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Main Attractions: Maryland’s “Queen City” of Cumberland is a Mountain Gem

When one drives through Cumberland on Interstate 68, it is difficult to not be struck by the combination of stunning mountain views and spires from churches. Perhaps even more impressive is Cumberland’s array of family-friendly shops and activities offered on its walkable, recently revitalized Main Street. Since FY15, the city has been aided in recent redevelopment efforts by more than $1.1 million in funding from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, including a $50,000 Operating Assistance Grant in FY18 for the renovation of the Cumberland Theatre.

Formerly the second-largest city in Maryland, Cumberland has played different roles throughout its history. Like its neighboring Main Street Maryland community, the city of Frostburg, Cumberland was a prominent location on the B&O Railroad. It was also a military outpost used by George Washington during the French and Indian War, as well as a thriving mining and industrial town. Though the present-day city has had its difficulties, they have weathered the storm and are on the rise, says Downtown Development Commission Executive Director Mikayla Dodge. A native of Glen Burnie, Dodge went to Frostburg State University and fell in love with the area, and she’s not alone. “It’s got a big-city feeling packed into a small town,” said Dodge of her adopted city. “When you’re driving up here, a lot of people have told me they didn’t realize there was a whole different world. We’re up here in the mountains, but there’s plenty to do and plenty of places to be able to go.”

Cumberland’s downtown, located along Baltimore Street and the immediately surrounding roads, comes alive quite often. A recently-opened stage in the center of downtown, the McCoury Family Stage, has attracted musical acts from all over the area. A Fall Festival on October 13 will run 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and feature live performances, offerings from local shops and restaurants, and more. Events held in the downtown mall area frequently prove popular, like August’s Weinerfest event, a celebration of 100 years in business for local favorite Coney Island Famous Weiners. That event, Dodge said, highlighted the spirit of unity she feels will drive Cumberland to keep improving. “I’d love to see that more often. I know with Weinerfest, all week, their lines were out the door,” Dodge said. “We’re working together. The businesses partner with us, with each other. For all these organizations to come together, that means progress.”

Inclusion in the Main Street Maryland program has been unquestionably beneficial, said Dodge. “It’s just a great resource to go to with any questions I have, any concerns. I can write other managers and see what’s working in their communities. We get responses from all different managers, and it’s just a huge benefit.”

In the next five years, Dodge, who is relatively new to her role, wants to dispel the notion that there’s little to do in Cumberland. When she meets someone who says they’re having a hard time finding activities, Dodge said she can usually think of several options right away, and the reception from community members has been positive. “We keep getting bigger and better. People tell me ‘Hey, I have an idea!’ and to see people who’ve not previously been involved in the community is huge.”

“Main Attractions” is a regular series highlighting Main Street Maryland communities. Main Street Maryland is a comprehensive downtown revitalization program created in 1998 by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. These communities receive assistance for improving the economy, appearance and image of their traditional downtown business districts. For more information on Main Street Maryland, visit