Water from sky is sparsely appreciated at Chesapeake Appreciation Days

November 01, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

The opening of the 28th annual Chesapeake Appreciation Days was wet, muddy, windy and cold. But that's no reason for visitors to stay away, say the watermen who are at the center of the weekend event.

"If it's good enough for us to work in, it's good enough for everyone else," said Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen's Association. "Tell people to put on their boots and come."

Mr. Simns was helping out a cluster of watermen and their wives yesterday afternoon, cooking up fish caught Friday for a sparse crowd that braved the dreary weather to help celebrate the bay at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis.

"We've got plenty of help and plenty of food," Mr. Simns said. "But no customers."

Event organizers said about 600 people came through the gate, a smaller-than-usual crowd but a bigger one than they expected in the rain.

"People are having a good time," said Betty Duty, the head organizer and the administrative assistant for the Watermen's Association.

"The food is cooking and the music is playing. Everybody is making the best of it."

Kurt and Susan Irmiter had driven from Greensboro, N.C., just to sell homemade ice cream "made the old-fashion way, with rock salt and ice."

They found themselves selling hot chocolate, instead.

"We didn't even get any ice cream out," said Mrs. Irmiter's father, Rich Riley, who lives in Arnold.

The Irmiters have driven to the event for three years, and they brought along the hot chocolate as a backup.

"We've had this happen to us before," Mr. Irmiter said.

Most of the events and exhibits were inside tents, from arts and crafts to shucking oysters.

Amid the mud and puddles, there were plenty of educational exhibits about the Chesapeake Bay.

Exhibits included DNR World, where people could look at the workings of the Department of Natural Resources; a tent sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Association where visitors could analyze the chemicals in soil; and a lesson from the Department of the Environment in picking out diseased fish.

To the watermen, though, the weekend is a way of showing off their talents, in catching fish and in racing and docking skipjacks.

"It is nice to let the public be aware that this is a way of life," Mr. Simns said.

"It's a way of life that most people don't know anything about. We catch fresh fish. People have to know that not everything is made in a plant."

It was the fifth time at the event for Cy and Mary Jo Fishburn of Baltimore.

They participated in the morning's 30-foot sailboat race, but had to pull out early after Mrs. Fishburn, a doctor, became seasick in the rough water.

"It is always a good time," said Dr. Fishburn, carrying the couple's 3-month-old baby girl, Eleanor, who also rode on the boat.

"For us, this is a true Chesapeake experience."

The rain didn't stop any of the events, except for the oyster-shucking contest, which will be held today.

The gates open at 9 a.m. and events include several skipjack races and the boat-docking contest.

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