This week: Saying a fond farewell
Frederick County once produced more goldfish than anywhere else in the United States.
It’s a fact that’s stuck with me since I read it last November in the introduction to an old phone book at the Maryland Room in the C. Burr Artz Public Library. I was doing research on Edward Mitchell Johnson, an early Frederick resident who founded The Hornet, the first black newspaper in western Maryland.
I’m not sure why I was so taken with the statistic. Maybe it was just the novelty of it all. Or the idea that for at least few decades, there were goldfish swimming on bed stands in Sacramento or plopped into ponds near Louisville who began their lives here in Frederick. Maybe it was just another thing that set us apart. That made Frederick County special.
Because Frederick County is very special.
I sensed it when I moved here three years ago, and I knew it for sure by the time I moved away last week. There’s something so distinct about our small, beautiful downtown, about our local municipalities working to establish their place in a world where smaller communities struggle to compete. Frederick isn’t like Montgomery County, or Prince George’s — larger regions that have bled so far into Washington, D.C. that they’re almost indistinguishable from that politically minded metropolis. Frederick has a sense of place so fierce that people are willing to fight for it. And that’s what I’ve seen in my three years covering this bucolic, sprawling, evolving county — people willing to fight for their idea of the future.
That’s what I’ll miss the most as I bid a fond farewell to the town where I cut my teeth as a local journalist. The passion and the openness of the people who live here.
I’ve covered three different beats in the time I’ve been in Frederick: crime, health, and finally features, where I spent a year and a half trying to unravel the bigger stories behind a place where so many talented people have chosen to settle.
There were the butchers I interviewed last July — insanely hardworking men and women whose livelihood is waning as agriculture becomes bigger and more commodified. There were the streetwear designers hustling to make downtown Frederick a doper place to live. And there were the dozens of artists I met during my time in the city — creative, ambitious, wildly optimistic people working to cultivate local culture and a vibrant, sustainable arts scene. They’ve never failed to inspire me with their hope and dedication, from the talented folks at the Maryland Ensemble Theatre — continually producing performances that are better than half of what you can find in much bigger cities — to the local musicians who find their own stages in a town where performance spaces are hard to come by.
They’re some of the people with the biggest visions for what Frederick can become. I hope the city can evolve with them. To stay sustainable and vibrant, Frederick needs to grow, I think, and it will be a little scary as new buildings grow up and more people move in. Smart planners will have to think more about affordable housing and historic preservation as the area stretches and accommodates the fruits of its own success. The county and city have done such a good job of staying beautiful and appealing that Frederick is more desirable than ever. With demand comes change. But if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that Frederick will never lose its own unique identity. There are too many people who care too much to let that happen.
I’m going to miss them.
Follow Kate Masters on Twitter: @kamamasters.