OPINION: "Mary's Land" Celebrates 375 Years in 2009 - Southern Maryland Headline News

OPINION: "Mary's Land" Celebrates 375 Years in 2009

By Bob Schaller, Director of Economic Development for St. Mary's County

Start getting used to the number 375. Next year Maryland marks its 375th birthday. It was in 1634 when more than a hundred English settlers landed on a safe harbor in the Potomac River they named "St. Clement's Island." Every March 25 we celebrate Maryland Day at Colton's Point that looks out at the historical first landing site. Did you know that St. Clement's Island (later called Blackistone Island) is only about one-tenth the size it was 375 years ago? In fact, the first island the settlers encountered was "Heron's Island" but it was passed by to anchor at the nearby and larger St. Clement's Island. Interestingly, like Cedar Point on the Bay or Michener's fictional "Devon Island" at the mouth of the Choptank River, there is no more Heron's Island; only a sand bar that's barely visible at low tide.

While this might seem a small historical reference, there are countless examples like this throughout St. Mary's County. We are very blessed to be part of Maryland's Mother County surrounded by rich history and heritage. We have a tremendous story to tell to both visitors and to life-long residents who just may not be aware of what's around us. Did you also know that the historic Blackistone Lighthouse that stood on the island for more than a century - but was destroyed by fire in 1956 - has been completely reconstructed and will be open to the public within a matter of weeks? What a tremendous new local attraction! Again, this just scratches the surface of our local tourist attractions. To learn more visit tour.stmarysmd.com

So the idea with Maryland's 375th is to help promote awareness about St. Mary's County and all it has to offer. On Wednesday morning, June 4 our Tourism Division is hosting a mini-conference to discuss the Celebrate 375 program. In partnership with Historic St. Mary's City and Maryland Life magazine, the conference will also include a premier showing of a new tourism video commercial and campaign. The Southern Maryland Travel and Tourism Committee will announce the St. Mary's County Hospitality Person of the Year and a specialist from the Maryland Office of Tourism Development will present tips for attracting group tours. We plan a commemorative visitor guide, weekend packages, a Discover St. Mary's Card, a hospitality service awards program, and a Celebrate 375 website.

What can you do? Help us spread the word about the campaign. You may be aware that this year (2008) Leonardtown (formerly Seymour Town) is celebrating its 300th birthday while Charles County marks its 350th birthday. That huge pink birthday cake in Hughesville is an example of raising local awareness. While large birthday cakes may not be part of our 375th campaign, we would appreciate your feedback and suggestions on marketing and promotional strategies. We strongly encourage your involvement and participation in Maryland's 375th. Remember that it all started right here. It continues every day almost four centuries later with a population of 100,000 people and growing. Discover St. Mary's County; you'd be pleasantly surprised.

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