A line of visitors stretched down the front walk and around the corner outside the governor's mansion in Annapolis yesterday as a steady stream of guests joined Gov. Parris N. Glendening for some holiday cheer.
At the front door, Glendening held a marathon session of shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for pictures. It was his last annual holiday open house as Maryland's top official, but Glendening said he is not sad.
"I've had 30 years of public office, and I've enjoyed every moment of that." But, he said, "I'm enthusiastic about moving to my next career." He has not announced what he will do, but he has said he is interested in the environment and higher education.
Many guests came to wish him well, like Yvonne Herndon of Germantown, who attended 'just to say farewell to a great governor."
Many were also drawn by the holiday mood and the chance to see Government House decked out for the season.
"I think the atmosphere is very festive. The music is good. It has a warm feeling." said Herndon, who owns a manage ment consulting business.
The house was decorated with white and silver ornaments, candles and flowers, greenery and a Christmas tree. A choir from Beth Tfiloh Community School in Pikesville sang a repertoire that included Broadway show tunes, and guides offered information on the house, built just after the Civil War.
"I just like the tradition of it." said Judith Langley of Randallstown. "It makes you feel like it's Christmas."
After last year's terrorist attacks and the economic down turn, Langley said, "people appreciate an old-fashioned Christmas. It makes us feel good."
Many children were invited with their families because their ornaments were chosen to hang on the Christmas tree at the State House. The works of 25 quilters from across the state were also on display there.
David Gill, 18, of Annapolis waited in line for nearly half an hour. He thought visiting the governor's mansion would be fun, "knowing that I or my brother might live here one day."
Gill started a branch of the Green Party at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he studies political science. He plans to run for office some day. He said his brother, Brian Gill, 21, did not attend yesterday, but is also passionate about politics, and is an avid conservative.
After 40 open houses for the public and for government employees - including those he held as Prince George's County executive - Glendening seemed ready to hand off the responsibility.
He said, "I look forward next holiday to a nice, quiet celebration with my family."