Fun but for the brain freeze

Festival: A Havre de Grace farm museum celebrates with frog jumping, lawn mower-racing and ice cream-eating contests.

July 11, 2005|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,SUN STAFF

Marion Jackson and Anthony Wilhelm raised their plastic spoons and pinned their eyes on each other with a ferocity worthy of a Western showdown.

"I can swallow it whole," 6-year- old Anthony boasted to his 8-year- old opponent from across a rectangular table.

Marion's upper lip curled. Her brows crinkled together. Her knuckles turned white as she clenched the spoon tighter. Her mother called it her "game face."

On the referee's mark, the two competitors - and more than two dozen other children - plunged spoons into bowls of vanilla ice cream in a race to lick them clean during yesterday's Summer Fun Day at Steppingstone Farm Museum in Havre de Grace.

Parents shouted encouragement - "Go baby, go!" - from the edge of the pavilion, aiming digital cameras and video recorders at their youngsters, who might otherwise have been reprimanded for such ravenous behavior.

Marion, of Port Deposit, took an early lead until she suddenly rested her spoon and had a meltdown as ice cream poured from her mouth like a waterfall. She threw her hands to her temples and moaned owww!

The much-feared brain freeze did her in. Anthony likewise failed to become the fastest lick.

"This is nice, good old-fashioned fun," said Richard Charles of Forest Hill, whose 5-year-old daughter Angela won the under-6 division of the ice cream-eating contest. "It's a middle-town-America-type thing."

Yesterday's events in the long-running fun day also featured children's games and lawn mower-racing on the grounds of a preserved turn-of-the-20th- century farmhouse overlooking the Susquehanna River. Many attending said they were relieved to have a festival nearby on a clear and hot summer day.

"It's something to do, and it's close," said George Kaczorowski, who could hear the lawn mowers from his neighboring home. "And it's also something different. You tell someone in Baltimore that you're going to a lawn mower race, and they say, `What?'"

And these are no ordinary mowers. Nor do the drivers line up their riding mowers after a fresh clip of their back yard and then chug down a hill.

The engines have been souped up and the blades removed - although the friction between the mowers' underbellies and the grass kicks up enough debris to make it appear that the race track is being mowed.

The mostly single-cylinder engines sound like motorcycles - the loud ones with mufflers that no longer muffle and can reach speeds up to 60 mph.

Drivers wear NASCAR-style helmets, neck braces and thick leather boots. Some sport outfits similar to those of motocross racers; others dress in jeans and flannel shirts. They do not wear seat belts.

"When they roll over, you want to be as far away from it as possible," said Mike Boris, 60, of Clarksville, whose family could be to lawn-mower racing what the Earnhardts are to NASCAR. "You get thrown pretty far, and that way it can't crush you."

Fans tried to find shaded spots in the bleachers outside the small circular track, which was marked with orange cones. Others stuck with the children's games and activities.

"It's not too far, and it's quiet - well, in the sense that it's safer," Brian Ahmed said over the sound of roaring mower engines. His two sons were making "Mr. Potato Heads" out of potatoes, marshmallows, raisins, candy corn and licorice. "It's a much better crowd."

After the ice cream-eating contest came turtle races, a frog-jumping contest and, finally, the watermelon seed-spitting contest. Kim Clark of Aberdeen tried to persuade her 7-year-old daughter, Cassie, to participate long enough to snap a photo, but the girl refused.

"Just act like you're spitting at me - it'll be fun," Clark said.

Turning her head and lowering her voice so that her daughter couldn't hear her explain the reason for Cassie's reluctance, Clark added, "We should have practiced at home."

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