Don Spinelli sat eating a plate of fried chicken beneath the shade of a tent, tucked away behind the stage on which he would later perform as principal percussionist with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.
Spinelli, 55, of Pittsburgh spent 20 years with the Marine Corps Band before retiring his drumsticks from military service in 2007. He continues to perform with the MSO, which he has been with since 1989, so he’s not a first-timer at the annual Salute to Independence at Antietam National Battlefield.
Spinelli said he appreciates the effort and resources that go into putting the event on.
“This is the biggest crowd we ever play for, so I think that’s always fun,” he said, adding that he likes the weather and thinks the “fireworks are spectacular.”
Mary Worthington came from her hometown of Charlotte, N.C., for the event.
Though she has family in the area — her parents live in Boonsboro — this was her first time attending the Salute to Independence at Antietam National Battlefield.
The 30-year-old writer for the Catholic News Herald in Charlotte came with her parents, who “have a great appreciation for history,” she said.
Worthington expressed excitement for the evening.
“It celebrates not only our freedom, but our culture, and helps us to remember the people who died for our country,” she said.
Glen and Mary Smith
Charles Town, W.Va.
Equipped with a cooler and hats for the scorching heat and books to pass the time until the Maryland Symphony Orchestra concert’s commencement, Glen and Mary Smith — 68 and 60 years old, respectively — found a good view of the stage and battlefield’s surrounding landscape perched atop a hill.
The Charles Town, W. Va., couple has come to the Salute to Independence three times, although Glen had been there with others before he and his wife started coming.
“I’m very familiar with Civil War stuff,” he said.
They look forward to the music as well as the fireworks that follow.
“I’m just glad we have a breeze. It’s probably 93 degrees, but it’s blowing,” Glen said.
White Marsh, Md.
Hannah Carr came out to the Salute to Independence to meet up with friends.
“They come out every year, and they invited me,” the first-time attendee said, adding the main draw was the music.
Carr, 20, of White Marsh, Md., just graduated from Towson (Md.) University, where she studied psychology, she said.
Camp Springs, Md.
National Park Service volunteers, with their distinctive dark green shirts and khaki bottoms, were scattered throughout the crowd for the Salute to Independence. Roxanne Patton was among them.
Patton, 64, has been a volunteer with the park service for more than five years, she said, so “(The salute) is a regular thing for me.”
Though she lives more than 80 miles away in Camp Springs, Md., Patton said she makes time to be able to come up for the annual event.
“Since a little girl, I was always interested in the Civil War,” she said, noting that her birthday occurs on the anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg (Va.).
“I love the park,” Patton said. “It’s so pristine, just as it was in 1862.”
Darryl Benner is vice president of the Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co., whose volunteers were at the Salute to Independence grilling burgers and hot dogs to raise funds for the fire company’s operational expenses.
The fire company has been running the concession stand fundraiser at the Salute to Independence for “as long as it’s been in existence,” said Benner, 52.
The fire company’s profits depend largely on the weather and the crowd, said Benner, who was named the 2013 Fireman of the Year by the Maryland State Firemen’s Association.
As they work selling concessions, the volunteers can hear the music from the speakers nearby.
“When the fireworks start, we shut down our operation,” he said.
— Karen Mawdsley