With the Catoctin Colorfest set to begin Saturday, the town of Thurmont prepares to once again host more than 20 times its population over the course of the two-day festival.
“We only have a population of 6,000 people, give or take, but during the event we’ll have upwards of 125,000 people come through, so it brings a lot of awareness to our little small community here in Thurmont,” said Carol Robertson, president of Catoctin Colorfest Inc., when reached for comment Tuesday.
Hotels and campsites for miles around are booked solid during the event, which also provides a huge boon to other local businesses in and around Thurmont, even as far away as Hagerstown and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Aside from lodging businesses and gas stations, which benefit directly from the increased traffic, the festival also provides a great venue for area churches, nonprofits and service organizations to capitalize on fundraising events to further their causes, including the Thurmont Community Ambulance Service, which has become famous for the apple dumplings and ice cream it sells during the festival each year to raise money.
“As of today they’ve made 10,000 apple dumplings and I believe they’re going to start baking tonight,” Robertson said. “That’s a major, major fundraiser for them each year, but all the food we have is really nice.”
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a church in Thurmont, makes crab cakes and starts serving breakfast early. Another vendor specializes in crepes, Robertson said. The event features pierogi and a Turkish grill as well, she added.
The food won’t be the only draw for the festival. The juried portion of the festival alone will encompass Thurmont Community Park with 240 vendors scheduled to set up in the park. Including vendors and stalls set up outside the park, the event will likely feature closer to 800 vendors, selling hand-crafted jewelry, floral designs, clothing, artwork and other goods, Robertson said.
The event will also feature several other performances in the park on Saturday and Sunday, including a presentation by a blacksmith, a demonstration by jewelry makers and a number of musical acts.
“We have the ESP dancers. They’ll be performing on Saturday and Sunday, and on Sunday afternoon also there will be an Irish dance group performing as well, from the McGrath Morgan Academy of Irish Dance,” Robertson said.
In addition to most roads surrounding the park, Frederick Road will be closed from Moser Road to its terminus at Water Street, and Main Street will be closed to most traffic to allow buses easier access to the park from the parking areas around town. Buses will run between Thurmont Community Park and the four designated parking locations at Catoctin High School on Sabillasville Road, Eyler Stables Flea Market on Emmitsburg Road, NVR Building Products Co. on Apples Church Road and Thurmont Elementary School on East Main Street.
While the traffic and crowds the festival brings to the small town is a source of annoyance to some residents, Robertson argued that the benefits far outweigh the few drawbacks over the weekend.
Using the proceeds from the event, the festival organization provides 250 canned ham donations to the local food bank, pays for six Christmas meals for families in need identified by local churches and schools, Robertson said. The organization also funds three scholarships and makes donations to local service organizations, including the ambulance service, the Thurmont Police Department and the local fire company, Robertson added.
“Through just our organization we give $20,000 back to the community each year after it’s all said and done,” Robertson said. “It’s a tremendous amount for a small community like this.”