From Bay retrievers to orioles, honoring all things Maryland

Annapolis event sheds light on lesser-known symbols of the state

March 24, 2003|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Marylanders are likely to know the state bird (Baltimore oriole) and the state reptile (diamondback terrapin) thanks to sports teams that bear their names, but what about the state dinosaur?

"I didn't know there was a state dinosaur until I started volunteering," said Tim Connolly. But he was in the garden of the William Paca House in Annapolis yesterday encouraging kids to compare their height and weight to the 20-ton, 60-foot-long Astrodon johnstoni, whose tooth was found in Prince George's County.

Activities highlighting Maryland's symbols were part of a celebration sponsored by the Annapolis Historic Trust in honor of Maryland Day, the anniversary of the landing of the first English settlers in Maryland on St. Clement's Island on March 25, 1634.

Volunteers like Connolly, who is vice president of administration for the foundation, oversaw games and exhibits at several Annapolis historic sites. Kids could fish for paper replicas of rockfish, get free samples of milk and take home the seeds of black-eyed Susan flowers: all official state items.

"It is an opportunity for families to have fun and be with one another," said Susan Steckman, marketing manger for the Historic Annapolis Foundation. Plus, they get to see some historic landmarks, she said, and learn about the state.

Steckman thought it was a good time to offer the event. With so much attention on the war in Iraq, "People want to get back to their roots," she said, and the event encouraged visitors to get in touch with the country's historic values.

Many activities were located at the William Paca House and Garden in Annapolis, former home of the state governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Girl Scout Troop 1153 from Joppatowne enjoyed getting up close to Chesapeake Bay retrievers - the state dog - and live terrapins.

"I think they're cool," said Ryan Hood, 9. "I just like turtles."

Ryan and her troop were in Annapolis to work on their model-citizen badges. They sat in on a legislative session and visited the Naval Academy on Saturday before checking out Maryland Day.

Pieces of the past

The state fossil shell, Ecphora gardnerae gardnerae drew less admiration than the animals, but Tom Cuddy, curator of archaeology, talked about all types of local artifacts at the Paca House's archaeology building.

Plates, bottles and other household bits from the Colonial era have been found around the Calvert House in Annapolis, including china painted with "Success to the British Navy" that likely had to be disposed of quickly after 1776, Cuddy said.

Emma Sampson of Garrett Park made her own fossils by pressing shells into bright purple clay and leaving an imprint.

Her mother, Lori Sampson, said she personally was relearning her state symbols, which she recalls being part of the curriculum when she was in fourth grade.

"They have added some since then," Sampson said.

Little jousters

Emma, 6, also proved to be an adept jouster, at least on foot. The game, celebrating the state sport, offered a golden hoop hung from a hook for kids to spear with a plastic lance.

The most difficult thing for volunteer Jason Lampros, a foundation conservation assistant, was to get the youngsters to gallop (or at least skip) rather than walking up to the ring.

"They've got to have a little challenge," he said.

At the Old Treasury Building at State Circle, children were invited to make replicas of the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly (the state insect) using paper, glue and clothespins. They could also participate in square dancing (the state dance). At a building called The Barracks, kids colored the state flag. At the foundation's museum store by the City Dock, they tossed crab dolls (in honor of the state crustacean, the blue crab) into baskets.

Maryland Day used to be a state holiday, said Gregory Stiverson, president of the foundation. But few people celebrate the date anymore.

For the foundation, it makes a good starting point for learning. Stiverson said, "We look at making history both fun and informative."

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