40th National Road Heritage Festival planned this year
The National Road Heritage Corridor is a nonprofit organization that recognizes and preserves the historic, cultural, scenic and recreational resources of the historic National Road.
The 600-mile-long National Road spans across six states and passes through Western Maryland and into Southwestern Pennsylvania. Although completed in 1835, portions of the road have been overlapped by U.S. Route 40.
While parts of it still exist, the road can be identified by cast iron obelisks that adorn the sides of the road and are placed at each mile.
Some of the preserved National Road's landmarks include the Fort Necessity National Battlefield and the Historic Summit Inn.
As a result of its culture and history, in 1973, the National Road Heritage Corridor hosted its first National Road Festival.
Originally started as a prelude to the country's bicentennial anniversary in 1976, the festival continued and as of this year, will be celebrating its 40th festival.
Scheduled for May 18-20, the festival not only brings economic vitality and benefits through tourism, but it also allows visitors to witness the beauty of the National Road communities.
These communities include Addison, Hopwood, Uniontown, Centerville, Washington and Claysville, among others.
“Tourism is a great tool for bringing new residents to the area,” said Donna Holdorf, executive director of the NRHC. “It will also boost the reputation of the area for existing residents.”
The Uniontown-based NRHC acts as a hub for National Road information, press releases and awareness.
Holdorf said there will be changes to the festival this year, as well as the Uniontown festival events.
Between 2 and 3 p.m. May 18, a wagon train will pass through Uniontown headed for a Mt. St. Macrina final destination.
The wagon trains, consisting of mid-19th century styled wagons, will embark on the National Road journey on May 15.
Starting from Grantsville, Maryland, the wagons, associated with National Pike Wagon Train Association, will travel roughly 15 miles a day and at night, camp in various communities along the way.
The camp sites include Addison, Farmington and Mt. St. Macrina.
As for other Uniontown events, not only is this the first time in five years that Uniontown will be holding events, but it is also the first time in the 40-year history that the community will be hosting a music fest at Story Square in downtown Uniontown.
As for other Saturday events, from noon to 4 p.m., historical building tours will be given. Tours will be conducted at the Fayette County Courthouse, Fayette Building and the State Theatre.
There will be antique car show featuring cars from each decade starting in the early 20th century.
Local Uniontown restaurants will be participating by having outdoor food stands. Young's Bakery will be serving apple dumplings and DiMarco's will be serving pulled pork.
Other events include historical re-enactments, an antique show and artwork for sale from local artists.
At 4:30 p.m., local Uniontown baseball players will be facing a Harrisburg team in an old-fashioned baseball game at Bailey Park.
In the late afternoon, from 5-7:30 p.m. there will a “chase the wagon” 5K walk/race.
“We are also seeking corporate sponsors,” Holdorf said. Some corporate sponsors include the Marcellus shale natural gas industry, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, said Holdorf.
“The sponsorship will allow us to be a more robust festival in the future,” she added.
As the executive director of the NRHC and the chairwoman of the Uniontown Downtown Business Authority, Holdorf feels that the festival not only improves the community economy, but it also boosts the area's reputation.
“The NRHC works for the region's reputation,” she said.
According to Holdorf, past festivals have seen between 10,000 and 15,000 visitors.
Andrew Hesner is a freelance writer.