Nudists to strip down for fourth 'Olym-pick' games

September 04, 1992|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Staff Writer

DARLINGTON -- If there's one thing nudists don't shed, it's their sense of humor.

"When people are laughing at themselves and laughing with others, then we know we have succeeded," says Michael Gesner, owner of the Tri-State Sun Club of Broadway, N.J., a nudist group with members from around the country.

Mr. Gesner, 46, also is co-organizer of the fourth Nude Olym-pick Games, which begin today near the village of Darlington in northeastern Harford County.

The three-day event -- featuring nude relay races, a "NudelyWed" game, nude tennis and all manner of nude sport -- is for most participants no more serious than a sack race at the company picnic.

Yes, some folks do get intense. But mostly, it's all aimed at fulfilling one of the tenets of the nudist lifestyle: "A clothes-free environment is a stress-free environment."

Many of the participants practice family nudity. Hence the scheduled activities for children, including body-painting, arts and crafts, and pudding fights.

"It's been a very good experience for our kids," says Fran Pacer, 39, a Randallstown resident and mother of three children, ages 2, 4 and 5.

"I'm hoping that being a nudist will give them a better self-image," she says, confessing that in high school she had trouble baring her body in the showers after gym class.

Mrs. Pacer, an account manager for a tax-service company, is a member of the board of the Eastern Sunbathing Association, a regional group for nudists.

She also is a member of Pine Tree, a nudist club in Crownsville. Bill, her husband of 16 years, and also a nudist, is acting as spokesman for this weekend's games.

For the second consecutive summer, the games are at a private campground called the Picnic Place.

Harry Leff, owner of the Picnic Place, which covers nearly 200 acres bordering the Susquehanna River, says the nearly 1,000 nudists who attended last year were a well-behaved bunch. "They left the place immaculate," he says.

Mr. Leff, who plays host to families holding reunions, church groups and other organizations the rest of the year, says the nudists are just ordinary folks.

"The only difference is these folks don't have clothes on," he says.

The Nude Olym-pick Games began in 1990 with two events at a private campground in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

Organizers decided to return to Darlington this year partly because of the local interest in the event. Dozens of inquiries and visits from journalists representing media outlets as far away as Germany and Japan fueled the fire.

As a result, Mr. Gesner says, about 2,000 people were not allowed into the games last year because they were not card-carrying members of the Florida-based American Sunbathing Association or the Wisconsin-based Naturists Society, two of the largest nudist organizations in the country.

This year, members of the clothed society will have a chance to mingle with members of the clothing-optional society -- if they are willing to pay $25 per person, sit through an hour-long class called "How to be nude at the Nude Olym-pick Games," and understand the dos and don'ts of nudism.

Examples: Don't forget your sunscreen. Do maintain eye contact while conversing.

"We kind of felt guilty about all the people we turned away last year," Mr. Gesner says. "We learned from last year's event that the public is clamoring for more information about nude recreation."

Organizers have no idea how many folks will show up.

"We're going to try and accommodate everyone who shows up," says Mr. Pacer, 42, a state employee.

Classes will be at 1 p.m. today and at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday.

Once they have been through the class, Mr. Gesner says, "Now they have a decision to make."

Grin and bare it, or don't bare it and go home.

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