Memories from the Past
By Bonna L. Nelson. Photography by Angie Myers and Sharon Marvel.
Clydesdale stallion Prince, along with his pal Sicilian miniature donkeys Gloria, Paris and Harley, stick their noses through the white wood pasture fence to greet me between munching on mouthfuls of hay. Traveling down the sparkling white clamshell driveway leading to Carriage Memories from the Past at Hidden Acres Farm in Denton, Md., I was amazed at the pristine, picture-perfect farm in front of me. I wondered how Sharon and Gary Marvel could manage to keep a 50-acre, 100,000-chicken poultry farm and horse-drawn carriage business so immaculate and beautiful.
“It takes passion and hard work,” said Sharon, as we sat in the Carriage House, a large structure where special events, such as weddings, are held, and where tour groups are greeted, entertained with a video, and served lunch. “We both love animals and wanted a nice place to raise a family.”
Married for 33 years, both Sharon and Gary are area natives, Sharon from Denton and Gary from Whiteleysburg, Del., near Greensboro. As a tribute to their local heritage, the couple decorated the interior of the Carriage House with family heirlooms — farm implements hang on the walls, along with photographs of the Clydesdales and carriages.
The Marvels established Hidden Acres Farm in 1993, building four shiny silver poultry houses, which Sharon manages, planting the fields and gradually adding to Gary’s “hobby and love” — a collection of Clydesdales and carriages.
During a tour of the property, Sharon and Gary explained that the horses are only hitched up to the carriages for special events at the farm or elsewhere, before which they are groomed and dressed and the carriages are cleaned and polished. Gary said events include weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties, picnics, proms, church and business functions, community events and reunions.
“This is the ‘Cinderella’ carriage, usually a favorite of brides,” Gary said with a smile, pointing to the shiny, pearl-white carriage with maroon velvet seats and brass lamps that would make any bride feel like a princess on her wedding day.
The Marvels have taken their horse-drawn carriages to weddings in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, always dressing in tuxedos and top hats for the occasion.
“Here’s our version of the Budweiser Clydesdale wagon,” Gary said, of the red rectangular wagon we approached next. “We use this one in parades and other community events.”
The Marvels also have on hand a snazzy black carriage with grey interior, a 12-seat maroon Victorian with a permanent top, a 15-seat easy access trolley, a 16-seat natural wood wagon and a black sleigh for making snowy memories.
When they aren’t on the clock for special events, the Clydesdales like to hang out together in the barn, which has no stalls (Sharon chuckled at my abrupt surprise).
“They get along well and are gentle, even-tempered and easy to work with,” she said. So much so that stallion Prince naps with the donkeys in the pasture, sleeping nose to nose. Pulling on my heartstrings, Gary nearly choked up when describing another example of the horse’s gentle nature.
As the story goes, during a regular trip to a local nursing home to visit with the residents, where the horse is taken room to room so the residents can pet it, Prince revived the spirits of a man who hadn’t spoken in years with one nudge of the nose. That little nuzzle left the man smiling in amazement and talking to Prince.
As we approached the horse barn, seven Clydesdales — Ace, Moe, Silver, Rusty, Kate, Noah and Puma — were busy eating hay from their feed bin. Each horse eats about 16 pounds of grain and drinks about 30 gallons of water per day. Two were curious about me and wandered over to the fence for a pet.
Soft and gentle, the beautiful, bay-colored horses are huge, weighing up to 2,000 pounds. With white feathered socks and white blazes on their faces, the horses look sophisticated when dressed for an event in their black leather harnesses and bridles with plumes.
Finishing the tour, we rode along the edge of the property’s extensive woods, past dogs, goats, white-fenced pastures, a pond filled with mallards, orchards and, finally, past the stallion Prince and his buddies, the donkeys, one more time. The barn with a gift shop filled with an array of items for the horse lover or souvenir collector completed the tour.
If your wedding dreams include a horse-drawn carriage, check out Hidden Acres Farm. As they say on the big screen, “Madam, you’re carriage awaits.”
For more information about farm visits, tours or the horse-drawn carriages, contact the Marvels at 410-482-6058, 410-310-0203 or www.carriagememoriesfromthepast.com.