In other parts of the country, we do not see the kind of extensive construction work we see in our area. Life here is very much connected to the federal government.
So every business wants to make its presence felt by the government. Companies pour their money and manpower where the action is. And the area is full of action. Frederick is a significant place in American history. After all, Barbara Fritchie, Judge Roger Brooke Taney and Francis Scott Key were all connected to Frederick.
Before droves of young professionals moved into town to make it welcoming for outsiders, the Frederick area was a farming community. Both sides of routes 85, 270, 70 and 355 used to be mostly corn and soybean fields. A friend told me that when he was a child, farmers from Hagerstown used to herd their livestock to slaughterhouses in Baltimore and used to spend the night on the way at Lisbon in Howard County. Baltimore’s Pigtown had many slaughterhouses, and its Wilkens Avenue was the main thoroughfare. Today, the slaughterhouses of Pigtown are gone just like pigs and cattle being herded over Interstate 70.
As the nation progressed from a post-agricultural and a post-industrial phase, Frederick was forced to change. It came about in many different ways.
Today, Home Depot and other stores place their signs in English and Spanish. Almost everything — costing less than $5 — comes from China. Mom-and-pop stores have given way to multinational or multi-state behemoths such as Giant, Lowe’s and McDonald’s. Frederick has seen its share of changes like the rest of the country. But for the most part, it has flourished. A few years ago, Frederick was named “the best place to live” in the U.S.
What makes Frederick tick?
Civic organizations breathe life into any town or city. Caring neighbors, responsible officeholders, distinguished institutions of learning, health care, jobs, connectivity —both physical and ethereal — make a place desirable to live. That is why Frederick has become desirable.
Any weekend afternoon when one strolls downtown — on Market Street or any of the numbered ones — one gets the feeling that a carnival is going on. All kinds of people mob the sidewalks. They are out-of-towners as well as local residents. At the moment, they all belong to the city. Whether they are in a coffee shop, a pizza joint or a deli, they savor the taste of the city and its people.
Different ethnic groups have, over the years, added new flavor to the cultural life of the city. Every May, in order to celebrate the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Nepalese and others come together to celebrate through food, music and dance. The streets become really beautiful on a snowy, wintry night when tiny specs of light illuminate trees and windows downtown. The feelings of festivity still fresh in the mind, people throng into bars and restaurants to exchange pleasantries. St. Patrick’s Day still makes everybody Irish.
Summer concerts at Baker Park become like icing on a cake. On a Sunday evening, grown-ups let their hair down in the waning sunlight. Nobody cares. Everyone remains glued to the bandstand.
In the meantime, civic organizations including the Moose, Eagles, Redmen and the American Legion toil to make Frederick a better place. Through their members, they raise funds for different causes. They volunteer with the likes of the Salvation Army, the Frederick Rescue Mission and the emergency shelter. Hundreds of volunteers spend thousands of hours of their time. They take civic involvement seriously. They become an example for the younger generation. This is how a tradition is created — older folks setting examples for the younger ones. And this tradition of civic spirit makes all the difference.