Why leave town this summer when so much is happening right here at home? Montgomery County Heritage Days, held June 24 and 25, offers 40 free local events to celebrate our hometown’s history, recreation and arts—right in our own backyard.
This year’s theme is good news for foodies; the focus is on heritage food. Look for cooking demonstrations, presentations by well-known area chefs and food trucks. Other special interest categories like the Civil War, African American culture and railroad history are also on the menu, as are biking, hiking and walking tours, and activities geared toward kids and families.
Heritage Days, now in its 20th year, “…is designed to be an opportunity for folks to visit our wonderful county parks, museums and sites for free,” shared Sarah Rogers, Executive Director of Heritage Montgomery. “It also highlights our smaller museums that don’t have regular hours. By having everything open on one weekend, visitors can pick sites that they’ve never been to or revisit favorites.”
The Montgomery County Historical Society started the event. As it grew, Heritage Montgomery took over. “Our very first weekend, we had only five sites open,” said Rogers, “and this year, we will have over 40 places to visit with special programs. Last year, we had about 10,000 visitors over the weekend. Lots of visitors come every year to see the new programs.”
“As the sites are scattered throughout the county, you can explore parts you’ve never visited, or discover the museums and parks in your neighborhood,” she suggested.
This year’s Heritage Days coincides with the rollout of the “African American Heritage Cookbook: Heritage Foodways in Montgomery County, Maryland,” thus the event’s emphasis on heritage food. The cookbook contains authentic Maryland recipes, both dating from the 1700s and 1800s, and those collected from local church communities that feature foods served at family and communal gatherings like Homecoming and Juneteenth.
Executive Chef Larkin Rogers, who heads the culinary team for Extraordinary Spaces at the Conservancy of Ohio’s Cuyahoga National Park, tested and curated the recipes. Brief histories and accounts from local residents are included as well. Copies of the cookbook will be on sale at several Heritage Days venues; it may be purchased by contacting Heritage Montgomery.
To taste your way through the weekend, look for the word “refreshments” in the site description on the map. Food will be served there.
Food “historians” will want to visit the storefront that now houses Historic Takoma. Little-known fact: It was built as a Piggly Wiggly grocery store, which opened in 1932 and forever changed the way we shop for food. “Piggly Wiggly was the first self-service grocery, meaning customers walked up and down aisles–literally a maze–picking the particular groceries they wanted,” said Diana Kohn, Historic Takoma’s president. “This [Piggly Wiggly] led to an explosion in branding as a marketing tool [and] spread the gospel of self-service.”
Kohn invites visitors to “come view the images of what a Piggly Wiggly looked like,” and to see “elsewhere on our block, a Sanitary Grocery that merged into the Safeway company.” That operation then moved across the street–where more parking was available–into the space that now houses the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Food Co-op.
Another stop for foodies should be Button Farm in Germantown. “This year guests will literally get a ‘taste of the farm’ by sampling historical recipes cooked by Michelin star chef Larkin Rogers,” said Anthony Cohen, Farm Living History Center’s president. The dishes will be prepared with locally sourced foods paired with heirloom produce from the museum’s garden. “What makes this weekend so special,” Cohen said, “is that it … allows us to thank our community for valuing our heritage sites.”
Whether it’s a scavenger hunt, a calligraphy class or an illusion toy-making workshop, visitors are likely to try things they’ve never tried before and see things they’ve never seen before. The event is as diverse as Montgomery County itself. It attracts newcomers and long-time residents alike. Rogers summed up the typical participants: “It’s for music and art lovers, seniors and outdoor enthusiasts, as well as families with kids who are drawn to the special activities for children.”
For first-timers, Rogers recommended visiting HeritageMontgomery.org and clicking on the “Heritage Days” tab for a map and complete activity and site listings. “Some folks plan by selecting a subject they like such as Transportation or African American history, while others plan by choosing things to do that are close together so they can get to more places,” she said. “Some people pack a picnic and choose to stay the afternoon at one place and listen to music, and let the kids play,” Rogers added. Either way, bring your curiosity. There’s enough learning and lore to fill both days.
For more information, visit HeritageMontgomery.org or view their profile on CultureSpotMC here. All events are held rain or shine. In the event of major weather, consult HeritageMontgomery.org for updated information or call 301-515-0753. View this event on CultureSpotMC here.