The Carroll County Public Library will hold its second annual Celebrating America Weekend on May 19 and 20.
The weekend will explore American milestones between 1900 and 1919, with an emphasis placed on World War I. The weekend will include historical presentations, tours of the Carroll County historic court and book readings.
The weekend starts Friday, May 19, at noon with a luncheon and book presentation with William Mann, author of "The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family." On that Saturday, the event starts with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m.
The Times caught up with Tony Eckard, who helped organize Celebrating America, to ask him more about the weekend events.
Q: What is Celebrating America? How did the initiative start in Carroll County?
A: Celebrating America is an initiative created by our county commissioners to promote a greater understanding of American history and historically significant people, events and places, particularly those within Carroll County. It's a partnership, a growing community partnership, of organizations who work together finding ways to leverage their resources for the benefit of both county residents and visitors to Carroll.
Q: How does using storytellers help people learn about history?
A: Part of what we hope to accomplish with Celebrating America events and activities is to make history come alive, to make the experience tangible, touchable and personal. The art of storytelling is possibly the best method to make that happen. In a favorite "Andy Griffith Show" episode of mine, when Opie and his young friends are struggling to learn 4th grade history, Andy tells Opie and his friends the story of Paul Revere. The story captures the boys imaginations and their schoolwork improves. Andy said 'there are lots of good stories (to be found) among the pages of their history book.' Stories help inspire us.
Q: Why is it important that people learn about history?
During Celebrating America Weekend, visitors will have the opportunity to meet many people who are passionate about history, but although they share the love of history, consider for a moment how different they can be. Celebrating America Weekend brings together historians, musicians, teachers, curators, students and professors, reenactors, librarians, authors and storytellers. Isn't it exciting when you think about all the different perspectives we can gain by seeing history through someone else's eyes? On Saturday we have storyteller Ellouise Schoettler. From letters sent home during World War I by 64 Marylanders, Ellouise presents the amazing story [of] nurses, all Johns Hopkins trained, who served in France. Ultimately we gain a deeper understanding of current events through an exploration of history; this is what Celebrating America is truly about.
Q: Can you give a brief overview of what the 2nd annual Celebrating America Weekend will be?
A: The weekend kicks off on Friday with an author talk at noon at Grace Hall, Grace Lutheran Church. William J. Mann will discuss his book The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family. On Saturday within a short distance in Westminster from the Historic Courthouse on Willis Street, to old City Hall on Emerald Hill, to John Street Quarters at the Westminster Fire Department, there are many activities. The opening ceremony behind old City Hall at 10 am on Saturday will include a wreath laying at the memorial for Jerome L. Day, the first Carroll Countian killed in action in WWI. The Fort Meade Color Guard will be there, this being the 100th anniversary of Fort Meade. Later David Shuey will present and portray General John Pershing; Lois Roberts will present and portray Juliette Gordon Low, founder of Girls Scouts of America. In the afternoon we will host a Historic Costume Contest. The South Carroll High School vocal group will sing and Donna Nomick will play the hammered dulcimer. On display will be an exhibit of paintings by artist Robert Horvath on loan from the US Air Force, along with National History Day projects by Carroll County Public School students. Community and historical organizations will be here with displays and activities. At the Historic Courthouse on Willis Street, Judge Thomas Stansfield will welcome visitors for free tours inside our beautiful Courthouse from 11 am to 1 pm. Over at the Westminster Fire Department, the fire company's museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. At 1 pm at John Street Quarters (Westminster Fire Dept.) will be the tea with professional storyteller Elouise Schoettler. Please visit www.celebratingamerica.info for more details.
Q: Why pick WWI? What went into setting up the Celebrating America weekend?
A: The theme for Celebrating America Weekend 2017 is American Milestones 1900 -1919, Labor and Leisure. Obviously WWI was an important part of that time period. One hundred years ago on April 6, 1917 the United Stated entered World War I, but beyond the war other themes were of interest to the planning committee, events for example like the founding of the Girl Scouts in America and the history of fire companies in Carroll County.
Q: Why should people come out to the speakers? What should they expect to learn?
A: Our speakers are experts in their fields. On Friday William J. Mann author of The Wars of the Roosevelts will discuss his well-written and exhaustively researched book which offers a compelling look at the family dynamics that exerted influence on some of America's most powerful 20th Century leaders. Celebrating America Weekend is an opportunity to deepen knowledge appreciate our American heritage, and better understand our role locally in the history of this era. All weekend long, visitors can expect to be surprised and inspired not only by our speakers, but also by costumes, paintings, photos, and other artifacts. Expect to learn something new about history and yourself.