the father of all the lambs.
Through social media posts, Amy Rigler of Wait-A-While Acres in Taneytown has introduced people to Big Daddy George, the father of all the lambs. (Amy Rigler/Courtesy photo)

The farm currently has 13 mothers, a ram, 24 babies and one mother yet to deliver. And those following Rigler’s posts have been introduced to Big Daddy George, the father of all the lambs, and little Ferdinand, the only black sheep born this spring.

The response has been enthusiastic, with comments such as “Love this!” and “This makes my heart happy,” and “Thank you for doing something so positive and uplifting.” In fact, views of the videos and reactions to the posts can climb into the hundreds.

“I’ve even had someone contact me and say, ‘Now my grandson wants a lamb,’ ” Rigler said, chuckling.

Rigler, a former preschool teacher, also hopes at some point to arrange what she calls a social distancing field trip.

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“I will give our address so people can drive by to see the babies,” she said. “I hope to have a few child-friendly handouts available in our newspaper slot of the mailbox to add to homeschool lessons.”

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Those participating with binoculars in hand, far away from the farm and one another, can, for example, look for George and Ferdinand and even count how many sheep they see. The handout will also include fun facts about sheep, among other activities. “Just enough information for them to want to go home and learn more,” Rigler said.

Rigler hopes the Facebook posts and the possible social distancing field trip will help create interest in farm life, especially in children.

After all, she said, “Farm life is a great way of life.”

Even from a distance.

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