Hundreds see Washington Monument's lighting Rain doesn't dampen Baltimore tradition

December 05, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Undaunted by drizzle, a crowd in the hundreds surrounded the Washington Monument yesterday evening to watch the 26th annual holiday lighting of the towering marble statue in the heart Baltimore's Mount Vernon section.

In a festive urban moment, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke urged onlookers to be "the city that counts backward" -- a play on his slogan of "The City That Reads" -- and join him in counting down the seconds before the white lights flashed on and dazzling fireworks lighted the sky.

"This is a shining reminder of a happy and joyous time of year," said Schmoke, clad in a cap and raincoat. Behind him, a group of 10 performers from Gilman School stood unflappable in their bow ties, singing in the rain a medley of Christmas carols.

Many in the crowd said it was the first time they had seen the traditional lighting of the monument, among them Jamie Hunt, the 34-year-old executive director of the Mount Vernon Cultural District. "It's better than on TV," Hunt said.

Also participating in the ceremony was Ravens' wide receiver Michael Jackson, who promised a win Sunday against Seattle.

Children's faces were pictures of delight. Tyrone Barfield, 10, said it was his third year in a row at the lighting and he didn't mind the rain a bit. "It'll still be the same," he said.

Standing nearby was 53-year-old "housemom" Mauren Gerhart, who said, "You're never too grown up to see something like this." This was her first time, she said, adding, "I'll be back."

Charles Street merchants were pleased that the event coincided with the monthly "First Thursday," when stores and galleries are open late.

Standing under a huge green umbrella was the Watson family of five from Granite, who drove 16 miles to see the Mount Vernon lighting for the first time, only to meet one of their suburban neighbors by chance.

The scene was enhanced by the sight of lighted windows with Christmas trees framing the historic square.

After the fireworks, scores repaired to the grand foyer of the nearby Walters Art Gallery for free hot cider and gingerbread cookies.

"I love this city, and I don't care what they say," said Sharlene Fair, a 44-year-old nurse from Baltimore County. "It tries."

Pub Date: 12/05/97

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