Gumbo festival set on simmer

Heat: Temperatures in the 90s don't deter lovers of Cajun food in Crownsville and tennis fans in Baltimore.

July 26, 1999|By Gerard Shields and Jamie Stiehm | Gerard Shields and Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

The word "Cajun" starts with a "c" and has five letters, just like the word "crazy."

That's how several hundred people eating spicy Cajun food and twirling to zydeco music in sweltering 95-degree weather yesterday appeared at the annual Gumbofest in Crownsville.

But as anyone who savors gumbo, jambalaya and spinning to raucous accordion blues will tell you: It's never too hot to zydeco.

"They're die-hards," said Carlton Shutt of Premier Events, operator of the gumbo festival at Anne Arundel Fairgrounds. "They're out there dancing, having a great time."

Among the die-hards was Len Kelly, who walked back from the area in front of the band-filled stage huffing and puffing after a swinging dance. About 30 yards away, a small tent with a parquet dance floor kept about a dozen other bopping couples in the shade.

The 50-year-old Kelly would have none of that.

"The music is a little more audible over here," the Silver Spring resident said as his face resembled a miniature waterfall, sweat drops rolling down his cheeks.

"It's a good workout," Kelly added, staring covetously at the shaded couples. "But I may end up over there."

The only thing hotter than the dancing was the food. Ask Michael Carrington of Catonsville, who approached his spoonful of red beans, rice and spicy sausage tentatively, mindful of its bite.

Yet he, his wife and daughter weren't worried that the sauced mix might accelerate the sweat glands.

"Good food is good food all the time," the 37-year-old Carrington said.

Festival vendors and organizers acknowledged being disappointed that the heat kept away many of the 10,000 people expected at the weekend event, where 18 bands were scheduled to perform.

Those who did make it said the heat-wary missed a great time.

"I guess it's not worth getting heat stroke for, but it's a great festival," said Adele Partlow, 45, an art vendor from Herndon, Va., who sat in her beach chair yesterday listening to the music. "At least the show is good quality."

Leaving a cool house for the hot sun was something most people at the events did without much worry.

Tricia Drake of Annapolis knew she had the best assignment: monitoring the Rain Tent at the gumbo festival.

A steady mist of chilled water sprayed those in need of a quick cool down.

"On a hot day like this, it's the only place to be," said Drake, who was collecting donations for the Love in Action AIDS ministry. "Especially for the kids."

Ready to enter the gumbo festival, Maureen Eldredge of Washington waited for her friend Michael Brooks to slather on sun screen.

Before Brooks could finish, Eldredge's knees were bouncing to the zydeco rumble rolling across the field.

"This will be a lot easier," Eldredge said, staring at the dancing fray. "[Saturday], we went mountain biking."

Others in Maryland took pleasure in relaxing while watching others perspire.

In Druid Hill Park in Baltimore yesterday, Nollie Wood Jr. said the free entertainment at the U.S. Tennis Association Women's Satellite Tour tournament and the "cool breeze under the tree" brought him out with a supply of frozen water. Since he had back surgery a few years ago, he said, watching tennis was "vicarious" recreation.

Delila Causevic was one of the players sweating it out.

"I love summer. I hate cold weather," said Causevic, 18, a competitor at the tennis tournament who moved from her native Sarajevo to Rockville two years ago.

"It's a sweat, but I enjoy that," said 53-year-old Venus Welch, a Baltimore schoolteacher who played three sets of tennis in the midday sun at the park. "I get a serious tan. I like the sun."

Welch and others played hard-fought matches, as players and spectators alike said that hot weather was no excuse for missing a sunny day.

"The elements are secondary," said Joseph Smith, 50, an auto salesman who watched Welch's match. "It's a choice at the highest level to go from the shade to the sun."

Pub Date: 7/26/99

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