Skip to main content

Dance, picnic, experience the view at Pen Mar Park

Couples of all ages glide and weave around the floor of the dance pavilion at Pen Mar Park in Cascade, Maryland, just south of Waynesboro on High Rock Road at the Mason-Dixon Line. At an elevation of about 1,400 feet, the park's multi-level overlook pavilion offers one of the best views in the region.

Some of the dancers have taken lessons and are quite talented, others may be untrained but display their own unique flair. People come dressed in any style, from formal to casual; stories are even told of one couple who used to come to the dances dressed in homemade matching costumes. Even hiking boots are acceptable attire on the dance floor, as the Appalachian Trail passes right by the dance pavilion. This variety is typical of the Sunday Music Series at the Park.

The summer Sunday concerts have been ongoing for close to 30 years and are one of the biggest attractions in the area. People come with lawn chairs and picnic baskets to enjoy a Sunday afternoon listening to the strains of a musical group, sit with friends around the pavilion, or just enjoy the sweeping view and the sylvan setting.

"People come because this is one of the most beautiful parks in Washington County," said Fay Powers, who with her late husband, Jim, organized the annual concert series for so long - 25 years - that it is now named for the couple. Powers, now 75, does a little bit of everything. from booking the bands to collecting the donations to setting out the chairs for the musicians.

The locale draws visitors from as far away as Michigan. One couple comes from there every summer and always leaves a donation in honor of their parents who lived locally and faithfully attended in the summers.

Shirley Rienks has been attending the dance concerts since she retired nine years ago. "I dance with whomever asks me," she said, "and I do everything from line dancing to the cha cha and the polka." She and others have formed friendships on the dance floor that are renewed every summer.

The concerts run for 19 weeks and about that many different sorts of dance bands participate. The Dave Winter Group which will perform on July 17, for instance, is a three-man combo of keyboard, drums, and guitar or electric violin. They perform throughout the area for dance groups with a large repertoire of music styles, from ballroom favorites to old standards to pop music, said Linda Winter.

The Ray Birely Orchestra still performs on the key date in the calendar - Everybody's Day - which falls on August 28 this year. Bierly's son Rocky has his own combo and has been scheduled for two dates this summer - the next will be Sept. 25.

Pen Mar Park came into being as an amusement park built by the Western Maryland Railroad, which sought a destination to draw visitors to the area. After it opened in 1877, a number of fashionable hotels and comfortable inns soon arose to serve the summer guests escaping the heat of the cities.

However, as beach-going became more popular, the area dwindled to a close in 1943. In 1977, the park was re-opened by Washington County and has enjoyed a receptive audience.

The amusement park is long gone, but Pen Mar still offers a broad view of the valley and access to the Appalachian Trail, and now features a snack bar with great hot dogs, a charming octagonal interpretive center and all kinds of slides in lively primary colors for young visitors to climb on. Benches line the main paved path, each with a plaque bearing the name of an individual or family. Indeed, so few are now available that the county is considering attaching similar plaques to the trees.

Weddings, family reunions and other functions can be scheduled, for a fee, through the Washington County Parks and Facilities Department.


Jim and Fay Powers Music Series

Pen Mar Park

14600 Pen Mar High Rock Road

Cascade, Md.

Dances are Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m.

Open through Oct. 2

There is no fee, but donations are accepted

For Information on rentals, call 240-313-2807

The concert schedule for the rest of the 2016 season is as follows:

June 19 - Headliners

June 26 - Back to Back

July 3 - Connie Guy Band

July 10 - Arrow Trio

July 17 - Dave Winters Group

July 24 - Jay and the Jingos

July 31 - Spectrum

Aug. 7 - Joe Borzellino Combo

Aug. 14 - Andy Angel Quartet

Aug. 21 - Music by Just Us

Aug. 28 - Ray Birely Orchestra (Everybody’s Day)

Sept. 4 - Détente

Sept. 11 - The Holders

Sept. 18 - George Tindall Combo

Sept. 25 - Rocky Birely Combo

Oct. 2 - The Bill Krantz Combo