With 38 locations from which to choose, planning a Heritage Days schedule is no simple task. The free two-day annual event, to be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24, offers educational and fun activities at parks, museums and historic sites throughout Montgomery County.
Most Heritage Days sites are open at various times throughout the year, but during this weekend, all the county’s heritage sites are open. People can spend time at places that may have aroused their curiosity, but never had a chance to visit.
“With all of the sites open for one weekend, people can visit historic places in their neighborhood,” said Sarah L. Rogers, executive director of Heritage Montgomery, the organizing arm for Heritage Days.
Rogers wants Montgomery County residents to understand going to downtown Washington, D.C. to learn about area history is not necessary. There is a lot of significant history in the county that contributes to metropolitan area culture. Since there are so many Heritage Days sites, there are a variety of approaches to get from location to location.
“Some of our folks just love to get in the car and go to as many sites as they can,” said Rogers. “We have tailored tours that are divided by the four corners of the county that allow people to focus on a community near their home.”
The Heritage Days brochure is the best tool to guide explorers through the experience. Its map shows communities with sites located near each other. An alternative is to approach Heritage Days by topic groups. Some may be interested in Civil War sites, others in seeing how African Americans escaped to freedom through the Underground Railroad Experience at Woodlawn Museum in Sandy Spring, spending time at agriculture reserve locales or touring homes from the 1800s like the Grusendorf Log House in Gaithersburg.
Heritage Days can be more than a scenic drive or bike ride through a portion of the county or viewing historic buildings from afar. With oversight for Heritage Days, Rogers knows the options are diverse and plentiful. “If you are an outdoors person, you definitely want to go Izaak Walton League Conservation Farm in Poolesville that has archery, hayrides and trails,” she suggested. “There also are water sites where people can bring their kayak or canoe.”
Options abound for children, too. The Gaithersburg Community Museum will present science shows; the King Barn Dairy MOOseum in Boyds will offer a chance to churn butter and the Children’s Garden at Woodend Nature Sanctuary in Chevy Chase is an idyllic place for a nature walk.
The event also offers an opportunity to glean interesting tidbits of information. “Folks may not know that Brookeville was known as the nation’s capital for a day,” said Rogers. “The Madison House in Brookeville got its name when President James Madison stayed there with his family after the burning of the Capitol and the White House by the British in 1814. The house is located on the Brookville Academy site.”
Music is on the agenda as well. Rogers is excited about the Odd Fellows Lodge in Sandy Spring where a jazz concert is scheduled for Saturday at 12:30 and 2 p.m. The newly renovated historic lodge — originally built in 1893 — has been used by the African American community for worship, social activities and educational events since the early 1900s.
“The Odd Fellows Lodge is a brand-new site for Heritage Days,” said Rogers. “Laura Anderson Wright, president of the Heritage Montgomery board of directors, saw the Odd Fellows building falling down. She started writing grants and secured funds to restore the building.”
The Sandy Spring Slave Museum embraces the many genres of African American music with a festival-style concert. The program will begin with a traditional drumming circle, followed by gospel, call songs of the Underground Railroad, music of the Civil Rights movement, Caribbean music, jazz, and rhythm and blues.
For dancing, head over to Glen Echo Park and the Spanish Ballroom, an art deco-style dance hall built in 1933. The Lucky Cats Jazz Orchestra, with 12 instrumentalists and one vocalist, will perform dance music of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Wearing comfortable shoes is suggested, as remaining seated or standing on the sidelines stay is certain to be a challenge.
In past years, between 9,000 and 10,000 people made their way through Heritage Days sites. Each year, sites present new programs, so this year, visitors can learn something new at a site they may have visited before.
“Heritage Days offers relaxed family time for exploring,” said Rogers. “There are places to discover if you are new to the area or even if you have lived here for a while.”
For more information, visit www.heritagemontgomery.org/events/heritage-days, where the 2018 brochure is clickable. Most sites are open from noon to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24. All events are held rain or shine. In the event of major inclement weather, consult the website for updated information or call 301-515-0753.