Sunshine. Glorious sunshine.
It was in abundance yesterday as people took to the outdoors by the thousands to celebrate city festivals and the unseasonably warm weather.
Officially, the 17-day Baltimore on the Bay maritime festival kicked off Friday at the Inner Harbor and other locations around town. And yesterday -- a day when most people are not working and could enjoy the fun -- Mother Nature cooperated by providing a picture-perfect day.
The biggest crowd moved nearly elbow to elbow for the opening of this weekend's 24th annual Fells Point Fun Festival. "We couldn't have better weather than this," said an exuberant Barbara Lindemann as she sat on a curb surveying the crowd, enjoying refreshments and basking in the sunshine.
"It is the best weather yet," agreed her friend, Janet Rebstock.
There were crafts, artwork and T-shirts for sale at every turn, the aroma of open-pit beef to fan a burning hunger, and everywhere there were people swigging beer to keep down the afternoon heat -- which soared to the summery mid-80s.
Although the friendly, feel-good crowd seemed to jam every available corner of Fells Point at 3 p.m., Ms. Lindemann %o predicted it would grow toward evening. "Wait until 6 p.m.," she said. "You won't believe this place then."
By 11 a.m., the Inner Harbor was bustling with people lined up to participate in the ninth annual Paddle for People boat race, a festival event and fund-raiser to help needy people heat their homes when the early October warmth is no more than a warm memory.
Participants paddled in teams into the harbor, carrying garbage bags and scooping up balloons that had been released in the water.
"It was hard work," said Beverly Ambush, minutes after climbing out of a paddleboat with her partner, Bill Herndon, and only six measly balloons. Other teams finishing at the same time had managed to snare as many as 40.
"This was our first time doing this," Mr. Herndon explained sheepishly. "We'll know what to do next year."
Nearly 550 teams from the city and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties got pledges from friends totaling $65,154, which will benefit the Fuel Fund of Central Maryland Inc.
Ms. Ambush and Mr. Herndon, who work for the Howard County government, didn't mind their poor showing. They had the foresight to ask people to pledge a maximum amount -- and not an amount based on the number of balloons they retrieved. "We must have known something," Mr. Herndon said.
Another event in the maritime festival schedule was held more than a mile from the Inner Harbor -- in Carroll Park -- and had a smaller crowd and perhaps more civilized air to it.
The air of civility spilled over from a genteel exhibition of croquet that seemed to belong in another century.
Members of the Maryland Croquet Society, outfitted in white -- complete with white parasols -- played the exhibition games as part of the Mount Clare Festival.
Sponsored by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Maryland, the festival was a benefit for the Mount Clare Mansion and a celebration of Carroll Park's upcoming 100th anniversary on Nov. 19, said Patricia Goldsborough, festival chairman.
Besides croquet, there was a jousting exhibition by the Amateur Jousting Club of America, with some participants dressed in period costumes early in the day.
Unlike at the harbor or Fells Point, no jazz or rock music could be heard in Carroll Park. But there was banjo music, food and crafts.
The partying at Fells Point continues today from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., in the area of Broadway and Thames, Ann and Wolfe streets. Bay festival events at the Inner Harbor today will include yacht races and special family day events on the U.S. Constellation.
And the weather's cooperation is expected to continue.