Carnival magic, Glen Burnie-style: There's no other way to describe the transformation of a small town into the scene of one of the biggest carnivals on the East Coast.
Anyone riding through Glen Burnie recently can't help but notice. Signs and banners have sprouted on the streetscape, and the skeletons of the carnival booths sit on the grounds of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association on First Avenue. It's summertime in Glen Burnie.
What motivates this "love story" Glen Burnie has with its carnival?
Barbara Moeller has the answer. The chairwoman for the Big Glen Burnie Carnival for the third straight year, Ms. Moeller is a dynamo who brings new meaning to community dedication and energy.
"Family tradition and atmosphere," she says simply.
Indeed, the carnival seems rarely to have strayed from that spirit in its 84 years. Where else can you buy a hot dog for 50 cents and a soda for a quarter? Where else can you ride attractions like the merry-go-round, octopus or Ferris wheel all night for just $7?
The carnival opens July 31 and runs through Aug. 8.
Ms. Moeller has lived in Glen Burnie since she was 5, when her parents moved here in 1948. Today the 49-year-old Glen Gardens resident is one of the area's most tireless advocates.
"I'm married to Glen Burnie, maybe," she says with a laugh that suggests she's only half-kidding. "I really care about the community and the people."
Community spirit will be running at full speed the next few weeks. More than 1,000 volunteers rearrange work and vacation
schedules for the carnival. They return every year to run the stands, fry the crab cakes and make sure everyone has a good time. They do it for their community because carnival proceeds benefit local projects.
How does Ms. Moeller coordinate such a large, important event?
"Teamwork," she says.
The work begins in January, once her executive committee has been formed. There's plenty to do, like calling last year's booth chairman and vendors, creating the program and construction committees, discussing new ideas and meeting with Shaw & Sons, the outfit providing the amusement rides.
With the countless hours she spends making it all happen, the greatest joys for Ms. Moeller have been working with the "staff" and watching children and adults from Bello Machre, the Providence Center and area schools enjoy a special matinee, begun last year.
The matinee allows them to enjoy free rides, food and drinks. Volunteers man the stands and spread a warm welcome mat, with hugs and smiles in abundance. Adults and kids alike excitedly jump from ride to ride and stand to stand. This year's special matinee is set for 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 4.
Formerly known as "truck boys," teen-age boys and girls are hired to unload freight, finish building the booths and stock the stands before and during the carnival. For many youths, it's their first experience in the working world, and Ms. Moeller makes good use of this educational opportunity.
The carnival will feature a new ride -- the "Snow Express." One new stand, "Baseball Wheel," will have wooden plaques with large pictures of your favorite baseball stars and baseball cards as prizes. "Break the Plate" returns after an absence of many years, with a second generation in charge.
Kiddie-cars will be raffled off each night, and some lucky grown-up winner will drive away in a new 1992 "Flame Red" Oldsmobile Ciera on the carnival's last night.
In addition to her duties with the carnival -- duties she can trace back to her start, when she helped run a prize wheel where the prizes were ham and bacon -- Ms. Moeller is president of the
Glen Burnie Recreation Association, which offers one of the best dance programs around. She was a major player in getting this successful organization a home at the corner of Griffith Lane and Greenway.
She also is a Glen Burnie Improvement Association board member and, last year, chaired the Memorial Day Parade. And if that isn't enough to fill anyone's schedule, she just opened a flower and fresh produce stand in Odenton.
To Ms. Moeller the carnival, however, remains tops.
"I really enjoy it," she says. "It makes me proud."