It 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!