seems more and more these days, people want to return to a
simpler, safer, quieter way of life. And while no one can
remain unaffected by the changes in these uncertain times,
still there are pockets of tranquillity where we can go to
rest... to let our guard down... to just breathe!
Far from the maddening big-city crowds, at the southern end
of Garrett County in western Maryland, lies just such a place
the small but not-so-sleepy little town of Oakland.
Its motto is A Great Small Town, and it holds
true for many reasons, beginning with the peaceful, friendly
attitude of its people a reflection of the towns
mayor, Asa McCain, Jr.
Theres a calm that comes over you from just being
in these mountains, he says from his courthouse office.
Maybe its the pine trees... the clean air. Or
just the combination of different visual images. Images
from a bygone era. Sidewalked streets lined with old-growth
oak trees in front of well-kept houses. Comfortable, modern
structures sitting next to stately Victorian homes on whose
porches family and friends might gather to talk, laugh and
enjoy Octobers Autumn Glory parade or in whose kitchens
a church group might prepare a meal for an upcoming charity
event. This is a place where community matters.
Indeed, youll quickly lose count of the number of hellos
and friendly waves you get as you stroll down Alder Street
in the center of town. You may stop to have a bite at a the
family-owned Towne Restaurant before humoring your sweet tooth
with an ice cream float from the old-fashioned soda fountain
just down the street in the back of Englanders. Next,
why not burn off those calories by indulging in one of Oaklands
newest passions antique-ing? Aside from the Alder Haus
and the aforementioned Englanders, you might breeze
into any of the many smaller shops on Second Street to discover
a corner of the building dedicated to rare or unusual finds
which change constantly.
I think we have a very unique and diverse retail environment
here, says mayor McCain. Weve got not only
the antiques but the Amish-made baked goods, jams, jellies
and herbal remedies at the farmers market as well as
the Garrett County Arts Council gallery which features work
by local artists. In fact, over 100 artists display
their work there in every imaginable medium; from oil on canvas
to jewelry, iron sculpture, paper mache and more.
If the auditory arts are more to your liking, perhaps youll
want to time your visit to Oakland to coincide with the Little
Yough Summer Music Festival which runs late June through early
August. To enjoy an eclectic mix of folk, rock and blues by
such names as former Lovin Spoonful frontman and harmonica
virtuoso John Sebastian and the Emmy- and Clio Award winning
Steve Chapin and his band (including Big John
Wallace on bass), just bring a lawn chair and savor the free
concerts presented every Friday night during the festival
at the Mountain Fresh Pavilion just on the edge of
town amid the pine trees, fresh air and family atmosphere.
Save Saturday night for reservations at the Our Town Theatre
on Center Street, where local and imported talent are represented.
Once a favorite vacation destination for such luminaries as
Albert Einstein and more than one US president who rode the
train up from Washington D.C., the area saw hard times as
railway travel gave way to the auto. However, since the mid
1950s, it has enjoyed a revitalization. As an homage
to those times, the town of Oakland along with local
civic and business groups has recently undertaken the
erecting and restoring the upper level of the old Deer Park
Hotel (including the dismantling/re-assembling of the underground
gas cave to light it) and the projected restoration of the
magnificent Queen Anne-style Oakland Railroad
Station, both in the heart of downtown. Built in 1885 by the
B&O Railroad from a design by Francis Baldwin, the railroad
station also marks the beginning of a 3-mile walking/bike
trail that follows an old Indian path through the woods and
around part of the trout-stocked Little Youghiogheny River.
Quiet streets, clean air, free concerts, unique shopping,
live theater, engaging history and friendly people... Oakland
truly is a Great Small Town!