Summer slides to a soggy finish

Holiday: Despite the weather, many fun-seeking Marylanders managed to turn a damp Labor Day weekend into a good time.

September 07, 1999|By Caitlin Francke and Amy Oakes | Caitlin Francke and Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Maryland's summer end- ed with a soggy Labor Day, but the excitement that comes with the year's warmest season could still be found yesterday at the state fair.

Doris the cow, you see, was about to give birth.

A crowd of children and their parents gathered in the bleachers, waiting to see when Doris' calf would finally emerge. They watched in rapture as another cow, Dacia, who had given birth a few hours earlier, licked her newborn, Kristine. One mother asked to take her daughter's picture next to Dacia.

"When they give birth, we get big crowds," said Dr. Michelle Colby, a veterinarian with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. "We got a crowd of about 15 when one of them gave birth at 3 a.m."

"Word spreads fast."

Unfortunately for Maryland vacationers -- and their vacation spots -- storms spread, too. Across the region, a storm named Dennis, which brought heavy rains and strong winds to the Carolinas and states to the north, dampened plans for summer's last holiday weekend.

Forecasters issued a flash-flood watch yesterday afternoon for all of Delaware and Maryland's Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne's, Talbot and Caroline counties on the Eastern Shore.

The storm dumped more than 3 inches of rain in parts of Maryland on Sunday. Riviera Beach in Anne Arundel County received 3.11 inches, more than anywhere else in Maryland, with Damascus and Thurmont each receiving 2 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

In Ocean City, the concert series featuring the Beach Boys and the Drifters had to be moved inside the Convention Center. Crowds thinned to 150,000 -- 75,000 less than last year, said Mayor Jim Mathias.

At the state fair, heavy rain closed the rides only on preview day -- when thrill-seekers ordinarily get a chance to board the carnival rides a day early. But the rain dampened overall attendance, organizers said. From Aug. 27 until Sunday, 331,467 people turned out -- 89,345 less than at the same point last year.

"He was an impolite guest," said Howard M. "Max" Mosner, the fair's general manager, of Dennis. "He did not come by and depart in a timely fashion."

But the inclement weather meant traffic on the Bay Bridge was light yesterday, compared with Labor Day weekends in the past, officials said.

Transportation authorities had expected 322,000 people to cross the bridge over the weekend.

"We are well below our estimate," said Kerry Brandt, spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority, yesterday afternoon. "A lot of our traffic is weather-dependent, and it looks like the weather did play a part."

"We even saw some folks coming home" on Sunday, Brandt said.

But Mathias, the Ocean City mayor, said vacationers toughed it out on the stormy beach -- he saw a group of 10 surrounded by umbrellas to ward off the wind -- and boogied to surf sounds from the Drifters and the Beach Boys.

"The folks that were here had a great time," said Mathias, who boasted of a record summer before the storm. Crowds topped 300,000 a week in the six weeks after July 4th, he said.

And this weekend, he said, was not a full disappointment.

"When the Drifters are in town and sing `Under the Boardwalk' and its a boardwalk town, the only thing better is to have the Beach Boys sing `Surfer Girl,' " Mathias said. "It was fun, fun, fun."

For Sodah Bentz, Frederick County's Dairy Princess, the end of the weekend -- and the state fair -- was welcome. Bentz was one of six dairy princesses, who along with 30 dairy maids, spent the entire fair promoting milk, cheese and butter at a booth near the milking stations.

"It's been a long 11 days, so I'm ready to go home," said an exhausted Bentz. "But, it is sad to see summer end."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 9/07/99

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