January 30 – After 36 years, the public is hoping to keep the Salute to Independence tradition alive at Antietam Battlefield.
The concert performed by the Maryland Symphony Orchestra around the Fourth of July usually sees more than 15,000 people in attendance and has been a treasured event for many families for decades.
COVID19 and construction at the park has kept the concert from happening on the grounds for the last three years. Organizers of the event wanted to bring it back this year, but the leadership of the National Park Service at Antietam said no.
Save our Salute began on Facebook to see what could be done. Almost 700 people have joined the Facebook page and nearly 2,000 have signed the petition.
Jim Kercheval, executive director of the Greater Hagerstown Committee, said, “We’re thrilled about the public outpouring of support. This is a family friendly, patriotic concert. We honor our men and women in armed services. We have a fireworks show after the concert. Huge tourism driver for Washington County and the region. It drops about $1 million of spending in the local gateways and it’s something that we want to see continue.”
Conversations are still ongoing about the future of the concert, but assessments will need to be done.
Kercheval said, “And then have some conversations with the stakeholders on what the impacts are to the event and what is feasible to continue and what isn’t. That gave us some concern because that’s basically what we were told was done when we were told the answer was you can’t come back. That the local superintendent did an assessment and it wasn’t a fit project for the Antietam Battlefield and she was going to end it. So now the same person is apparently doing another assessment.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “They have to admit they didn’t do their due diligence. They left people out that should have been consulted and I think that should have been a little more transparent with the way they presented it.”
Kercheval said, “We were given a definitely no in the fall. We did try to work with them directly behind the scene to try to say if you had some barriers or things you were concerned about, let’s see if we could work together and overcome those to give you more comfort and to bring the event back, but we were given a very straight no. It’s not coming back.”
Stories from families on how much the concert meant to them have come from all over the region on Facebook.
Initially, leadership of the battlefield worried about what could happen with that many people on the land.
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “If you’re going to put everybody in bubble wrap for any kind of event, what good is anything?”
Kercheval said, “If everybody took her approach to how you decide what event should happen or not happen, we wouldn’t have any. You have to allow people to have their own responsibility whether or not they come to events and weigh risk and reward. Having 34 years of perfect event without any major incidents is proof in the pudding that this is a safe event and will continue to be. No one can say nothing bad will ever happen anywhere and I just don’t think that’s an appropriate approach.”
To join in the fight, click here: https://www.change.org/p/save-our-salute/sign?original_footer_petition_id=27525205&algorithm=promoted&source_location=petition_footer&grid_position=4&pt=AVBldGl0aW9uAMJRHQIAAAAAY82mn3O%2F3PAzNDExMDNmNA%3D%3D
“Don’t give up on that yet,” Kercheval urged. “The more names we get on that, the better position we’ll be in.”