Baltimore Provides Free Planning Assistance For Same-Sex Weddings After Historic Maryland Vote

On Tuesday, when Maryland residents voted to uphold a law legalizing same-sex marriages, the city of Baltimore was ready. Just hours after the election results were in, Visit Baltimore unveiled a dedicated LGBT Wedding microsite, which provides resources for gay and lesbian couples looking to plan a wedding in the city.

“We encourage the LGBT community to visit Baltimore to celebrate their commitments to one another,” said Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore, in a press release. “As a city, we have long been proud to support the rights and equality of our visitors, and the legalization of same-sex marriage is another important step forward.”

Not only is Visit Baltimore extending a warm welcome to same-sex couples planning weddings, receptions and honeymoons, it’s also offering free assistance on tasks like securing marriage licenses, finding caterers and booking rooms at TAG-approved hotels, which are recognized for their non-discriminatory policies toward gay couples. The site also offers up suggestions for unique wedding venues, like the National Aquarium, the Maryland Zoo and the American Visionary Art Museum, with its selection of eccentric “outsider” artwork.

LGBT couples are welcome to apply for a Maryland marriage license starting on January 1, 2013. The Baltimore City license fee is $85, and the fee to be married by a court clerk is $25.[Photo Credit: Visit Baltimore]

Antietam National Battlefield Park Gears Up To Commemorate Civil War’s Bloodiest Day

It was the bloodiest day of the Civil War. After 12 hours of ferocious fighting on September 17, 1862, an estimated 23,000 soldiers had been killed, wounded or declared missing. Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North was at an end.

The Battle of Antietam, in Maryland, proved to be a turning point in the war. Lincoln had been keeping his Emancipation Proclamation secret, waiting for a Union victory in order to make the controversial freeing of the slaves in rebellious states politically easier. This battle gave him that victory.

It also boosted confidence in the North. Union forces had suffered a series of embarrassing blunders and defeats. While the Union army’s success at Antietam wasn’t all it could have been (their forces outnumbered the rebels but were poorly handled by General McClellan) it showed that the war could be won.

On the weekend of September 15-17 Antietam National Battlefield Park is hosting a commemorative weekend of events for the 150th anniversary. Programs include battlefield hikes, lectures, special exhibits, kids activities, Civil War music and living history artillery and infantry firing demonstrations. For more information on General Lee’s ill-fated Maryland Campaign and commemoration events related to it, check out the National Park Service’s Maryland Campaign Commemoration page.

There’s also a large Battle of Antietam Reenactment on farmland a few miles away from the national park on September 14-16. This is a privately run event and preregistration is a must. Deadline is August 31.

[Photo of Confederate dead at Bloody Lane courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail Officially Opens

The Star Spangled Banner Historical Trail officially opened last week, marking the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The trail, which was established back in 2008, features 560 miles of land and water routes that trace the major events of the war as it played out across Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Dozens of markers along the trail’s length help tell the story of the conflict, which included the Battle of Baltimore the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The song would later go on to be named America’s national anthem.

More information on the new trail can be found at its official website, which provides historical context for much of the route and a map of the trail itself. The site also provides suggestions for things to do while traveling along the trail such as visiting Fort McHenry National Monument, exploring a museum or paddling one of several water trails.

Road Trip Idea: East Coast Ice Cream Trails

The bourbon trail draws crowds of whiskey swillers to Kentucky, but further north several states have introduced treks that appeal to trailblazers of all tastes (and ages). These pilgrimages center around America’s favorite dessert: ice cream. If you’re visiting or passing through one of these areas this summer, be sure to pull over at a roadside farm to enjoy a scoop or two.

Maryland Ice Cream Trail: Announced last week, the Maryland Ice Cream Trail includes seven creameries throughout the state that create frozen delights on site. To promote area dairy farms and the states official beverage, milk, Maryland’s Department of Agriculture put together an ice cream passport that can be stamped at each location. Those who collect all the stamps by Labor Day can submit it to the department to be entered in to a drawing to win – you guessed it – more ice cream.

Connecticut’s Sundae Drives: In Connecticut, map out your own tasty trail with the help of the Sundae Drives brochure, which has more than 60 picks for ice cream. From soft serve to sorbet, this is one state that will satisfy your frozen cravings (and they’ve got beer ice cream and soy ice cream, too).

New Hampshire’s Ice Cream Trail: Finally, New Hampshire has an Ice Cream Trail featuring 32 creameries. Pick a classic like mint chip churned up at Bishop’s Homemade, or try something a little more adventurous like ginger ice cream or Dinosaur Crunch (vanilla ice cream dyed blue and served with chocolate and brownie chunks) at Arnie’s Place.

[Photo by TheCulinaryGeek, Flickr]

‘This Is The Place Death Delights To Help The Living’

The horrors of war and the medical techniques used on the wounded in the battlefield are incomprehensible to those of us who have never donned a soldier’s uniform. The National Museum of Health and Medicine, also known as the Army Medical Museum, puts these realities into context.

Founded during the Civil War as a center for medical study of gunshot wounds, amputations and other physical maladies, the museum was tucked away on the grounds of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., from 1971 until 2011. When the Walter Reed Center outgrew its facilities, a new building was built for the National Museum of Health and Medicine next to the Silver Spring, Maryland, annex of Fort Detrick. Its official opening was May 21, 2012.

(Warning: Some readers may find the images in this gallery quite gruesome. View at your own risk!)While this medical museum is small, housing only three galleries, its exhibits on skeletons, brain damage, disease and military medicine from the Civil War era to the present day are engaging, if not disconcerting. There are displays of baby skeletons; cross sections of parts of bodies to expose muscle tissue; a leg and a scrotum affected by elephantiasis; stillborn conjoined twins preserved in formaldehyde; a complete brain and spinal column, also preserved in a liquid solution; remains plucked from the battlefields of Antietam, Manassas, and Fredericksburg; and numerous bullets and bits of shrapnel. There are more than 500 bullets and pieces of shrapnel in the Civil War collection alone.

There are famous, or infamous, exhibits here, most notably the bullet that John Wilkes Booth used to kill Abraham Lincoln and the steamer trunk used by Dorothea Dix, who supervised the Union nurses during the Civil War. A recent addition to the collection is Trauma Bay II, the concrete slab that was the “primary resuscitation bay in the Emergency Department of the U.S. Air Force Balad Theater Hospital” in Iraq.

Although the displays that reference known historical figures do put these exhibits into context, it is the everyday soldier, who was injured, maimed, or died in war, whose sacrifices helped advance military medicine as we know it today. As stated in one of the displays, “This is the place death delights to help the living.”