ON A GLORIOUS spring day, Lake Kittamaqundi in downtown Columbia is the place to be.
Named for the first recorded Indian settlement in Howard County, Kittamaqundi is a 27-acre man-made lake in the heart of Columbia.
Loosely translated, Kittamaqundi means "meeting place," and that's appropriate. Most Columbians visit the lake at one time or another for its beautiful setting or to attend events held there.
You never know what you'll run into by the shores of Lake Kittamaqundi.
A stroll by the lakefront is a delight for the senses.
Flower beds are planted with red geraniums and pansies in shades of purple and pink. The sound of the fountain draws the eye to white water spouting toward a cloudless sky.
The fountain -- a gift from the Rouse Co. in honor of Columbia's 10th birthday -- was inspired by fountains at the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.
If you stay a few minutes, you'll hear the toll of 14 bells in the wharf tower across from the fountain. They chime every quarter hour.
The bells are programmed at the Rouse Building to peal the tune "Westminster Chimes." The bells also can be played using a piano-style keyboard.
On a pretty day, you'll see mothers pushing their children in strollers, joggers making their way around the bicycle path that circles the lake and folks lounging on the grass enjoying brown-bag lunches or chatting with friends.
Thursday found Long Reach resident Nick Farr enjoying the sights and sounds along the lake with his daughter Libby Christofferson and 4-year-old grandson, Zander Farr.
Nick Farr works for the National Center for Lead-Safe Housing in the American City Building. The building is steps away from the lake.
Farr said he frequently encourages his staff to walk around the lake. "It's good exercise and good for the soul," he said.
Kami Brown of Pikesville, who started a job for a company in Town Center a month ago, sat on the wharf. She said she enjoys spending her lunch hour at the lake. "There's a pretty view and it's nice and quiet," she said. "You can hear the birds, and it's just a nice environment."
Tanya Stallings and Dawn Haden came from Woodlawn to feed the ducks. "It's peaceful here and the people are nice," Haden said.
People stopping at the Meeting Point, a cafe and bookstore in the American City Building, were treated to an impromptu juggling routine staged by an enterprising 12-year-old, Andrew Fenner of Columbia.
Andrew and his sister, Amber, 8, both redheads, studied the menu for a few minutes before approaching Meeting Point employee Kimberly Goldstein with a proposition.
"I'll juggle five balls if you'll sell me two rice puddings for $1.50," Andrew said. The puddings sell for 99 cents each.
Goldstein took him up on his offer, and young Andrew produced five brightly colored balls from his book bag. Effortlessly, he juggled all five balls and finished his routine by catching one of them in the nape of his neck as he took a bow.
The patrons at the cafe gave him a standing ovation -- and Goldstein handed over two puddings at the reduced price.
"I've never had an offer like that from a customer before," Goldstein said. "It was awesome."
During the summer months, the boathouse on the lake rents out canoes, rowboats and paddle boats. This is one of the best ways to see fireworks on the Fourth of July -- and the only way to reach Nomanisan Island in Lake Kittamaqundi.
The island was named by Columbian Alan Levine in a 1980 contest held by the Columbia Association. The name comes from the first line of the work by John Donne: "No man is an island, entire unto itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."
Although nobody was on the lake in a boat Thursday, it was possible to watch boating of a different sort.
Norman Watkins of Baltimore and Danny Thomas of Columbia are members of the Maryland Model Yacht Club. The two were assembling a radio-controlled model sailboat, in preparation for the Columbia East Coast Regional Class II Championship Regatta -- co-sponsored by Clyde's restaurant and held last weekend at the lake.
Dr. Jarl Wathne, a physician from Williamsport, served as regatta director.
Wathne said the yacht club holds regular races of model boats on Kittamaqundi on the third Saturday of the month from March to November. The races sometimes take place on Wilde Lake during the summer because of boat traffic on Kittamaqundi.
"Some people sail big boats and then choose this sport because they don't want the hassle of taking care of a big boat," Wathne said. "Some people get into it because they're modelers and they like building things."
When the competition gets heated during the races, Wathne said, the skippers will say to each other, "Remember, guys, these are toy boats."
On Saturday, 16 competitors from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas gathered at 9 a.m. on the docks of Lake Kittamaqundi to begin the two-day regatta.