Assateague Island, Berlin and Ocean City, MD

Driving along the Chesapeake Bay eastern coast, we had no intention of backtracking to the opposite side of the state to visit the northern end of Assateague Island.  But plans change.  One of our visitor center stops had provided a flyer advertising the 22nd annual Berlin Fiddlers Convention.

 Understanding my love of bluegrass music, Alan proposed that we shift direction, and a few minutes later we were driving toward Berlin.  It also turns out that this small town is just across the bridge from the Assateague State Park and the Assateague Island National Seashore.

The state park is located on the same barrier island that is home to the Chincoteague NWR, but no
road is available from the southern to the northern end of the island, which is owned and preserved by various government entities.  Luckily, we were able to secure a site in this popular oceanfront campground.  On the east the park is bordered by the white sand beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, and to the west by Sinepuxent Bay which provided us with a kayak launch site.  The 125 or so wild ponies in this park, and in the National Seashore, are owned by the National Park Service.  Unlike the southern herd, these ponies are not checked by vets and herd size is controlled by the use of birth control darts.  Wild ponies roam freely between the two parks, along the beaches, the roadways and through the campgrounds.  Visitors are warned, by signs posted throughout the parks, to keep at least 10 feet away from them.  While mosquitoes were not an issue in the campground or while we were kayaking, our early morning bike ride through the National Seashore became a race to keep ahead of them.  Having forgotten to bring any repellent, slowing down to do anything resulted in an assault from dozens of the blood-sucking insects.  We traveled ten miles in record time.

Nearby Berlin was voted as the number one "Coolest Small Town in America" for 2014 by Budget Travel.  Arriving in town, we found several artists working on paintings of the downtown area for the upcoming Plien air affair, which overlapped with the fiddling event.  The three-day free live music convention started Friday evening with last year's competition winner, and ended Sunday with a Bluegrass Gospel Jam.  Saturday was filled with competitions, for all ages, for best band, guitar, banjo, mandolin and violin.  Hay bales topped with wooden planks and lawn chairs provided sitting for the thousands of visitors.

As it turned out, there was another, even bigger, event taking place that same weekend in Ocean City,
about 10 miles north.  So Sunday, we headed over to the 40th annual Sunfest.  Deemed one of the largest arts and craft shows in the country, offering 180 craft vendors, 30 food vendors and two stages of non-stop (mostly free) music, large crowds took advantage of  all the offerings.  Music ranged from the Oldies played by The Diamonds to the extra high energy 80's music played by the 8-piece band, Party Like Its.....

Time to head back over to the Chesapeake.

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