Clint Metcalf, member of the board for the local historical museum, describes Hagerstown, Indiana, as a “nice, little, quiet town that has a lot of charm.”
It’s true. Hagerstown has charm in abundance, especially during the summer.
First up is the Nettle Creek Players, a real old-fashioned summer stock theater. This year, the company will present Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” Actor Ike Wellhausen says that “Into the Woods” is “truly one of the shows I can say is for all ages.”
Also being presented this season are two original productions – “Hoosier Harmony,” a revue of songs by Indiana-born composers, and “Master Cat,” a musical version of the story of Puss in Boots, especially but not exclusively for kids.
The Players were a fixture of Hagerstown summers during the 1970's and '80's, revived three years ago in response to interest from theater alumni and the community at large. “It’s driven by the community,” said Executive Artistic Director Darrin Murrell. Actors and crew from out of town live with local families and hang out in town.
Olivia Schaperjohn of Evansville made so many friends last year that she returned this summer. Like many of the company, Schaperjohn studied at a nearby university – in her case, Ball State in Muncie. Stage Manager Morgan Wade, a student at the University of Indianapolis, is having her first experience of the intensity of summer stock. “I’m really excited,” she said, “but it’s nerve-wracking to be on such a tight schedule.”
Rehearsals began late in June and the season begins July 13 with Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances through August 5. Even the venue screams summer stock – a tent set up on a blocked off street between the local library and a small park.
For schedule details and to purchase tickets, visit their website.
For a chance to win two free tickets to a show happening during their third weekend in town, enter into the Wayne County Tourism Bureau’s giveaway! This giveaway closes on July 22 and the winner will be announced on July 23!
On Tuesday, July 17, Hagerstown airport will be home to the Wilbur Wright Fly-In, complete with historic, exotic and modern aircraft.
Watch the planes take off and land, talk to the pilots and marvel at the 4,000-plus-foot grass runway – all for no admission charge. Fly-In sponsor the Hagerstown Optimist Club raises funds from concession sales during the show, formerly known as the Hagerstown Flying Circus.
“We are unique in that the people who come have total access to the pilots and the planes,” said spokesperson Mary Anne Butters. “I’ve never met a pilot who wasn’t eager to … inspire young people’s interest in aviation.”
The Fly-In goes from 2-9 p.m., but Butters warns that the road to the airport can get very congested around 6 p.m., so go early if you can.
Learn more at the Hagerstown Flying Circus page on Facebook.
Why the “Wilbur Wright” Fly-In? Because the older of the Wright Brothers was born just west of town.
The Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum, while technically in Henry County, has a Hagerstown address and is a short drive away. Learn more about this aviation pioneer Tuesdays through Sundays during the summer season. For details, go to their website.
“Hagerstown has been the home of great innovation,” said Butters.
For many years, the major employer in town was Perfect Circle, which manufactured parts for trains and automobiles. One of the company’s leaders in the 20th century was Ralph Teetor, inventor of what became cruise control. Teetor also created a toy version of a gyroscope, something many will remember from their childhoods. Tedco continues to manufacture gyroscopes and other science-related toys in Hagerstown. Find stores with their products or order online at tedcotoys.com.
In a different kind of innovation, Guy Welliver established Welliver’s, a lavish smorgasbord that was the main reason outsiders came to Hagerstown for decades. Now under new ownership and with a new name – Willie & Red’s – the restaurant retains much of the old menu and is still a fixture on Main Street.
“This is the street,” said Wellhausen. “This is where it’s popping.”
Not hungry enough for a smorgasbord? Grab a cup of coffee at the 1896 Lounge Café, a donut at Bowman’s Bakery or an informal meal at Dale’s Pizza. Walk a few blocks to The Dairy for soft-serve ice cream in a variety of flavors or drive a few minutes to Lumpy’s diner or Willow Springs Restaurant, which a Trip Advisor review says has the “best fried chicken around.”
Look on Facebook for hours for all these eateries.
And if you want a true Hagerstown souvenir (besides a gyroscope), be sure to go one block south of Main Street to Abbott’s Candies.
Abbott’s makes 49 varieties of chocolate, but its biggest seller is caramel. Co-owner Jay Noel speaks proudly of a Chicago trade show where candy-makers from all over the country praised Abbott’s caramels.
The company started in 1891 and will schedule tours to watch the candy-making process for groups of 15 or more. “People just like to see how things are made,” Noel said.
There also are windows so shoppers can watch the caramels form – but be sure to check the hours for this. These and other details are at abbottscandies.com.
If a July visit doesn’t work for you, the third weekend of August is Jubilee Days, Hagerstown’s annual hometown celebration and homecoming. Main Street road work will move things around, but the festival will include old favorites: a Friday night car show, a Saturday morning parade and all sorts of activities, including a kids’ zone with bounce houses, an animal show, and a magician. A highlight of Jubilee Days is the bed races, where teams compete on old hospital beds adapted to be street-worthy. “It’s just a fun time to pull everyone together,” said organizer Robin Nugent.
No matter when you go, Hagerstown is worth the trip. Butters recommends it.
“A visitor will find great pride in a small town that doesn’t just remember its glory days,” she said. “We believe we’re still having them.”
For more information about Wayne County, Indiana, events and attractions, go to visitrichmond.org.
By Louise Ronald