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Bell and History Days Opens the 2009 Museum Season

(3/`1) Historic roads, rails, trails, canals and trolleys are among the features of the 2009 Bell and History Days weekend, which opens the new museum season in Frederick County, Maryland on April 4 and 5, 2009. This annual, self-guided event opens with countywide ringing of bells at 10 a.m. on Saturday and concludes with the Bell and History Days Handbell Festival in the Jack B. Kussmaul Theater at Frederick Community College on Sunday at 5:00 p.m.

On Saturday, more than 30 sites and historic areas, including some rarely open structures, will be free of charge with tours, exhibits, hands-on activities, living history demonstrations and period entertainments. While historic sites all over the county invite visitors, this year's Bell and History Days programs give particular focus to the communities of Braddock Heights, Middletown, Burkittsville, Myersville, Point of Rocks, and Brunswick -- all places where transportation history is rich. History programs, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, and the Handbell Festival at 5 p.m. on Sunday, are free and open to the general public.

Event-goers are encouraged to participate in the Passport to History, which is an incentive program to promote museum visits during Bell and History Days. To participate, visitors collect stamps from at least four Bell and History Days program sites. Completed passports are to be deposited with a participating museum before 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 5. All who complete a passport will be rewarded with a 2009 Bell and History Days souvenir bell, and a chance to compete for one of six grand prizes - gift baskets representing each of this year's featured communities. The prize drawing will occur on April 8 and winners will be notified by phone.

Highlights of the 2009 program include guided trolley tours of historic Braddock Heights, which will make a nice complement to trolley-related exhibits at Ostertag Farm in Myersville. Trolley service began in Braddock Heights in August 1886, when it enjoyed popularity as a mountain resort, and entered Myersville in October 1898, with tracks carrying cars through Middletown.

Bell and History Days participants may continue their adventure along the historic National Road on the way to Middletown. The first federally funded road, the Historic National Road provided a gateway to the West for thousands of settlers who followed it from Baltimore through the Appalachians to Vandalia, Illinois. The road's 200 year history traces the evolution of transportation and commemorates the movement that ultimately stretched the nation's boundaries from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Many rich visitor opportunities await guests in Middletown, among them - bell-themed public art along Main Street and demonstrations of early American domestic skills such as basket weaving, quilting and hearth cooking at the Middletown Valley Historical Society.

Both Point of Rocks and Brunswick will introduce visitors to the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad. At Point of Rocks, the Point of Rocks Community Historical Society in the Masonic Lodge will present activities featuring the history of the local railroad station, which is renowned for its Victorian architecture. Just a short distance away, guided tours of the canal lock house in Lander will be offered and guests may see the Catoctin Aqueduct, a magnificent structure that will soon be restored. While in Brunswick, visitors of all ages will have fun with the Railroad Museum's huge interactive train layout. In the adjacent C&O Canal Visitor Center, special programs and hands-on children's activities will feature "A Trip on the C&O Canal Towpath," and "Family Life on the C&O Canal."

In Burkittsville, the Civil War theme - and associated trails - will be featured. Along Civil War Trails, visitors may follow the footsteps of soldiers and those who cared for the wounded after the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, linger to see exhibits and living history interpretations in the village, and then head up the mountain to Gathland State Park where artillery demonstrations and a guided hike of the Appalachian Trail will be offered.

In addition to activities in this year's featured communities, fifteen other museums and historic sites throughout the City of Frederick and Frederick County welcome Bell and History days visitors. At Mt. Olivet Cemetery, resting place of Francis Scott Key, the Frederick County History Bell will be on view. The Roger Brooke Taney House opens a new exhibit exploring the relationship between Chief Justice Taney and the 16th President in honor of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Metal punching and tooling crafts will keep visitors busy at the Children's Museum of Rose Hill Manor, where the work of metal workers will be featured. Living history interpretations at many locations, including the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, will capture the attention of audiences of all ages. The Passport to History program guide gives detailed descriptions of the activities offered at all locations. Participants may plan their own itineraries and visit as many or as few locations as desired.

The event finale at 5:00 pm on April 5 at the Jack B. Kussmaul Theater at Frederick Community College is a handbell festival comprised of seven local handbell choirs. The one-hour concert will feature 100 ringers employing several hundred bells and chimes performing solo and mass-ring selections. Nancy Doll, Director of the Coventry Handbell Choir of the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ in Frederick, and Joche Wilmot, Music Director of Calvary United Methodist Church in Frederick, will conduct the mass selections. Everyone is invited and the concert is free of charge.

The Frederick Historic Sites Consortium presents Bell and History Days to open the 2009 museum season, which continues through mid-December and concludes with the annual Museums by Candlelight tour on December 13, 2009. Bell and History Days is sponsored by The Frederick-News Post and the Tourism Council of Frederick County.

The Passport to History program guide for Bell and History Days will be available after March 5 at the Frederick Visitor Center, 19 East Church Street, Frederick, Maryland. Is will also be available for download at For information, call the Visitor Center at (301) 600-4047.