Storm can't sink City Dock's shows

Boats: Despite flooding from Tropical Storm Isabel, Annapolis is ready for the sailboat and powerboat shows.

October 10, 2003|By Jason Song and Julie Bykowicz | Jason Song and Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Annapolis' historic Market House opened its doors yesterday for the first time since last month's Tropical Storm Isabel set the food shanty's cheese and ice cream afloat in a 7-foot slush of Severn River surge.

"I don't know who's more excited about our opening, our customers or us," said an ebullient Judy Schwartzberg, co-owner of The Big Cheese and Sammy's Downtown Deli.

Yesterday, the first day of this weekend's popular sailboat show, was the city's self-imposed deadline for drying out after Isabel's surge left much of the City Dock area - including a life-size bronze statue of author Alex Haley - temporarily underwater.

What used to be a debris-strewn, soggy mess was a forest of masts and sails yesterday. Visitors milled about floating docks and patronized spiffed-up restaurants and stores.

More than 100,000 people are expected to attend this weekend's sailboat show and next weekend's powerboat show, which attract about 600 vendors and pump millions of dollars into the local economy.

"We had a big incentive to get ready for the shows," Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said.

For many in town for the boat shows, a stop or two at Market House is a must.

Marnie Read of Bass Harbor, Maine, said she has patronized The Big Cheese during every boat show for the past five years.

"There, now I can cross another thing off my list," Read said as she collected her brie and prosciutto sandwich yesterday, just hours after Market House reopened.

Isabel, which brushed past Annapolis late Sept. 18, caused nearly $2.5 million in damage to city property, much of it near City Dock, where debris washed ashore and businesses were flooded.

Market House merchants dutifully sandbagged before the storm, and most moved their goods to higher shelves. But nearly four feet of water flooded the building, reaching much of the merchandise and turning the 150-year-old building into a slimy mess.

"All of our crackers went to cracker heaven," Schwartzberg said.

`Show would go on'

Despite the stunning pictures of a city largely underwater, there was little doubt that the boat shows would go on.

"Come rain or come shine, come hurricane or not, the boat show would go on. I never had any doubts," said Tom Wagner as he washed his yachts on City Dock.

As soon as the waters receded, city workers began collecting trash and business owners began drying out their shops and restaurants.

Boat show organizers said they were well-prepared for the storm. They stored away portable docks and sailboats and suffered no damage.

"We came out of this very well," said Rick Francke, a spokesman for the shows, which are organized by several local boating companies.

The sailboat show, in its 34th year, began yesterday and runs through Monday.

It will feature 250 sailboats, more than 200 tents of products and services, sailing seminars and a revival of the Senator's Cup match racing series.

The powerboat show begins Thursday and ends Oct. 19.

On the docks yesterday, there was hardly any sign of Isabel's destruction, save for a few signs that city workers had posted on lampposts: "On Sept. 18/19 Isabel came up to here."

Although nearby restaurants were able to reopen within days of the storm, Market House's opening was delayed because of electrical problems.

Anxious to reopen

Store owners said they grew more and more anxious as the boat shows approached.

Market House customers seemed equally anxious.

Schwartzberg said she saw customers peering into the building's windows and heard them knocking at the door before it opened about 11 a.m.

Inside, Market House looked remarkably unscathed. Fancy condiments - from East Shore Key Lime Mustard to "tangerine twist" flavored Jelly Bean Jelly - again lined the shelves of The Big Cheese.

Customers lined up at places such as Mann's Sandwiches and Sammy's Downtown Deli and pondered whether to buy a slice of pizza or rolls of sushi.

Schwartzberg said vendors had worked nearly around the clock to replace damaged equipment, restock shelves and prepare for the reopening.

She pointed to several marker drawings by her 7-year-old grandson, Sammy - for whom the deli is named - as some of the only items that survived what she called the "biblical" storm surge.

All of them depict the Titanic.

Sailboat show

The 34th Annual U.S. Sailboat Show at Annapolis' City Dock will continue through Monday. The hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today through Sunday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. Admission is $16 for adults and $8 for children age 12 and younger. Parking is $6 at the Navy-Marine Corps stadium, with shuttles running between the stadium and the boat show. The city of Annapolis also is offering free bus rides to paying boat show attendees.

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