Celebrating Thirty Years with 30 Things We Love

By Guy Fletcher and Nancy Luse | Posted on 07.05.15 – Feature, Food & Drink, History, Lifestyles, People & Places, Travel

The obvious way for a business to celebrate a momentous birthday or anniversary is to let the world know all the great things it has done to get to the landmark date. We’ve done that before—as recently as our 25th anniversary, in fact—and while such an ego-friendly practice can be a lot of fun, it makes no sense to do it again just five years later.

For our 30th anniversary, we thought it was fitting to celebrate the things we love most about Frederick County, and that’s what you will find on the following pages. Many of these things are, frankly, no-brainers, but others not so much. We have never intended this list to be comprehensive; after all, a true list of the things we love most about our home could fill an entire magazine, maybe two. Nor do we dare to rank our favorite things—a dangerous exercise, to be sure. We feel just as strongly about No. 1 as we do No. 30.

So, let the debate begin … and thank you for 30 great years!

1. Outdoor Entertainment

Seeing your favorite band play at a local bar is always a fun time—and there’s definitely plenty of that in this area—but how about seeing live entertainment in the great outdoors? There are some fantastic options in the area, especially in the City of Frederick, where outdoor music programs like Alive @ Five at Carroll Creek Linear Park and the Summer Concert Series at Baker Park not only offer a chance to see great live performances, but also an opportunity to socialize with friends and family.

2. Restaurants

We hate to brag, but sometimes it just can’t be helped, especially when we’re talking about the sumptuous restaurants that grace our city and county and the talented chefs making it happen. Just try to get a seat during Downtown’s First Saturday and you’d be correct to say we could use even more eateries. Diners don’t mind the drive when there’s a favorite meal spot out in the county and the visitors who flock here for all that the area offers are finding that a return visit just for the restaurants is reason enough.

3. Theater Scene

Forget about having to drive miles to Washington or Baltimore for a night at the theater … not when we have local talent and welcoming venues to fill the bill. The City of Frederick even has a theater district. Whether it’s the Maryland Ensemble Theatre, with original productions or treasured classics, or Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, famous for its musicals, there’s no need to depend on Netflix. Rounding out the theater treasures are Fredericktowne Players, Other Voices Theatre, The Fun Company and the Thurmont Thespians.

mic4. Visual Public Arts

True, the City of Frederick has many fine art galleries and museums (no visitor, or resident, should miss the Delaplaine Arts Education Center). But one of the great things is so much of the fine artwork in our community comes without a building to see. Check out the Community Bridge mural that created a permanent illusion of an old, ivy-covered stone bridge or the fabulous “Angels in the Architecture” series of paintings by William Cochran. One request: Can we bring back another great public art series, similar to the “Keys to Frederick” program that was so successful?

5. Politics

Love or hate ’em, politics (and politicians) are part of the fabric of Frederick County life. Admit it, you actually enjoyed the Jan-vs.-Blaine slugfest race for county executive last year, and even if you disagree with the guests and hosts on WFMD’s afternoon talk show, you still tune in, if only to get worked up. After all, while politics determine some of the most important matters in our community—from growth and education to crime and economic development—they also provide almost nonstop unintentional entertainment in the process. Don’t believe us? One word: #kirbydelauter.

6. Farmers Markets

It seems that every summer we get another farmer’s market added to the already lengthy list of places where we can load up on just-picked strawberries in May, sweet corn in July and crunchy apples in September, with green beans, tomatoes and squash throughout the summer. Vendors are also a source for meat, eggs, honey and baked goods, as well as hand-crafted lotions and soaps. The markets are also the place for seeing the same people week after week as you exchange zucchini recipes. Can’t make it during the market hours? Check out community-supported agriculture programs offered at many farms that allow you to get your produce straight from the source.

7. Frederick Keys

The boys of summer have a special place in our hearts, but none more than the ones wearing the uniform of the Frederick Keys. Harry Grove Stadium is conveniently located and the players are within easy reach for an autograph. Our mascot is lively and friendly and during the seventh inning stretch we get to jangle our car keys. And what kid doesn’t like the thrill of running the bases under the lights at the end of the game? Fireworks and special promotion nights make it as good as seeing a future Baltimore Orioles pitcher smoke the competition.

8. Duckpin Bowling

In a community filled with so many natives of other areas and states, it’s no surprise that many people are still unaware of duckpin bowling and the fact that you can play this fun and sometimes-frustrating game right here. You can roll little bowling balls at tiny pins at the Walkersville Bowling Center and take advantage of budget-friendly prices of $12 for one hour of lane time. If you live on the east side of the county, check out the ducks at Mt. Airy Bowling Lanes, just a few steps into Carroll County.

9. Fire Company Carnivals

The fire truck that pulled up at your house when lightning struck and started a blaze on the roof could partly be thanks to the corndog you bought at last summer’s carnival. We love the can-do spirit of our fire companies that supplement government funding with raising money for equipment on their own. Whether it’s working a hot grill, calling bingo or picking up the trash later, these are some of the same people who are riding on the truck responding to your emergencies. In addition to supporting this important work, carnivals are downright fun.

10. Catoctin Zoo

The Snake Farm was founded in Thurmont in 1933, becoming what is today the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo. It’s the place where generations have gone on school field trips or family outings, having fun along with learning a few things. Director Richard Hahn says “our mission is to bring people and animals closer together … making them more informed about and more supportive of wild animals and wild places. … Zoos are the only place that people the world over will ever see the diversity of living animals.”

11. Toast of the Town

When Frederick Magazine was born 30 years ago, there wasn’t much of a beer and wine industry in the county, at least not any that was made here. Talk about a change. Now you can sample wines at the many vineyards in the county and taste great local beers being made by brewers such as Flying Dog and the Monocacy Brewing Company. Want something with a bit more punch? Try the hard cider made by Distillery Lane Ciderworks in Jefferson.

12. Downtown Frederick

Remember when local residents would say they are going “downtown” and meant Baltimore or Washington, D.C.? No longer. Downtown Frederick today has become such a destination—offering a wide range of dining, shopping and entertainment options—that people from the metropolitan areas will often come here for their fun. Another bonus to celebrating in Downtown Frederick instead of a big city: cheaper parking.

13. The People

When you get right down to it, it’s the people that make Frederick so special, from the neighbor who shovels snow from your sidewalk to the barber who has the latest joke and knows exactly how you want your hair cut. Even more special are the community volunteers, the ones who wheel you to your room at the hospital or staff the food bank. They are the volunteer emergency responders and the ones teaching others to read. They are the ones doing jobs and services that would fill an entire magazine.

14. Medical Facilities

There was once a time when nearly all serious health-related issues required a drive to Baltimore or Washington, D.C. And while being within an hour’s drive of some of the nation’s top research hospitals is definitely a perk of living in Frederick County, there is a growing list of services at Frederick Memorial Hospital and other locations that can meet the needs of patients requiring treatments for heart disease, cancer and other serious conditions—all without the once-mandatory commute.

edu15. Education

The centerpiece of education in Frederick County is a public school system that teaches more than 40,000 students each day (and boasts performance that typically exceeds state and national benchmarks), but there are many other options available in the form of private and charter education. And pre-K-through-12 instruction is just one piece; the county is home to two outstanding four-year colleges in Mount. St. Mary’s University and Hood College, and Frederick Community College is quickly becoming a go-to source for recent high school graduates and those older learners looking for quality higher education at a great price.

16. Antiques

When you have a city and county as historic as ours there’s bound to be plenty of antiques for those wanting to decorate their homes in another period. Searching for that perfect plank-bottom chair or armoire is as much fun as actually acquiring it when you consider the large collection of shops in the city, in addition to New Market, a town devoted to antiques. If you want a little more excitement to the chase, attend one of our many estate auctions and get into a bidding war for that treasure.

17. Town Life

The truth is, the towns in Frederick County have always played a kind of second fiddle to the City of Frederick … and that’s just fine. The services, dining and other amenities the towns offer are not as expansive as those in the city, but they have a unique charm that should not be missed. If you have not walked the sidewalks of Brunswick or Middletown or any of the other towns in the county—checking out their shops, restaurants and parks—do so now and discover (or rediscover) a quieter side to the county that has a lot to offer.

18. Baker Park

Long ago Frederick city officials knew what they were doing when they set land aside and developed Baker Park, a place that Peter Brehm of Friends of Baker Park says “is more like a network of mini-parks.” The swimming pool and playgrounds are popular in summer and in the spring Culler Lake is the place to watch migrating birds. Colorful trees abound in the fall and during the winter nothing is prettier than a snowy walk along Carroll Creek. “Every season is different and delightful,” Brehm says.

19. Golf

With more than a dozen clubs and private courses in Frederick County, golfers are able to perfect their holes-in-one as well as spend time with family, friends and business associates. The area’s gently rolling hills lend themselves to the game and even if you land in the rough, the beautiful surroundings make things better until you can get back to the clubhouse. Frederick’s golf courses have even been known to attract presidents wanting some distraction outside of Washington.

20. Mountains

Wouldn’t you just hate to live in a flat county? Lucky for us we can see mountains on our horizon; we can pull on a pair of boots and hike to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain or cool off on a summer afternoon in Cunningham Falls in the Catoctin Mountains. South Mountain gives us history to tell and bragging rights that George Washington really did sleep here. They may not be the Rockies or the Alps, but remember our mountains were the go-to place when a presidential retreat was planned that we now know as Camp David.

fish21. Monocacy River

The Monocacy is our river, unlike the more-famous Potomac, which has always felt like a co-op with other counties and Virginia. Even though the Monocacy officially begins in Carroll County, nearly the entire serpentine waterway winds through Frederick County and passes by some of the area’s most historically significant sites, including Monocacy National Battlefield and the C&O Canal. A canoe daytrip down the river on a quiet summer afternoon, taking in the scenic beauty of the county, is not to be missed.

22. C&O Canal

In a county full of history, the C&O Canal offers something unique: usable history. Instead of just learning about how the manmade waterway was part of a transportation explosion in the 19th century—one that rendered the canal obsolete almost as soon as it was completed—you can use the canal’s towpath as a hiking trail. And if you really want a feel of the 1800s, stay overnight in one of the refurbished lockhouses that were once occupied by canal workers ensuring safe passage of boats.

23. Autumn

It’s a matter of taste, but while every season has its fans (even winter), autumn is when Frederick County really shines, putting on a brilliant Technicolor coat of leaves that just begs to be photographed and shared on Facebook. A drive north on U.S. 15 in October boasts a view that would give any New England landscape a run for its money. Another bonus about autumn in the county is enjoying the bounty of delicious apples from the local orchards.

24. Helping the Needy

It’s often been said that many people are just a paycheck away from being homeless. Thankfully, we are a community that comes to the aid of those who have nowhere to turn when they fall on hard times, whether it’s from a financial setback such as a money-draining illness, dealing with mental illness or working to overcome substance abuse. Our mosaic of support includes such great organizations as the Frederick Rescue Mission, Advocates for the Homeless, Community Action Agency, the United Way of Frederick County, Habitat for Humanity, Interfaith Housing Alliance, Frederick Rescue Mission and the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs.

25. Greek Festival

Opa! The semiannual Greek Festival at Saints Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church is a feast for the senses—with music, dancing and other celebrations of Hellenic culture—but mostly it’s just a feast. For a couple weeks in the spring and fall, the 7th Street church turns into a destination of hungry fans of Greek favorites like baklava and spanakopita. Hungry at work? Head over during the festival’s weekday hours for a tasty lunch.

26. Great Frederick Fair

No matter how sophisticated we think we’ve become—like being called “Little Georgetown” and having stellar restaurants and trendy boutiques—The Great Frederick Fair, which hearkens back to the area’s agricultural roots, is still a huge draw in September. From the grandstand shows to the crowning of 4-H royalty, plus livestock judging and cake auctions, the fair never ceases to have its many loyal fans. Where else can you see the grand champion pumpkin while devouring a famous Hemp’s roast beef sandwich?

27. Not Too Big, Not too Small

It’s that confluence of what truly makes Frederick County so great—a place small enough to evoke Norman Rockwell-esque imagery, while still providing many of the services and amenities that normally require a metropolitan area to deliver. No greater demonstration of this can be found in touring the countryside and taking in the great expanses of farmland and rural America, while being just minutes away from Downtown Frederick, where you can enjoy fine dining, art museums, boutique shopping and quality entertainment.

28. Trains

There’s something undeniably alluring about a train, even if it’s a boring freight engine hauling coal or a commuter MARC car whisking business people off to work—both common sights in the county. It’s probably because trains take us back to our own past and our area’s history. You can get a taste for that history at the Brunswick Heritage Museum, which tells the story of a town built by the railroad, or travel in a vintage 1920s passenger car in one of the Walkersville Southern Railroad’s excursions.

29. History

Even before this nation came into being, the city and county were creating history. French and Indian War? Yep, we were part of that. Same with the fight for independence and the Civil War that had our ancestors taking up arms as well as creating temporary hospitals for the wounded. We continue to be an important part of history, whether it’s the Camp David Peace Accords or the cutting-edge medical and bio research at Fort Detrick. It might not be a bad idea for CNN to set up a Frederick bureau for future happenings here.

30. Spires

It all started with John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem Barbara Frietchie, which included the line:

The clustered spires of Frederick stand Green-walled by the hills of Maryland. 

Since then, the church spires and the City of Frederick have been pretty much the same thing. The spires define the city’s skyline and have become an inanimate mascot of sorts. Almost any graphical representation of the city includes the spires; they are even on the cover of this magazine! They also happen to be a beautiful reminder that while we grow and think we are becoming so sophisticated, we are still a small town at heart.