The weekend that Tom and I started working at Fort Necessity was a festival. Usually a festival means “all hands on deck” with all the rangers working overtime. Tom and I volunteered to work and help out however we could. We set up tents and prepared for the crowds of people. Turns out the National Road Festival is a slightly lower key event, at least at the battlefield.
The 46th National Road Festival was held May 17-19. I know that was several months ago, but I wanted to get all the historic context set before I talked about it. You have now learned about Washington’s road, Braddock’s Trace, and the National Road. You also learned about Mount Washington Tavern which was a “stop” for people who attended the National Road Festival. So I can write about the National Road and you know what I’m talking about.
The National Road Festival takes place along the National Road, US 40, from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington, Pennsylvania. Each town along the road plans special events and the historic buildings have special programs. Here at Mt. Washington Tavern, the Friends of Fort Necessity set up a booth and costumed interpreters manned the tavern. One of the women brought her harp and played in the parlor. Ranger James became the Tavern cook for the day.
The most exciting event of the National Road Festival, for me, was seeing the historic wagon train go by. About 15 pioneer wagons, carriages, and freight wagons, traveled together from Cumberland to Washington. They passed by Mt. Washington on Saturday morning but did not stop. They were spending the night at the Fayette County fairgrounds. They were accompanied by several police cars that were controlling traffic over the mountains.
Despite the hooplah, it was not a big weekend at Mt. Washington Tavern. We had about 100 visitors per day which is what we get on an average Saturday in May. The weather might have had something to do with it: it was rainy and cool. A couple of the rangers told me that most people head to the places where the wagons stop so they can see the horses and mules and talk to the wagoners.
If you are thinking about taking a trip along the National Road, you might keep in mind the third weekend in May. You will find lots of special events held in the towns along “the road that built a nation.”