Harbor crush charms some, repels others


January 01, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez and Michael James | Rafael Alvarez and Michael James,Staff Writers

New Year's Eve in the city was much warmer than Tom and Kathy Leedy were expecting.

As they sat by the water's edge at the Inner Harbor, with occasional people strolling by in spring clothes, it seemed hard to believe it was less than an hour from January.

"The weather's just been beautiful," said Mrs. Leedy, 48, who along with her husband is an engineer from Montgomery County.

"We usually stay home New Year's Eve and just watch TV, but we thought it would be fun to come to Baltimore this year," said Mr. Leedy, 50. "We got terrific weather for it."

But although there was a large throng at the harbor, police at the Inner Harbor patrol station said the number of revelers seemed to be down.

About 50,000 or so people were at the harbor at 11 p.m in contrast to the 70,000 that were expected, police said.

Big fireworks shows planned for several metropolitan counties probably kept some from making the trip to Baltimore, police said.

Craig Falanga, 28, of Essex, was having a party for about eight people on his boat, Charlie Q, docked in front of one of the pavilions. The veteran of other New Year's Eve celebrations in the Inner Harbor said that he didn't think weather stopped anyone from coming.

Mr. Falanga's boat had 4,000 holiday lights, wooden reindeer on the bow and a Christmas tree on the stern -- not to mention 40 balloons trailing into the air.

The expected crowd of revelers may have kept some revelers away. Emerson Resh sat on a bench at the Inner Harbor during the last evening rush hour of 1992, feeding goodies to his miniature poodle and planning his escape from the New Year's Eve celebration about to descend on downtown.

"I've been coming down here for the fireworks every year, but not this year," said Mr. Resh, a retired Martin Marietta employee from Essex. "Its gets terrible down here -- terrible. You can't even move, and if you want to go to the rest room or get something to eat, forget it." Nearby, Boston teen-agers Ben Jacobson and Wendy Stein sat on the grass, as a warm breeze reminiscent of April blew gently off the harbor, and thought about a New Year that would come on a moving northbound train.

In Baltimore for the first time as part of a convention of 1,000 Jewish teen-agers, the young couple didn't like the idea of being mobile as 1992 turned to 1993, but said they'd make the best of it.

Said Ben Jacobson: "I hope we'll be kissing at midnight."

As they do, Dave Jacobson [no relation] will be playing "Auld Lang Syne" on an electric guitar.

He is a member of the Marge Calhoun Band, a country-western combo hired to ring in the New Year at the harbor as Mayor Kurt L.Schmoke counts down the last seconds of 1992.

"I've never had a New Year's Eve off since I became a musician," said Mr. Jacobson as the sun began to dip behind the Hyatt Hotel. "It's the best-paying gig of the year, the biggest party."

Angie Benedict and her friends from York, Pa., didn't know exactly where they would wind up at midnight -- when the cruise ship Lady Baltimore would be idling near the Domino Sugar sign to give passengers a good view of the fireworks -- but she figured anywhere near the water would be better than the scene back home.

B6 "Not much happens in York," said Ms. Benedict, 18.

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