Parade gets chilly reception

Parade gets icy reception

Weather: The snow may be to blame for the low turnout at the annual holiday celebration in Hampden.

December 08, 2003|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

One thing can be said for the Mayor's Christmas Parade in Hampden: It's a little different every year.

Some years, it has a patriotic feel. Others, it's described as quirky and "very Hampden."

But yesterday, most parade-goers agreed, it was just too brief.

Blame frigid weather and a pivotal Ravens football game.

Travel difficulties caused by snow this weekend resulted in half the number of floats, bands and curiosities that usually snake through the North Baltimore neighborhood on the first Sunday of December.

In the end, organizers said, about 70 groups marched along the 2.5-mile route, down from the 160 they had expected.

Spectators, too, were in shorter supply.

"This is unbelievable," said Tami Levin, marveling at the small turnout on the sidewalk near Falls Road and 36th Street. "I've never seen it like this."

Levin, a mother of two who has been coming to the parade since she was a child, recalled sidewalks packed with people, not dirty mounds of snow.

Organizers estimated that about 10,000 people attended the 2 p.m. parade, less than half the usual number.

Levin guessed that people were scared off by inhospitable conditions, which included slippery roads and wind-chill conditions that felt like temperatures in the low 20s.

Her husband, Marc Levin, was convinced people stayed indoors to watch the 1 p.m. Ravens football game - something he would have liked to do.

"I already tried to get out of this, but I don't have a choice," he said, glancing with mock desperation at his wife. "I'm looking for anyone with a radio or TV."

She ignored his complaint. "I made him come for these two," she said, pointing at a stroller in which their children Megan, 4, and Michael, 2, sat swaddled in blankets, waiting for the siren-blaring fire engines to arrive.

Despite the low turnout, spirits were high among the local residents and visitors who congregated on the streets or peeked from the windows of rowhouses as the parade went through.

They waved at Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley as he passed in a red convertible and cheered at the robust musical notes and drumbeats of approaching high school marching bands.

Children admired a giant balloon shaped like a toy soldier, and ran into the streets to pick up Tootsie Rolls tossed by City Council President Sheila Dixon, scarcely recognizable in a puffy yellow coat and black bonnet.

The mood was jovial inside Dimitri's Tavern on Falls Road, where Carl Spurck, a former Hampdenite of half a century, and friend Allen Ness missed the entire parade.

Instead, they had drinks and watched the Ravens beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 31-13.

The two Red Lion, Pa., residents said they had done their Christmas duty, taking part in a holiday party that Dimitri's threw hours before the parade for some of the city's disadvantaged children.

Outside, some spectators looked in vain for perennial favorites - scores of bikers loudly revving Harley-Davidson motorcycles, clowns and the Boumi Temple Shriners.

But bad weather couldn't keep away the person that most children hoped to see.

They got an eyeful of Santa Claus - there were two - and Mrs. Claus. A girl climbed onto a float to hand one of the Santas her wish list.

In the icy parking lot of a 7-Eleven store, near the end of the route, Betty Canoles, 62, of Glen Burnie sat under a blanket in the open rear of her Dodge Caravan with friend Helen Marsh, 73, waiting for the parade to arrive.

"I'm wearing tennis shoes and two pairs of socks and a lot of warm feelings," Canoles said. "It's just that time of year."

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