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21 things to do in ’21: A post-pandemic guide to a fun summer and fall in Carroll County

An ice cream cone is prepared at JJ Hoffman's Creamery in Hampstead on Friday, July 5.
An ice cream cone is prepared at JJ Hoffman's Creamery in Hampstead on Friday, July 5. (Brian Krista / Carroll County Times)

We made it through the coronavirus pandemic, going for long stretches without being able to do the things we’d previously become accustomed to doing. In many cases, we were isolated, quarantined and able to see others only through Plexiglas. During that time, many of us formulated a checklist of what we wanted to do, post-pandemic, once it was safe to venture out — or go all in — in a post-pandemic world.

Here’s a list of 21 things to do in summer and fall 2021 (or anytime) in Carroll County. Some are free, some will set you a back a few bucks and some will cost a pretty penny. But, hey, that’s what those stimulus checks were for, right?

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Charlotte, 11, and Brenna Chamelin, 10, hold Hazel and May, the Nigerian dwarf goats they will show in the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair Thursday, July 15, 2021.
Charlotte, 11, and Brenna Chamelin, 10, hold Hazel and May, the Nigerian dwarf goats they will show in the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair Thursday, July 15, 2021. (Dylan Slagle)

Don’t-miss events

Watch fireworks. After one year off because of the pandemic, Fourth of July fireworks are scheduled to return to the Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St., Westminster. It’s the continuation of a tradition that goes back generations, dating at least to the 1970s at the Farm Museum, and typically draws some 5,000 people to the grounds to experience the oohs and ahs associated with the patriotic display. Gates are scheduled to open at 6 p.m. with the booms beginning just after dark, around 9:30 p.m. There’s a $5 charge per car. Park Avenue will be providing live entertainment. Organizers remind attendees: no pets, fireworks, sparklers, alcohol, grills, glass containers, or tents. Call 800-654-4645 or email ccfarm@carrollcountymd.gov for more information. ‎

Enjoy the fair. The Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair went on last summer as it has for more than a century, but attendance was limited and the big events known for drawing many thousands to Carroll County were canceled due to COVID-19. This year, the fair should return in all its glory, July 31 through Aug. 6, at the Carroll County Agriculture Center, 700 Agriculture Center Drive, Westminster. A showcase of Carroll County 4-H and FFA members exhibiting project areas ranging from livestock, crafts and gardening to technology and fine arts, the event began in 1897 and has been held at the Ag Center since 1954. This year’s entertainment schedule includes country star Mark Chesnutt as well as a tractor pull, vintage farm stock racing, dirt drags, local bands and a car demolition derby. For more information, go to http://carrollcountyfair.com.

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Up, up and away. The first Carroll County Balloon Festival is scheduled for 1-9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 28, and 1-7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 29, at the Carroll County Agriculture Center, 706 Agriculture Center Drive in Westminster. The event is presented by Friendship Hot Air Balloon Co. According to www.carrollcountyballoonfestival.com, Carroll’s inaugural balloon event, which had been scheduled for 2020 before the pandemic forced its cancellation, promises three mass ascension flights of up to 15 hot air balloons, special shape balloons, passenger balloon flights (book in advance), tethered balloon rides, a walkabout balloon, balloon training demonstration and a kids zone. Shiftwork Entertainment Band is scheduled to perform on Saturday and the Fabulous Hubcaps Band on Sunday. Some 15 food vendors and 60 craft vendors are scheduled to be on hand.

Attend the wine festival. The Maryland Wine Festival, after a year’s hiatus because of the pandemic, is scheduled to return to the Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St. in Westminster, in its usual spot on the calendar, the third weekend in September. The festival, being held for the 37th time, is set for Sept. 18 and 19, likely from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are discounted for those under 21 and for designated drivers. More than 10,000 wine enthusiasts typically turn out for the festival. It is a showcase for Maryland wineries and 20 or so set up tents on the farm museum grounds so that festivalgoers are able to sample a few hundred wines from one end of the state to the other. Those who enjoy the wines they sample are able to purchase bottles to drink throughout the day or to take home. Additionally, the event ordinarily features a cheese pavilion, a number of food vendors, juried crafts and live musical entertainment.

(Left front to back) Maddie Festa, Jill Kennedy, and Ryan Hayes all from DC area. (Right front to back) Kristin Bergmeister, Joseph "Earl" Bergmeister, and Rob Bablak, from Sylesville, toast to friendship. Old Westminster Winery features live music for Fourth of July Weekend, with COVID restrictions in place, limiting groups to six or less, including children, practice social distancing (tables & furniture are spaced accordingly.)
(Left front to back) Maddie Festa, Jill Kennedy, and Ryan Hayes all from DC area. (Right front to back) Kristin Bergmeister, Joseph "Earl" Bergmeister, and Rob Bablak, from Sylesville, toast to friendship. Old Westminster Winery features live music for Fourth of July Weekend, with COVID restrictions in place, limiting groups to six or less, including children, practice social distancing (tables & furniture are spaced accordingly.) (Jeffrey F. Bill/Carroll County Times)

Food and drink

Eat comfort food. Carroll County has several iconic restaurants famous for family-style fare. Baugher’s restaurant, 289 W. Main St. in Westminster, was opened in 1948 and serves “country-style breakfast, lunch and dinners served daily.” The Buttersburg Inn, 9 N. Main St. in Union Bridge, offers menu items including fried chicken, pies, crab cakes, turkey, roast beef, fried rabbit, hog maw, homemade salads and homemade desserts. Bullocks Restaurant, 2020 Sykesville Road in Westminster, has its own butcher shop on the premises and is a buffet-style setting with an all-you-can-eat salad bar with homemade soups and menu that includes fried shrimp and baked ham. Dutch Corner, 3154 Main St. in Manchester, has been serving homestyle food to the northern part of Carroll County since 1954. It serves breakfast and lunch with items such as malted waffles and multiple types of eggs benedict as well as sandwiches, soups, burgers and milkshakes. A slightly more upscale, recent entrant to this category is Sykesville Station, 7618 W. Main St., whose slogan is “Bringing a Little bit Nashville to Sykesville,” that serves “southern-inspired food.”

Splurge for dinner. The Smokehouse Restaurant at Antrim 1844, an upscale dining establishment inside a Taneytown hotel that predates the Civil War, has earned some prestigious honors for its cuisine. In 2020, the Smokehouse Restaurant, 30 Trevanion Road in Taneytown, was named Best Historic Restaurant from Historic Hotels of America, an official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and also received the honor of Best Hotel Restaurant in USA Today’s 10Best Readers Choice 2020 contest. The Smokehouse Restaurant at Antrim 1844 specializes in a six-course French-American style dining experience with a wine cellar that features more than 17,000 bottles from all over the world. And if dining tires you out, the staff can probably give you information about a very nice place to spend the night. For more information, visit https://www.antrim1844.com or call 410-756-6812.

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Have a brew. Over the past few years, Carroll County has become known for its craft brew pubs as pretty much every corner of the county has its own. At least six spots now offer their own brews with a place to sit and enjoy it, often with food made on the premises or brought in via food truck. Among them: 1623 Brewing Company, 5975 Exchange Drive, Suite H-L in Eldersburg, https://www.1623brewing.com; Brewery Fire, 4337 Old Taneytown Road, Suite B in Taneytown, http://www.breweryfire.com; Flood Zone Marketplace & Brewery, 50 N Main St, in Union Bridge, https://www.floodzonebrewery.com; Pipe The Side Brewing Company, 721 Hanover Pike, Suite 147 in Hampstead, https://pipethesidebrewingcompany.com; Pub Dog Brewing Company, 1203 New Windsor Road in Westminster, https://pubdog.com/pub-dog-brewing; Ruhlman Brewery, 2300 Harvey Gummel Road in Hampstead, http://www.ourales.com.

Wine and spirits. Unthinkable not so long ago, Carroll County now has some vineyards that are distinguishing themselves and, newer still, distilleries. Serpent Ridge Vineyard, 2962 Nicodemus Road in Westminster, offers award-winning wines and boutique tasting room overlooking their vineyard and says it specializes in small lots of handmade wine from local grapes. Old Westminster Winery, 1550 Old Westminster Road in Westminster, also with award-winning wines, takes reservations for its tasting room and offers outdoor farm spaces to relax with a glass (or flight) of wine and some snacks like pizza. Patapsco Distilling Company, 7609 Main Street in Sykesville, offers award-winning craft Blue Fin Vodka and JP Gin and says it will soon also produce rye whiskey, limoncello and nocino from Maryland grown grains. MISCellaneous Distillery, 114 S. Main Street in Mount Airy, boasts award-winning, locally produced spirits with names like Risky Rum, Vivacious Vodka and Gregarious Gin.

Jesco Shively, 3, lines up his throw while playing the goldfish toss game with his mother Chelsea DeGroft, left, sister Laney, 6 months, and grandmother Christine Redding, right, on the opening night of the Harney fire company carnival Thursday, June 24, 2021. The carnival runs nightly through Saturday, with the dining hall opening at 4 p.m. and the carnival grounds at 5.
Jesco Shively, 3, lines up his throw while playing the goldfish toss game with his mother Chelsea DeGroft, left, sister Laney, 6 months, and grandmother Christine Redding, right, on the opening night of the Harney fire company carnival Thursday, June 24, 2021. The carnival runs nightly through Saturday, with the dining hall opening at 4 p.m. and the carnival grounds at 5. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Carroll traditions

Carnivals. Fire company carnivals are synonymous with summer in Carroll County. The food, the rides, the games, the camaraderie. For the second summer in a row, however, COVID-19 has seriously disrupted the schedule. One year after all 11 traditional fire company fundraising carnivals were canceled, seven had to be canceled again. Sykesville was scheduled to hold its carnival, as per usual, in June. The Hampstead Volunteer Fire Company carnival is set for Aug. 15-21, pretty much its typical time frame, although it will be held on the campus of the old North Carroll High School this year because of construction at the fire hall. Generally, Hampstead is the final carnival of the season but not this year, when one, if not two, carnivals will follow it. The Gamber & Community Fire Company will have its carnival around Labor Day, from Sept. 3-11, rather than around Memorial Day. The Reese & Community Volunteer Fire Carnival couldn’t be held at its usual July time, but officials were hoping to schedule something for September.

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Farmers markets. Fresh food and produce from Carroll County farms is showcased on a regular basis. The Carroll County Farmers Market takes place on Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Sept. 4 at Carroll County Ag Center. The Carroll Hospital Farmers Market takes place Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through Oct. 7 in the hospital parking garage. The Downtown Westminster Farmers Market takes place Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon, through Nov. 20 at Conway Parking Lot, Railroad Avenue. The Hampstead Farmers Market takes place Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to noon through Sept. 25, at the old North Carroll High School. The Mount Airy Main Street Farmers Market takes place Wednesdays, 3-7 p.m. through Sept. 29 at 3 North Main Street. The Sykesville Farmers Market takes place Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., through Oct. 24 through downtown Sykesville. The Taneytown Farmers Market takes place Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Thunderhead Bowl & Grill parking lot. Visit https://carrollgrown.org.

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Get an ice cream. Carroll is well known for its ice cream shops. Some of these have been around for many, many years while others are of more recent vintage. Hoffman’s Home Made Ice Cream, 934 Washington Road in Westminster, opened in June of 1947. It may be Carroll’s most well-known ice cream provider, but it isn’t the oldest. Simmons Home Made Ice Cream Store, 2841 Snydersburg Road, Hampstead, is still using the same ice cream recipe it used when it opened in 1922. Among other notable ice cream shops in Carroll are: Firehouse Creamery, 7610 W Main St., Sykesville; Jimmie Cone, 1312 S Main St., Mount Airy; JJ Hoffman’s Creamery, 841 S Main St G, Hampstead; Norwood Ice Cream and Candy Co., 7556 Main St, Sykesville; Old School Ice Cream, 4211 Ridge Road, Westminster and Twin Kiss, with locations in Sykesville and Westminster.

Pick your own. Get food from farm to table with your own hands by heading out to Baugher’s Orchard to pick your own produce. Typically, the pick your own orchard is open (weather permitting) Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in July and August and then Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in September and October. Wagon rides are available to get customers out to the fields and field helpers are on site to show the uninitiated how and where to pick. Typically, strawberries are in season May and June, cherries and sweet garden peas in June peaches, nectarines and plums in July and August, apples August through October and pumpkins and other fall items in October. Hot food and baked goods are available for purchase and there’s a petting zoo as well. For up-to-date information, call the pick-your-own hotline at 410-857-0111 or visit https://baughers.com.

DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO Gary Kross and his sister Joan Chandon eat corn on the cobb at the Old Fashioned Corn Roast Festival at the Union Mills Homestead Saturday.
DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO Gary Kross and his sister Joan Chandon eat corn on the cobb at the Old Fashioned Corn Roast Festival at the Union Mills Homestead Saturday. (DAVE MUNCH / Carroll County Times)

Carroll history

Farm Museum. The Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St., Westminster, provides the public with a chance to experience mid-19th century rural life. The Farm Museum to the public on August 13, 1966. The museum grounds include original farm structures, such as the Farmhouse and a bank barn, built in 1852-53. Other buildings include a 1700s Log Barn, Smokehouse, Broom Shop, Saddlery, Springhouse, Living History Center, Wagon Shed, General Store exhibit, Firehouse, and a One-room Schoolhouse, according to carrollcountytourism.org. Period artifacts and antiques complete the rural experience for visitors. A guided tour through the seven decorated rooms in the Farmhouse is provided. The Large Hall Showcase and Bowfront China Closet in the Farmhouse feature special displays and collections which rotate bi-monthly. The Farm Museum also hosts events, such as the annual fireworks display and the Maryland Wine Festival.

Historical Society. The Historical Society of Carroll County, 210 E Main St. in Westminster, was founded in 1939 to save the Sherman-Fisher-Shellman House (1807) from demolition, according to hsccmd.org. Over the years, HSCC also acquired the Kimmey House (c. 1800) and Cockey’s (c. 1820). All three historic houses create the backdrop for HSCC’s public charge — to tell Carroll County’s stories and place them within the larger context of the American experience. The Historical Society has collected and continues to collect the tangible remembrances of Carroll County history dating from the settlement period to the present. The collections also document county businesses and institutions. Currently, according to its website, the HSCC collection numbers more than 35,000 items, including 22,000 archival documents, 5,000 photographs, and 9,000 three-dimensional objects.

Union Mills Homestead. The Union Mills Homestead has been the Shriver family homestead for six generations, according to https://unionmills.org, and is a historic landmark. Located at 3311 Littlestown Pike, north of, Westminster, it’s a museum of American rural culture features original artifacts — everything is much the same as when the Shriver family lived there. Tours of the main house, blacksmith shop and functioning grist mill offer a step into the past. Its cultural and Civil War history make Union Mills Homestead a popular destination for school groups and history buffs. The beautiful gardens and rustic meeting barn provide a scenic venue for weddings and gatherings. Additionally, the homestead hosts events like a Civil War Encampment (July 17-18), the Corn Roast Festival (Aug. 7), the Maryland Microbrewery Festival (Sept. 25) and the Mason-Dixon Jeep Gathering (Oct. 17).

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Other museums. In addition to the Historical Society, the Farm Museum and Union Mills Homestead, Carroll boasts several other museums worth checking out. Among them is the Mount Airy Museum, 2 North Main Street in Mount Airy, run by the Mount Airy Historical Society featuring an expanded train layout, historical displays and an interactive education display as well as the town’s Hall of Fame. Other museums include the Gate House Museum, 7283 Cooper Drive in Sykesville; the New Windsor Museum, 207 Main St. in New Windsor; the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Historical Society, 5745 Bartholow Road in Sykesville; the Western Maryland Railway Historical Society, 41 N Main St. in Union Bridge; and the Taneytown History Museum, 340 East Baltimore St. in Taneytown, which will be featuring the 2021 exhibit “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Robert Squires, 13, of Westminster, admires the second fish he caught at the annual Henry Fishing Rodeo at Westminster Community Pond. April 25, 2021
Robert Squires, 13, of Westminster, admires the second fish he caught at the annual Henry Fishing Rodeo at Westminster Community Pond. April 25, 2021 (Amy Davis/staff)

Outdoor activities

Go swimming. The lake itself might be gone, but, under the same new ownership that took over Four Seasons and Sportsman’s Hall, Coppermine Cascade Lake offers a pool with a large slide, not to mention a splashpad, pavilions and an arcade at 2844 Snydersburg Road in Hampstead. Other public and private pools in Carroll County include Westminster Municipal Pool (325 Royer Road in Westminster), South Carroll Swim Club (1300 W Old Liberty Road in Winfield), Coppermine Four Seasons (2710 Hampstead Mexico Road in Hampstead), Manchester-Lineboro Lions Club (3347 Victory St. in Manchester), the Westminster Riding Club (366 N. Colonial Ave. in Westminster), Ridge Swim Club (309 Beck Drive in Mount Airy), Nottingham Swim Club (1104 Kingsbridge Terrace in Mount Airy) and Freedom Swim Club (1330 Johnsville Road, Eldersburg).

Fishing, etc. Piney Run Reservoir, 30 Martz Road in Sykesville, is a 300-acre lake owned by the Carroll County Department of Parks and Recreation that offers up multiple boat ramps and canoe and kayak rentals. Fishers have the opportunity to catch a variety of species from largemouth bass, sunfish, bluegill, yellow perch, channel catfish and black crappie. Lions Club Park swimming hole, at the corner of Old Hanover Road and Littlestown Pike in Union Mills, is a traditional swimming option for those who want a natural experience in fresh, running water or to have a picnic lunch in the pavilion. Hashawha Lake, 300 John Owings Road in Westminster, combines fishing opportunities with bird and wildlife watching with a restored wetland area at the beginning of the Stream Trail at Hashawha Environmental Center. Community Pond, 30 College View Blvd. in Westminster, also offers fishing or a chance to simply feed the ducks and geese that call the pond home.

Play golf. One activity that not only wasn’t canceled but gained in popularity in 2020 is golf. Carroll has the following 18-hole courses, all open to the public: The Links at Challedon, 6166 Challedon Circle in Mount Airy; Oakmont Green Golf Course, 2290 Golfview Lane in Hampstead; River Downs Golf Club, 1900 River Downs Drive in Finksburg; and Westminster National Golf Course, 2158 Littlestown Pike in Westminster. There is also one public nine-hole course: McDaniel College Golf Club, 207 Pennsylvania Ave. in Westminster. And there is a private 18-hole club straddling Carroll and Baltimore counties in Piney Branch Golf Club, 5301 Trenton Mill Road in Hampstead. And if you are just looking to hit balls on the driving range — or have a drink, listen to some live music or play mini-golf — there’s always Island Green Family Fun Center, 1199 Pleasant Valley Road South, Westminster.

Take a hike. There are numerous walking trails in Carroll. Westminster Community Pond, 30 College View Blvd. in Westminster; offers a paved trail in form of a figure eight. Leister Park, 4134 Black Rock Road in Hampstead, offers a 1.56 mile paved trail that can be picked up from the park’s parking lot or from Black Rock Road. Sandymount Park, 2250 Old Westminster Pike in Finksburg, has a 1-mile paved walking path that extends around the park’s three fields. Hashawha Environmental Center/Bear Branch Nature Center, 300 John Owings Road in Westminster, features three trails of various lengths and difficulty. Freedom Park, 1111 Raincliffe Road in Eldersburg; offers a big loop and a smaller loop. Other trails are located at Cape Horn Park in Hampstead, Deer Park in Westminster, Krimgold Park in Woodbine, Morgan Run Natural Environment Area in Westminster and Wakefield Valley Park in Westminster.

Boats sit docked at Traders Landing on Deep Creek Lake at dusk.
Boats sit docked at Traders Landing on Deep Creek Lake at dusk. (AMY DAVIS / Baltimore Sun/Baltimore Sun)

Day trips

Get outta here. Hey, you spent a year or more cooped up in your home, largely unable to travel. So while there are numerous fun and interesting to do in Carroll County, you’re also conveniently located near all manner of exciting spots for day trips. Baltimore is less than an hour from most of Carroll and Washington is just a little more than an hour and both feature professional sports teams, museums, entertainment options and more. Ready for a longer day? Head west to Deep Creek Lake or east to Ocean City. But maybe our favorite day trip is the closest to home: Gettysburg National Military Park. The Battle of Gettysburg was not only the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, many believe it was the turning point. The park, a short drive up Route 97, offers tours, sight-seeing, museum experiences and picnic areas. Visit nps.gov/gett/index.htm to learn more.

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