03 July 2007

Observations of an Event-Packed Weekend

City Fair – Hooray!
Looking back over the past weekend, I have to say the return of the City Fair was, for the most part, just what this town needed. Late last week, I had some reservations about how well things would go. That all changed when I made it to Lake Kittamaquandi. When I arrived at the lakefront early Saturday morning and saw the carnival rides, the food stands, and the tents set up for community organizations, I immediately felt that the we were going to have a great weekend.

Walking through the crowds and running into people that I had not seen in a long time was a particular treat. It was great to catch up with so many people in a festival atmosphere. I soon noticed that I was not the only one running into friends. It was as if this was one huge family reunion. All around me there were people hugging and laughter erupting; the hearty kind of laughter from deep in the belly, shared only with people that have a close relationship.

As always, the cake cutting was (for me) the must attend event. I was a little concerned that the crowds on Sunday were noticeably light. My family and I arrived on Sunday at about 12:30 PM, and we easily found a parking spot on the ground floor of the Sheraton Hotel parking garage. During the cake cutting ceremony, the grass amphitheater had lots of people, but it was by no means crowded. In spite of the light attendance, the singing of happy birthday was loud and strong, and the cupcakes were great.

I also want to recognize the City Fair volunteers. It seemed to me that they were everywhere. They were courteous, helpful, and full of the City Fair spirit. Two volunteers of note were Marvin Lawson and Mary Pivar. When I came across Marvin, he was in the information booth next to pavilion. His broad smile and enthusiasm were contagious. Mary was one of the volunteers handing out cupcakes, and as she navigated the uneven terrain with a somewhat cumbersome box of cupcakes, she seemed to move as if walking on air.

Regrettably, there were two aspects of the City Fair that I found offensive. The first is not so much City Fair specific, but has been bugging me during the whole “40 Day” celebration. It has to do with the “Columbia 40” flag flying from the bell tower. I have a personal attachment to the flags that fly over the bell tower. Back in the 1980’s, I was a lifeguard at the Town Center Boat Docks. One of the secondary responsibilities of people working at the Boat Docks was to raise the flags on the bell tower each morning, and lower the flags at sunset. The flags were: the United States flag, the Maryland State flag, the Howard County flag, and the Columbia flag. To me, the flags that flew over the bell tower represented who we are: we are Americans, we are Marylanders, we are Howard Countians, we are Columbians.

When the “40 Day” celebration started, the Columbia flag was replaced with the “Columbia 40” flag. In my opinion, the “Columbia 40” flag is essentially an advertisement. It smacks of the same commercialism that besieged the National Mall in Washington DC during the 2003 NFL season kickoff festival. This festival included a concert on the mall with large Pepsi billboards erected on the mall for the occasion. Beyond replacing the city flag with the “Columbia 40” flag, the idea of flying an ad next the United States flag is (in my opinion) inappropriate. Even McDonalds flies only their corporate flag next to the United States flag. You don’t see “Shrek 3 happy meal” flags flying next to old glory. Could we at least have the same standards and ethics as McDonalds?

Now, I imagine the “Columbia 40” flag was put up there with the best of intentions. I would think that those who came up with the idea were not trying to disparage anything. I just hope in the future, more thought will be put into this. One suggestion I have is that a city fair flag be flown on the same halyard as the Columbia flag, but at a lower height.

Another aspect of the City Fair that bothered me was the apparent need of some people to politicize the event. Rather than putting their noise machine in the garage for the weekend, Co Fo Co Do staffed a booth to forward their agenda. Would it not have been better for all Columbians to stop with the bickering, emphasize what we share in common, and celebrate? I suppose that may be too much to ask.

On a similar note, CA Board member Evan Coren saw fit to wear his “Elect Evan Coren” t-shirt to the cake cutting ceremony. Does Evan realize that he won the election and is not up for re-election until April 2009? Would someone please take the freshman aside and let him know that the Birthday Celebration is about the community, and not about himself? Poor taste.

Columbia Neighborhood Swim League Reunion

This past Sunday afternoon, I would estimate 50 former Columbia Neighborhood Swim League participants gathered at the Thunder Hill Neighborhood Center. This event was not officially part of the “Columbia 40” celebration, but it did coincide with the City Fair. I think everyone there had a great time. People brought photos, swim team group pictures, trophies, and a few even had Columbia Swimming jackets.

I think everyone experienced a light social tension upon entering the event. Most of us were accustomed to seeing each other in bathing suits, and at least twenty years ago! Age, time, and clothes seemed to obscure peoples identities at the onset. There were a lot of people striking up “you look familiar” conversations. I have to say thank goodness to Karen Emery, whose dry wit I came to appreciate during the mid 80’s. She clearly still has the ability to turn a phrase. Someone came up to her, looking as if to cut through the haze and make a connection, and said “Hey, I know you!” Karen looked the person right in the eye and replied, “Yes, you do.”

I saw friends that I had not seen in a long time. Former neighbor and schoolmate Danny O’Conner was there. I have not seen him since 1974! Jimmy Early was there. Back in 1977, he was the coach of the Owen Brown Barracudas (along with Karen Workman). During that summer, Jimmy drove a dark green AMC Hornet. He would arrive at the Dasher Green Pool each morning at 7:00 AM, decked out in his flip flops and OP shorts to let us pool rats in. To us, Jimmy was a god. I also saw Karla Filipczak, who I swear has not aged a day since I worked with her at the Columbia Swim Center (1986?). My BFF Peter LaGow was on hand, as well as other friends Beth Plummer, Debbie Feddor, and Ellen Medlock.

Swim Team alum and fellow Columbia blogger Jessie Newburn was there, hoopin’ and reminiscing with friends.

One of the most interesting conversations I had occurred in the courtyard outside the neighborhood center. I was talking with my friend Jennifer Terrasa, who swam in the neighborhood swim league during the 1980’s. In addition to working hard for the people of Howard County; she is currently a Swim Team Mom in Kings Contrivance. As we were talking, Mary Lorsung walks up and joined in the conversation. It turns out that Mary was also a Swim Team Mom. So there I was, with two generations of Swim Team Moms. We had a great conversation about who swam where, how things were (back in the day), how things are now, what has changed, what has stayed the same. It was so nice to just be able to talk, and remember, and smile.

If anyone knows if there were pictures taken, please let me know, I would be happy to post them here. I hope the swim league reunions can happen more often; and maybe next time we can play sharks and minnows.

No comments: