Howard to commence 9 days of heritage; Festivals, activities will note county's history


The third Howard County Heritage Week kicks off a nine-day cultural buffet of eclectic activities ranging from owl watching, sheep-shearing demonstrations and scarecrow-making to soap-making and a ghost tour of Ellicott Mills.

Beginning Saturday, Heritage Week will offer harvest festivals, exhibits and tours at sites in the county through Oct. 1.

Karen Justice, executive director of the Howard County Tourism Council, says the goal of Heritage Week "is to make it easier for someone to come into our museums and sites to get a better idea of what's out there."

"Howard has such a mobile population that not everyone has the chance to get the history of the place," Justice says. "It was a very agrarian county before Columbia" was developed in the late 1960s. "There are an awful lot of Baltimore residents that have never been to Howard County or Ellicott City. From a tourism standpoint, we're hoping that once they discover it, they'll come back and bring a guest."

Started by the HoCo Historical and Cultural Alliance (HCHCA) -- a small group of leaders of county museums and historical centers promoting heritage tourism -- Howard's Heritage Week now includes 16 events.

Included are a tour of the Ellicott City B&O; Railroad Station Museum, site of the country's oldest railroad terminus; a quilt appraisal day at historic Savage Mill; a storytelling weekend at historic Cider Mill Farm; and guided canoe trips in Patapsco Valley State Park.

Justice says Heritage Week usually generates cultural awareness about Howard County, as well as tourism dollars for local merchants and museums.

"There's so much that's here in the county that's entertaining," Justice says. "When mom and dad come to visit your new house, you can take them out to dinner and have a whole host of things to do here. It's very diverse."

Although no way exists to determine how many people have attended the two Heritage Week events in the past, the county tourism council estimates that thousands of people from inside and outside the county will take part in the festivities this year.

Virginia Frank, who co-chairs the Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club at Mount Pleasant Farm in Marriottsville, says more than 2,000 people visited the 100-acre farm during last year's Heritage Week.

This year, Mount Pleasant Farm will have on display vintage farm equipment demonstrations, a working blacksmith shop, antique cars and trucks, wagon rides, arts and crafts, live music and food.

The farm traditionally has had a harvest festival weekend about this time of year, but for the past two years the tourism council incorporated it into Heritage Week.

"I think [Heritage Week] is great," Frank says. "What we're doing is farm heritage, and Howard County has a heritage of farming which is slowly disappearing. We're trying to get a farm heritage museum going, but until we can do that this is the next best thing.

"Anything that we can do to get people and organizations into what we're doing, we welcome. There are other shows around the country that are similar to ours that grow very large."

Although the tourism council goes to great lengths to ensure that Heritage Week's appeal is diverse, Justice says she would like to see the annual event become more comprehensive.

"Most of the organizations in the HCHCA are nonprofits that are minimally staffed, so finding the time and dollars to organize and promote Heritage Week is challenging for all of us," she says. "But perhaps down the road, we can find a bigger and better way to focus on our heritage."

Pub Date: 9/16/99

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