Sunday, August 04, 2013

Search for Stars Hollow: Cumberland, MD

You've probably noticed that most of my Search for Stars Hollow posts are focused on the Mid-Atlantic. Don't get me wrong, I'm not convinced my mythical town is nestled between the Appalachian Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay. I've just discovered that, in order to really know a town and be able to tell you about it, I need to get in more than one visit. And, despite how much I get around, most of my repeat visits are in and around my adopted state.

Cumberland MD

Cumberland is a small, historic town in western Maryland nestled beside the Potomac River. Rounding a corner on I-68, the city suddenly unfolds before you. Wander too far and you'll find yourself in West Virginia or Pennsylvania.

Initially, Cumberland was a town I blew through on my way to elsewhere. The church steeples caught my eye, but I would soldier on. I had bigger fish to fry. However, as a work project in the area began to take off and I found myself spending more and more time in the town, its charm and quirks began to burrow under my skin. Sitting around a table, sharing a drink with a few locals a couple of months ago, I was struck by the undeniable fact that Cumberland was as close to Stars Hollow as I'd ever come.

downtown Cumberland

Unlike most of the other small towns I've highlighted, Cumberland lacks some of the big box retail that is a drain on my soul. There are no Wal-Marts or Targets. There is no Starbucks. Instead, I grab my dirty chai from the cozy, well-appointed Cafe Mark or walk a few blocks over for the old-fashioned soda shop feel of Queen City Creamery. It's not the most vegan, vegetarian-friendly town, but if you indulge in the meat from time to time, you can grab a casual meal at The Crabby Pig (awesome crab cakes) or Curtis' Famous Weiners.

Luckily, Cumberland has also become somewhat of a hotbed for outdoor recreation. Situated along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath, it's the perfect overnight stop for biking from DC to Pittsburgh, as well as a good place to launch a day excursion. If I have my way, it's also going to a place to go for water recreation.

titans of industry

The people of Cumberland?! You guys! I wish I could tell you all about them, but I don't want anyone I'm working with there to take it the wrong way. Let me just say that the town is full of awesome, quirky characters. I've met Taylor Doose, sat through the town hall meeting, and talked squirrel hunting over bbq. While I haven't spotted a troubadour (the dream), the guys of Grand Ole' Ditch provide for lyrical storytelling. The Allegany Museum even has creepy dioramas.

Now let's talk festivals. The hottest ticket in town is the annual Delfest, three days of music, camping and adult beverages. I've yet to attend, but almost everyone goes. Two weeks later and folks were still talking about the after parties and late night venues (and these weren't folks in their 20s). Cumberland is also home to the Tri-State Wing-Off and Heritage Days festival.

Seriously, Cumberland just may be the Appalachian version of Stars Hollow.

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