Columbia throws party for its 26th birthday Muggy heat lowers estimated turnout

June 21, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Columbia is nine years older than Ginny MacNemar, but it's still young and vibrant enough to keep up with her.

Ginny, a 17-year-old who grew up in the planned city, will look nowhere else for a place to settle after she finishes college.

"I'm coming back here. I'm coming back to teach here," she said yesterday after singing songs from "Grease" as local dignitaries prepared to cut Columbia's three-tiered 26th birthday cake at the Kittamaqundi Lakefront in Town Center.

"I feel it's safer than a lot of places. Everybody has a sense of community. They really help each other out," said Ginny, who graduated June 4 from Howard High and will study English at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va., this fall.

Before yesterday's late afternoon rain showers, Columbia City Fair Director Connie Kraft estimated attendance during the fair's three days would be about 40,000 -- 20,000 less than originally expected -- largely because of weekend temperatures in the 90s.

Hot or wet, Darla Strouse was not about to miss her Father's Day tradition. Nearly every year since the City Fair began in 1977 -- Columbia's 10th birthday -- the Oakland Mills resident has rounded up her husband James, their children, David and Cecily, now 23 and 19, and her father, Jack Fishbein and his wife, Nettie, for the event.

"This is kind of a ritual with us," said Ms. Strouse, who has lived in Columbia for 21 years. "These are the things that we like about Columbia: a lake and activities . . . it has kind of a family feel, the whole set-up here."

Theresa Butler, who has lived in Hickory Ridge for about three years, liked the fair so much last year that yesterday she dragged along her brother from Owings Mills, Anthony Butler, who held 22-month-old "Little" Anthony, aloft on his shoulders.

"Da rides, da rides," responded Little Anthony when asked what he liked about the fair. He added, however, "food, big food."

There were plenty of carnival rides set up in the parking lot next to the American City Building, and plenty of food for sale in booths lining walkways and parking areas in the lakefront area. Fair-goers could buy anything from hot dogs "with no political beef" from the Columbia Democratic Club to stromboli from Upper Crust Catering.

The cake-cutting marked the 26th anniversary of the dedication of Wilde Lake, Columbia's first village, on June 21, 1967.

The biggest addition to the weekend's festivities was the start of the Columbia Festival of the Arts, which normally doesn't begin until the fair ends.

Ms. Kraft said fair organizers agreed that fair and festival events would not hurt each other if scheduled simultaneously, and this weekend proved that theory.

"The biggest problem has been for the Columbia Association," which has had to provide logistical support to both the fair and festival on the lakefront and its other facilities, Ms. Kraft said. "Their staff has really worked twice as much this weekend," she said.

"Last year, running into the Fourth of July weekend didn't really work too well," said festival Director Lynne Nemeth. Because so many people leave town that weekend, the timing may have hurt attendance, she said. And this year the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra was only available for the last weekend in June, and "it certainly makes a more fitting finale to have them close the festival," she said.

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