Jan Peacher has half a mind to put a sign in the window of her antique and craft shop reading: "Welcome Olympians. But, please, wear clothes while you spend your money."
Peacher, co-owner of the Darlington Country Store in rural northeastern Harford County, could give a hoot about an impending gathering of as many as 1,000 nudists at a nearby private campground. In fact, Peacher and just about anybody you talk to in the tiny village of Darlington thinks the four-day Nude Olym-Picks, scheduled to begin Thursday, is a hoot and a half.
Picture hundreds of firefighters, lawyers, doctors, insurance salesmen and others playing backgammon in the buff, tennis without textiles, pingpong without pants and participating in fishing tournaments. Watch those hooks.
The event, basically a nudists' convention with a specific theme, has been organized by the New Jersey-based Tri-State Sun Club.
"We just wish to have a good time and not be harassed," said Bill Pacer, a dispatcher for a state agency and a Baltimore County resident.
"It's very wholesome," added Pacer, who is serving as a spokesman for the event. "A person who has sex on his mind really has no place at a nudists' event."
Pacer, a member of the Pine Tree nudist club in Crownsville and a father of three who has been married for 15 years, said, "Nudism is just about having a good time."
Parents bring their kids, play a little volleyball and shed the stress of their jobs. "We're in all shapes and sizes and flavors," he said.
The first Nude Olym-Picks was held near Philadelphia last year. Pacer said organizers chose Darlington for this year's event because the nearby campground was big enough to support the crowd and it had the right facilities, including a swimming pool. The site also is centrally located in the region and not far off Interstate 95, he said.
"It certainly has been big news in Darlington," Peacher said. "I just feel to each his own," she said.
"It's been just a chuckle," said Tom McCurry, who owns an auto repair shop in Darlington, a collection of a few country stores, a post office, a bank, a fire hall and some old stone and wood-frame homes.
The village, which locals say dates to the 1700s, is simply a hamlet that sprouted amid farms. "Darlingtonians like to think of it as a place that time forgot," Peacher said.
It is just a half-mile from U.S. 1 near Conowingo Dam. It's small enough that a nude Olympian with a strong arm might be able to toss a Frisbee disk from one end to the other. But the quaintness of the place doesn't mean folks there are taking offense.
"It's sort of ridiculous," said McCurry, as he snacked on some grapes during a break from his work. "As long as they aren't putting the environment or our children in jeopardy."
To James "Jimbo" Fuller, one of McCurry's customers, nudists ++ are no different.
They like to take off their clothes and run around; Fuller likes to put on heavy wool Civil War uniforms in the hot sun and participate in battle re-enactments. "To each his own," he said.
A few folks, such as one prominent member of the community who asked not to be identified, consider the choice of Darlington for the event as "sad."
"I hope we don't go down in history as a place where that kind of activity occurs," the resident said.
It's not that people think it's going to be a colossal orgy, the resident said, "but we would have been better off if we hadn't known about it."
So, most Darlingtonians get a little chuckle, the nudists have a little fun and maybe Peacher and her fellow shopkeepers can reap a little profit.