Hot fun in the winter sun at the Inner Harbor


January 15, 1998|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

Wintertime in Baltimore may not seem like the optimal time to hang out in the great outdoors, but a festival this weekend is meant to convince you otherwise.

Baltimore on Ice Winterfest '98 kicks off at noon tomorrow and, if Mother Nature refuses to cooperate by providing real snow, the manufactured stuff will be substituted.

The four-day festival will take place mainly at Rash Field and the Inner Harbor ice rink.

Dogs -- and plenty of them -- will figure prominently among the wintry wonders of the festival.

Ann Hennessey, an award-winning racer of Siberian huskies, will be there.

"This is our ninth season," she says of her racing career. Hennessey was named Outstanding Driver, Three-Dog Class, by the Mid-Atlantic Sled Dog Racing Association during the 1989-1990 and 1990-1991 seasons.

She always has loved Siberians and decided to take up racing. "I had always been interested in sled dog racing. I had Siberians, and if you have Siberians, this is the thing you do," says Hennessey.

The majority of the time, Hennessey races the dogs in Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York with the Mid-Atlantic Sled Dog Racing Association. "We start training in October," she says. This year, however, there hasn't been too much training, due to the unseasonably warm weather.

But the dogs will still be ready to show what they can do this weekend. Although she has nine dogs at her Virginia home, probably not all of them will be brought to Baltimore. "I haven't decided yet how many I will bring to Baltimore," she says. "But there will be three dog teams."

Members of the Greater Washington Siberian Husky Club will be the festival to help Hennessey race the dogs.

"If the weather cooperates, I will hook the dogs up to the sled and race the length of Rash Field, which isn't that far."

The dogs usually run much farther, she says. "At races, we will run the dogs for four miles," says Hennessey. Hennessey figures that most of her time at the festival will be spent, with other members of the dog club, showing off the dogs and answering questions.

"The most-asked question we get all of the time is how do we get the dogs to go? But that is something that they just do. If they want to go, they will go. If they don't, they won't go. You can't make them, but it's something that they do. The dogs love to pull," Hennessey says.

Getting the dogs to go, she says, isn't such a problem. "The biggest problem is getting them to stop!"

The sled dog exhibition will be held Monday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The Siberian huskies will share the doggie spotlight with a group of Newfoundlands. A demonstration by members of the Colonial Newfoundland Club will showcase the dogs' maneuvering skills pulling carts, says Virginia Kelly, a member of the club.

The dogs, which resemble St. Bernards, will demonstrate how to back up, make wide turns to the left and to the right and other skills while pulling a cart. The Newfoundland Carting Demonstration will be held on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

There will be more traditional winter activities and other snowy activities. Included is a "bread, milk and toilet paper dash" at the Harborplace Amphitheatre. Bread, milk and toilet paper -- for anyone new to the Baltimore area -- are the hot items to run to the local supermarket and purchase the second any weatherman utters the "b" word -- as in blizzard.

Participants in the dash will make their way through an obstacle course in search of these "crucial" items.

And this could be the time to see if cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are activities you would like to do. There will be clinics for both sports from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday at Rash Field.

Musical entertainment also will be provided during the festival. From 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. tomorrow, there will be palm trees and tiki torches at the ice rink and the sounds of Caribbean music, including a live steel drum band.

On Sunday, there will be country music at the ice rink from noon to 5 p.m.

On Monday, the theme will be the Fifties, with music from that era from noon to 5 p.m. at the ice rink.

For those who just want to sit back and watch performers show their stuff on the ice rink, organizers have something planned for them too.

On Sunday, skaters from the United States Figure Skating Association Intermediate Team and others will perform beginning 5: 15 p.m., and the event is free to observe. Half-hour lessons for $5 will be held after the performances.

Winterfest will close with a skating revue, which will begin at 5 p.m. Monday.

The Facts

WHAT: Baltimore on Ice Winterfest '98

WHEN: Tomorrow through Monday

WHERE: Inner Harbor, Rash Field

TICKETS: Some events are free. Others require a fee. See accompanying schedule for more information.

CALL: 410-837-4636 or 800-282-6632



Bread, Milk and Toilet Paper Dash - The festival will officially kick off at the Harborplace Amphitheatre, where Fox 45's Kirk Clyatt will forecast the impending Winterfest "blizzard."

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