The Carroll County Farm Museum is used to rolling out the red, white and blue welcome mat for its annual Old-Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration.
Wednesday was no different, as scores of families came to the museum grounds for food, games, wagon rides and some education about America birth — disguised as family fun.
This year the museum's welcome mat extended particularly far, as people from across the region came to Westminster to celebrate Independence Day — and for some, a break from troubles related to last week's storm, which knocked out power in many neighboring jurisdictions.
Dottie Freeman, executive director of the farm museum, said her staff received calls from Montgomery County residents, for instance, searching for fireworks after that jurisdiction canceled theirs. Storm damage tied up law enforcement and emergency responders in Montgomery, so on Monday the county canceled its show — and turned to Carroll as a place where residents could go.
Freeman said the farm museum welcomed the visitors, but had two words of advice:
"They were calling about the fireworks, but we encouraged them to come (in the afternoon) for the picnic, too," she said. "We want everyone to have a piece of the celebration."
The evening fireworks show, which goes off at about 9:30 p.m. and is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Westminster, is always the main attraction of the day at the museum, but the festival earlier in the day had the grounds bustling, with local Boy Scouts hosting kids games, performers including the Elderly Brothers and the Carroll County Cloggers on the stage, an inflatable obstacle course, demonstrations of Colonial-era crafts and vendors selling food, drinks and crafts.
Jim Saylor and his team of mules offered wagon rides around the grounds, and Jerry Brown and his trained money, Django, built some hefty crowds under the shade trees for some monkey business tricks and face time with visitors.
The Fourth of July festival always draws people from Carroll County and beyond — even without power outages nearby — but many of those visitors often represent a local heritage.
Katie Will, currently of Gettysburg, Pa. but raised in Silver Run, came to the farm museum with her daughter, Sophia, 2 — and also brought along her Gettysburg neighbor, Katie Langville, and her daughter, Giada, 3.
Will said she recalled attending the Westminster celebration as a child and staying for the fireworks with her family. Now with a little one of her own, she wanted to share some of those memories.
"She went to the fishing game, the ring toss. We've had fun," Will said of the time spent with her daughter. This year the kids were a little young to stay for the fireworks, she said, but maybe next year.
"We'll get there eventually," she said. And regarding her Pennsylvania neighbor, she laughed and added, "I dragged her to it."
Langville said she didn't mind getting dragged. "It's fun," she said, holding onto a paper Colonial hat her daughter had gotten at one of the booths. "There are lots of things for kids."
While they spoke, their girls were enjoying one of the afternoon's most popular attractions — a misting sprayer that had kids and adults running through as the temperatures soared.
County Commissioner Doug Howard staked out a somewhat cool spot under a large tree to set up a table for "Celebrating America," a county initiative that seeks to recognize Carroll County as being at the "center of history" because of its proximity to Washington, Gettysburg, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other sites pivotal to America's history.
Howard was set for a 4 p.m. show down on the entertainment stage where he would be participating in an historical debate, "Should the Colonies Declare Independence from English Rule" — another part of the Celebrating America program,
Howard said the day and setting was a perfect fit.
"Back in Colonial times, two people debating under a Liberty Tree probably wouldn't be that hard to find," he said. "That was very American."
Hot dogs and fireworks aside, he said the Carroll County Farm Museum has increasingly embraced its role as a center of the county's historical links to freedom — from a recent flag retirement ceremony it hosted for Boy Scouts to its annual role as the county's centerpiece for the Fourth of July.
The shared experience of celebration and pride in the nation's birthday are things Howard said he hopes more people — Carroll Countians and visitors alike — embrace.
"People don't get to feel that way enough," he said, "but they love it when they do."