Today was the annual Sharpsburg Heritage Festival (also known as Sharpsburg Cashes In). They have it around here every year on the nearest weekend to the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, which took place in and around the town on September 17, 1863. The Heritage Festival is an occasion for local vendors to set up in tents and sell their wares, and — this year — for shitty local bands to play other people’s songs well into the night.
It drew a pretty big crowd this year, and I bet some of the vendors did okay. But I have a few gripes about the festival, beyond the fact that it makes it virtually impossible to get in or out of town all day, making it tough on those of us who, you know, live here. For one thing, is it too touchy of me to suggest that maybe people selling chintzy jewelry and woodcrafts to tourists and booze-soaked revels in the street aren’t the most appropriate way to mark the anniversary of a civil war battle that killed over 3,000 people? I know it was a long time ago, and we mostly treat the Civil War as an amusement park to be toured every so often, but lots of real people actually died — some of them in buildings that still stand not far from here, many of them on fields within a few minutes’ walk. A shitload of them are buried on a hill just outside of town. I find it hard to believe that Ground Zero in New York City will ever, even a hundred and fifty years from now, be the site of a 9/11 Heritage Festival, where re-enactors portray cops and firefighters in vintage uniforms, local artisans sell homemade quilts, and amateur bands belt out half-assed covers of Top 40 and blues-rock standards.
Which brings me to the second gripe: the bands were terrible. I know this because I could hear them perfectly well from where I was sitting. Inside my house. One group did a cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” that contained the unforgivably augmented lyric “Well I’m stuck in Folsom Prison, baby,” and was accompanied by a high-pitched whine that I can only assume was Johnny Cash spinning in his grave at several thousand RPM. That bunch was followed by a band with what sounded like an eleven year-old kid as a lead singer, belting out flat, tuneless covers of Steve Miller and Grand Funk Railroad.
Okay, I admit it — I’m mostly going on about the shitty bands and disrespectful tackiness as a pretense, when I’m really just pissed off at being personally inconvenienced by the whole thing. I had to park two blocks up the street from the fucking house! Of course, it was a lovely day . . . and Ashley and I had nice weather for our walk from the cars to the house, which was nice, since the walk was fucking compulsory. That fucking douchebag in the Segway from Frederick.com was there again. Try walking, motherfucker. Jesus. But there were lots of dogs out, which was nice . . . and this one tent was with Raptors Up Close, a group that had real live owls and hawks. That was pretty good, I guess. Almost worth hearing that kid belt out the most uninspiring “Can I get a witness?” in the history of the human race later on that night.
Let’s cherish our heritage, always.