Wreath has a political ring

Auction: Two commissioners and a rival bid over a garland inspired by Piney Run Lake.

November 30, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Arts Council's annual Festival of Wreaths has one entry that is generating spirited bidding with political overtones.

Two Carroll commissioners - Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier - are vying for the "Save the Lake" wreath, bidding against each other and one of their most outspoken critics - Neil Ridgely of Finksburg - for an item that pays tribute to Piney Run Lake, a popular recreation spot in Sykesville.

The bidding represents a new battleground for Dell, Frazier and Ridgely. Dell and Frazier have long supported a $14 million plan build a water treatment plant on Piney Run Lake. It would provide water for South Carroll, the county's most populous area, which has endured water shortages three of the past four summers.

Ridgely doesn't want the lake used that way. He has been a vocal antagonist of Dell and Frazier, having had a hand in polls of Finksburg residents that rated the performance of the two commissioners as poor in several categories.

Ridgely has vowed to match any bid of up to $100 - a $55 bid from Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier is highest for the Save the Lake wreath - and has promised to donate that amount to the arts council regardless of who takes it home.

"I have sent e-mails to about 50 people in South Carroll hoping they will accept my challenge," said Ridgely, an arts council member who placed two wreaths of his own in the competition. One, "Celebrate Red, White and Blue," drew a $40 bid from Dell.

In the 4-year-old fund-raiser, businesses, organizations and individuals create wreaths and donate them to the arts council. Bidders are competing this year for more than 150 wreaths, decorated in holiday and patriotic themes.

The wreaths are displayed at Winchester Exchange Building at 15 E. Main St., where the public is invited to bid on each one, with proceeds going to the arts council. Money raised helps the arts council meet operating costs.

The highly contested wreath, submitted by a Westminster law firm, is decorated with "Save the Lake" banners, rowboats with nets and oars, brightly colored fish and an authentic water faucet spewing cellophane streamers to simulate water.

"What a great idea. I wish I had thought of it," Ridgely said. "They took a community concern, added whimsy and said, `We should all have fun with this.'"

Dell says he hopes to win the wreath and hang it on the door of his office in Westminster.

"It is a great wreath and I really love the canoes," Dell said, adding that he strongly supports the wreath's theme. "I certainly don't want anything to harm that lake."

Dell won't win with his $45 bid, but he has vowed to return to the exhibit at the arts council and bid again before the auction closes at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

"I will bid again," Dell promised.

"Save the Lake" was the theme for a May rally at Piney Run Park in Sykesville. The event drew about 2,000 people, many of them opposed to plans to use Piney Run Lake as a water supply.

South Carroll residents initiated a petition drive hoping to force Dell and Frazier to abandon plans to build the treatment plant on the lake. Many fear those withdrawals would destroy the 2-billion-gallon lake and play havoc with the park's ecology.

Ridgely, who favors less costly alternatives to tapping Piney Run Lake, welcomes the competition.

"I know Donald has a sense of humor and the fact that he is bidding against me made me chuckle," Ridgely said.

Such contests are in the spirit of fun and boost profits, said Sandy Oxx, arts council executive director.

Profits probably will exceed last year's $10,000, Oxx said. The council has pledged 10 percent of proceeds this year to Lower Manhattan Arts Council. Its offices in the World Trade Center were destroyed in the terrorist attack Sept. 11.

"Some people have said they are a little disappointed that an entry has become a political statement," Oxx said. "But, every year, we get all kinds of good ideas. This is all in the spirit of fun and most importantly it means we will be sending a nice check to New York."

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