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Posted May 18, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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'Wild West' theme draws thousands

The Lone Ranger and his horse Silver
The Lone Ranger and his horse, Silver, greet the crowd as the grand marshal of the parade during the 27th Annual Mayfest at Strasburg on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Daniel Smelcer swings
Daniel Smelcer swings to ring the bell while his brother, Austin, and grandmother, Sharon Halpin, look on during Mayfest on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Strasburg Volunteer Rescue Squad float
A float by the Strasburg Volunteer Rescue Squad thanks the people for their support during the Mayfest parade. Andrew Thayer/Daily

North Holliday Street is filled with people
North Holliday Street is filled with people enjoying the children's activities, music and food Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Mayor Tim Taylor
Tim Taylor, mayor, waves to the crowd during the parade at the 27th Annual Mayfest at Strasburg on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Strasburg High School Band marches
Strasburg High School Band marches down King Street while playing music for the crowd during the parade at the 27th Annual Mayfest at Strasburg on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily


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By Linwood Outlaw III -- loutlaw@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- It had a western feel that was different from any atmosphere in years past, but many of the traditional activities residents have come to enjoy remained intact as the town celebrated its 27th Annual Mayfest in grand style on Saturday.

An estimated 10,000 people attended the event which carried a "Wild West" theme, festival chairman Richard Orndorff said. "It truly is a community event. I think our theme this year is working very, very well," he said. "We've had various themes over the years. This probably has been the most fun and the most utilized. Even some of the volunteers are in western garb ... It's going to be hard to top [next year]."

Saturday's festivities kicked off with an early morning pancake breakfast sponsored by the Strasburg Volunteer Fire Department, followed by a 5K Fun Run/Walk that included a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new walking trail at the town park.

Patrons strolled through the downtown area to look at arts and crafts on display, while also taking in some live music entertainment. Pony rides, face and hair painting, air bouncers and other children's activities were also in full swing. Because of economic circumstances, festival organizers had to scale back on a few activities that were held at previous Mayfest events, including a petting zoo.

With many people looking to spend less and find cheaper ways to have fun, Mayfest was the perfect alternative, Orndorff said.

"We've talked about rather than vacation, this year 'staycation' is the buzz word in the industry, and that is that you stay local and do things that are less expensive," he said. "I think that it was very, very important to try and offer something for the folks who can't spend quite as much this year in doing other things. All of the entertainment is free."

Making the most of its "Wild West" theme, organizers asked The Lone Ranger -- or at least the best look-alike personality of the fictional, masked character they could find -- to serve as the grand marshal of this year's Mayfest.

The character was portrayed by Garry Cherricks, 60, a Maryland native who has gained popularity in nearby states such as Maryland, Delaware and North Carolina while appearing at numerous shows as a Lone Ranger look-alike.

Cherricks rarely breaks character while in the public eye, and he never promotes his real name. Why? "Because I'm not doing this for personal rewards," Cherricks said after meeting with fans and taking pictures with them. "I'm doing this to reach out to the kids [about] non-violence, no smoking, no drugs, no profanity and to take responsibility for their actions, just like we as kids used to. The older people, you can see them reminisce and think about those days when they were a kid."

Cherricks said his impression of Strasburg is "so high that I really can't express how I feel."

"These people have been so gracious to me and my horse [Silver], more so than any place that we have ever been. And, I really hope that they'll let us come back again," he said. "They opened up their hearts and let us come in ... I think everything is a win-win situation here, more than any other town I've ever been in."

Despite rainy weather late in the afternoon, organizers proceeded with the traditional Mayfest parade along West King and Massanutten streets as thousands of spectators looked on. Cherricks and this year's sports marshal, Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Wayte Bradburne, also appeared in the parade. Also among events that rounded out Saturday's festivities were a motorcycle cruise-in show and bachelor auction.

Danny Wuchter, 69, has attended all 27 Mayfests. Wuchter, who had several food stands on display, travels all the way from his home in Allentown, Pa., to take part in the event.

"We just enjoy Strasburg, Va. I come up for vacations. We love Northern Virginia. We love the people. And, we love doing the festival," Wuchter said. "It's a great feeling to be here."

Mayfest concluded on Sunday with a dog costume parade, duck race and fashion show at the Strasburg Theater.

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