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Mark Hofmann I Herald Standard/

Three master gardeners, (from left) Brenda Ziemkiewicz of Connellsville, Mary Beth Reilly of Rostraver and Dora Packowski of Scottdale, start digging at the corner of Crawford’s Cabin in Connellsville for a herb garden in time for the annual Braddock’s Crossing event on June 26. The garden will be a new feature.

The 18th annual Braddock’s Crossing event is returning this year with new features, but is still not back in full force.

“This year, we’re still not totally out of the woods,” said Karen Hechler with the Connellsville Historical Society, which organizes the event every year.

Because of COVID-19 last year, Hechler said the event was limited to one day, and the average river crossing with reenactors and the public was not held.

The crossing was to symbolize Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock’s crossing of the Youghiogheny River at Stewart’s Crossing in Connellsville in June 1755 on their way to Fort Duquesne.

This year, the river crossing still won’t happen due to safety concerns beyond COVID-19.

“We don’t know what the river is going to be like this year,” Hechler said. “The last four to five years, it has been deep and swift.”

Other changes from last year will remain in effect including the reenactors not spending the night and no major refreshment stand for the safety of volunteers at the event.

Hechler said people can order a box lunch which will include a choice of a chicken-salad-croissant sandwich or a ham-and-cheese sandwich, pasta salad, cookie, beverage and chips for $10.

The event will be on June 26 with the opening ceremony taking place at 11 a.m. at Yough River Park, where the featured speaker will be John Joseph, who recently began the project of making Robinson Falls on Falls Avenue in Connellsville more accessible for the public.

The falls, explained Hechler, were along the Braddock Road, which was cut to bring Gen. Braddock’s troops to Fort Duquesne.

“Hopefully, next year, we’ll have things back to normal,” Hechler said. “This is my baby, and I want to see it continue.”

While this year’s Braddock’s Crossing event is still under what’s considered the “new normal,” a new feature will be present this year, and that’s Braddock’s garden.

Hechler said master gardeners through the Penn State Extension office were tasked with creating an herb garden outside of Crawford’s Cabin at the Yough River Park that likely would have been present outside of the actual Crawford’s cabin in the 1700s.

“Living out in the frontier, you did not have access to spices – you grew your own items,” Hechler said of the gardens used for cooking as well as medicine. “The master gardeners will be at the opening ceremony to talk about their vision for the herb garden where Mrs. Crawford would have used for her food.”

Plants that will be at the garden include horseradish, lemon balm, marigold, oregano, peppermint, sage, tansy and thyme.

“We hope it will bring a different group of people to our event,” Hechler said, adding the goal is making the event a gift to the community. “People can learn who we are and what we stand for in the early part of the country’s history.”

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