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CHAMBERSBURG — It’s time for ChambersFest, one of the biggest summer festivals in the region. Thousands are expected for the annual event that begins Saturday morning and ends with a massive light show the following weekend.

How Did ChambersFest Come to Be?

ChambersFest began in 1986 when local organizations came together to create a festival commemorating the town’s rebirth after its burning on July 30, 1864 during the Civil War.

On that fateful day, Chambersburg became the only town north of the Mason-Dixon line to be burned by Confederates during the war. More than 500 structures were destroyed and 2,000 people left homeless.

The townspeople were resilient, however, and rebuilt the town, which enabled Chambersburg to grow and prosper.

Today, ChambersFest celebrates the spirit of the townspeople with fun, family-friendly events thousands of people enjoy every year. 

Celebrations and activities have been coordinated by The Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Business Council, Downtown Chambersburg Inc., the Franklin County Visitors Bureau and others.

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Races, Farmers Market and Ice Cream

The Tim and Susan Cook Memorial Race and Scoop-a-Palooza kickoff the community’s week-long 33rd Annual ChambersFest celebration this weekend.

The 16th Annual Tim & Susan Cook Memorial 1-Mile Race starts early with registration at 7 p.m. at the Chambersburg Area Senior High School Upper Concession Stand. Proceeds from this race are donated to the Tim & Susan Cook Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to students at Chambersburg Area Senior High School.

The Women’s/Girl’s Race/Walk starts at 8 and the Men’s/Boy’s Race/Walk at 8:30 a.m. a Results Ceremony is set for 9:30.

North Square Farmers Market will be open from 8 a.m. to noon downtown. Visitors can enjoy Chambersburg’s only open-air farmers market offering farm fresh, seasonal and 100% locally grown produce.

Expect products exclusively from local farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs in a fun, social atmosphere as well as kids’ activities, live music and more.

More information:

Coordinated by North Square Farmers Market.

Scoop-a-Palooza starts at 11 a.m. and offers participants an all-you-can-eat ice cream experience until 3 p.m. at Chambersburg Area Senior High School.

Once you enter the festival you can sample all the ice cream you want from a variety of area shops. Then be sure to vote for your favorite flavors in each of the 5 categories. Proceeds raise money for educational programs offered through the Greater Chambersburg Chamber Foundation. 

Tickets: $6 adults, $4 kids in advance. Purchase tickets online here: At the door tickets also available for a higher cost. Coordinated by the Greater Chambersburg Chamber Foundation.

But those Saturday events are just the beginning of a week-long community celebration featuring activities the entire family can enjoy at little or no cost.

Restaurant Week July 13-20

Back by popular demand, the 3rd Annual ChambersFest Restaurant Week will feature unique cuisines and specials to showcase the best in dining. More than 30 restaurants will participate in showcasing special cuisines, meal deals and prizes for patrons.

Here’s a chance to discover the wide variety of dining options around town, including a large number of culturally diverse cuisines during the week of ChambersFest. 

More information:

Sponsored by Penn National Insurance and Strickler Agency, Inc. Coordinated by the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce.

Totem Pole performances

Totem Pole Playhouse will take part in the celebration Sunday, July 14 and Tuesday – Thursday, July 16-18 with performances of Souvenir – A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the summer theater playhouse at 9555 Golf Course Rd., Fayetteville.

Civil War ball on Friday

Last year’s Civil War Ball drew participants in extravagant Civil War gowns and military dress uniforms of the era.

Kick off the 1864 Weekend by kicking up the heels at the Civil War Ball at Allison-Antrim Museum from 7-9:30 p.m. July 19. Held in the historic bank barn on the property, learn traditional dances from the Civil War-era from the Victorian Dance Ensemble.

Come in Victorian-era costume or modern attire as beginners and advanced dancers are welcome to give it a whirl!

Don’t Miss the Old Jail Tours

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Franklin County Historical Society, 175 E. King St.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday visitors to the Old Jail can tour the historic jail and see a special World War II exhibit. Carlton Bigler and Ann Hull will sign their new photo book: The Way We Were: the Decades of the 40’s to the 80’s.

Cost for tours is $5 for adults, $4 for children over 6, $10 for families (2 adults and 2 children). Group rates are also available. Call 717-264-1667 for more information or click here. 

Old Market Day: The capstone of ChambersFest

The capstone of ChambersFest activities is the final Saturday of the festival when the two largest events are held.

Old Market Day is a street festival featuring art, craft and food vendors as well as live music on two stages.

Later that day is 1864: The Burning, a reenactment of the ransom and burning of Chambersburg with a fantastic laser lights show.

Walk the streets from 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and enjoy live music, arts and crafts vendors, children’s activities food, fun and more. This street festival is a tradition of ChambersFest and includes two stages and the North Square Farmer’s Market.

Other local participants include a circus exhibit and bounce house at The Old Jail (, dance performance at the Capitol Theatre by Chambersburg Ballet Theatre School (  quilt show at Falling Spring Presbyterian Church ( and music by Cumberland Valley School of Music at First United Methodist Church (

Don’t Miss These on Old Market Day:

“The Art of Quilting” Quilt Show” 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. – The Presbyterian Church of Falling Spring and 11/30 Visitors Center on the Square

Beautiful, handmade quilts will be on display at this popular Quilt Show, along with demonstrations of various quilting techniques. Visitors will also have an opportunity to enter for a chance to win a quilt.

Handmade items and quilting supplies will be available for purchase. Admission is $5, children are free. More information:

Coordinated by the Chambersburg Quilt Guild and Franklin County Historical Society.

North Square Farmers Market, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Downtown Chambersburg

Enjoy Chambersburg’s only open-air farmers market offering farm fresh, seasonal and 100% locally grown produce. Products exclusively from local farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs in a fun, social atmosphere as well as kids’ activities, live music and more. Free!

More information:

Coordinated by North Square Farmers Market.

Chambersburg Art Project, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – The Foundry
Enjoy interactive art projects at The Foundry including the Faces of Chambersburg Mural! Artists will also showcase their current works.

Pop-up Beer Garden & Multicultural Cuisine, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Capitol Theatre Greenway, 159 S. Main St.

Downtown Chambersburg Inc. will host its popular Pop-up Beer Garden during Old Market Day! There will be craft beer, cider and wine for purchase from more than five vendors. Admission is free for those 21 and over – a valid ID is required for entry.

Coordinated by Downtown Chambersburg Inc.

ChambersFest Summer Swag, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Chambersburg Heritage Center & Gift Shop, 100 Lincoln Way East:

Pick up your FREE ChambersFest Summer Swag including a survival kit and beach balls while you enjoy the Old Market Day festivities! Cold bottled water will also be available free of charge thanks to our Corporate ChambersFest Sponsors: MyEyeDr., PDM Insurance Agency Inc., Totem Pole Playhouse, VerStandig Media, WellSpan Health – Formerly Summit Health, West Penn Power and Wilson College. Public restrooms are also available at the Heritage Center.

Voice & Drama Camp Performance – 9 a.m. – The Capitol Theatre, 159 S. Main St.

Cumberland Valley School of Music summer camp attendees will present a free showcase during the Chambersburg Old Market Day festivities.

Chambersburg YMCA Sam’s Camp and CVSM Voice & Drama Camp participants will sing and dance for their audience at the Capitol Theatre in Chambersburg. The performance is designed around songs and scenes from “The Wizard of Oz.”

The YMCA Sam’s Camp children will work with Babette Wenerd (music), Courtney Burkholder (dance), and Tarryne West (art). The children will sing, dance, and create art over the week-long camp, culminating in the Saturday performance.

Coordinated by Cumberland Valley School of Music.

Civil War Walking Tour, book signings

There will be book signings by authors Bob O’connor, James Rada, Stephen Recker and Ted Alexander throughout the day on Old Market Day at the Franklin County 11/30 Visitors Center, on the square.

All four authors specialize in Civil War history.

Bob O’Connor is a regional author of thirteen Civil War based on fictional and non-fictional books, with several more in progress.  He is a Civil War historian with an interest in three pivotal Civil War era individuals, Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, and John Wilkes Booth.

James Rada is the author of five historical novels and seven non-fiction books. He also writes fantasy and young adult fiction under the pen name J. R. Rada.

​His articles appear regularly in a variety of regional and national magazines such as History Channel Magazine, Boy’s Life and History Magazine. Jim has also had more than two dozen short stories published.

Stephen Recker is a collector of rare Antietam photographs and relics. Items from his collection can be seen on battlefield waysides, in the newly renovated museum at Antietam National Battlefield, as well as in his book Rare Images of Antietam, and the Photographers Who Took Them. 

Ted Alexander is a Civil War Author, Smithsonian Tour Guide, and Chief Historian at Antietam Battlefield (Retired). His most recent publications available for purchase and signing include:

  • The Battle of Antietam: The Bloodiest Day by Alann Schmidt and Terry Barkley with foreward by Ted Alexander
  • September Mourn: The Dunker Church of Antietam

Don’t Leave Yet… There’s More to Come

Civil War Walking Tour Begins approximately 5:30 PM – July 20
Explore Chambersburg’s rich history with tours around town while you are waiting for the evening’s entertainment to start. Start time is based on Old Market Day vendor cleanup)

A Cappella & Unplugged6 p.m. – Downtown Chambersburg
The highlight event preceding the 1864 light show is the final round of A Cappella & Unplugged, performed on the steps of the courthouse. Spectators can vote for their favorite act and have their in-person vote tabulated with online voting to select the winner, who will receive $500 and bragging rights to the 4th annual talent search contest. Free!

More information:

Coordinated by the Capitol Theatre and the Franklin County Visitors Bureau.

Actors at a prior year's Reenactment of the Civil War burning of Chambersburg in 1864.
Actors at a prior years Reenactment of the Civil War burning of Chambersburg in 1864.

1864: The Burning – 9 to 10 p.m. – Downtown Chambersburg

As darkness approaches, the town will transform to 1864 and the story of the towns ransoming, burning and rebirth will come to life with incredible light and atmospheric effects. A variety of activities will lead up to the reenactment of the Burning of Chambersburg light show. Free!

On July 30, 1864, Confederates demanded a ransom of $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in Yankee dollars or Chambersburg would be burned. The town was unable and unwilling to deliver the money, and the center of Chambersburg was fired.

More than 2000 people were left homeless and over 550 structures burned. Yet, the town returned, stronger than ever, and this is the basis of the annual celebration. It is a tribute to the strength of people and community.

This event is filled with incredible light and atmospheric effects. It’s hard to believe it’s not actually ablaze.

As the Confederate soldiers arrive, stay alert, as they will attempt to collect ransom money from within the crowd. All money collected will be donated to Franklin County Habitat for Humanity.

More information:

Coordinated by the Franklin County Visitors Bureau

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