Enjoying life and boats at festival

Waterfront event featuring yacht race draws big crowds

April 28, 2006|By BRENT JONES | BRENT JONES,SUN REPORTER

The Baltimore Waterfront Festival was in its opening moments yesterday when an improbable duo decided to add a bolt of energy.

She was older, on the short side and a skilled performer. He was barely out of his teens, taller and a dancer whose best moves could be politely described as unorthodox. But together in front of hundreds of people with a high school band as background, the two effectively got the party -- and the four-day festival featuring the Volvo Ocean Race -- started.

"I'm here to enjoy life and the boats," said Carole Weinberg, a 65-year-old ballroom dance coach from Randallstown who punctuated her impromptu routine with a headstand.

Weinberg's partner, Anthony Ratovitsky, sporting flip-flops with white socks, echoed her sentiment. "I just love to make it happen," he said. "I just want to take in the people and, when I get a chance, steal people's energy and make it into a common thing," the 20-year-old Owings Mills resident said.

On a sunny day with the temperature around 70, a light breeze and a deep blue sky, Ratovitsky had quite a few observers to steal energy from. Festival organizers estimated 10,000 visitors through the first few hours.

The Volvo Ocean Race bills itself as the world's most demanding sailing competition, an eight-month contest that covers 32,000 miles. The stopover in Baltimore attracted more than 300,000 visitors in 2002, and organizers expect a half-million this year. The participating yachts will be open for free tours through May 4, when they will leave for Annapolis.

Local jazz, rock, blues and reggae bands are scheduled to perform this weekend, and a celebrity crab-picking contest will highlight today's events. No significant rain is in the forecast.

"This is a Bermuda high, absolutely beautiful weather," said Paul Swensen, president of Sail Baltimore, a local nonprofit organization that is volunteering at the festival. "The music is great."

Along the Inner Harbor, an atmosphere resembled that of Orioles Opening Day, a reason to miss work for many, even if only for a few hours.

Ken Morris, a business analyst for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, broke away from his job to enjoy free oysters at Chesapeake Kitchen. The line during the first half-hour of the Oyster Shuck & Slurp Off was long, so Morris waited until it dwindled. He estimated that he polished off nine oysters during the all-you-can-eat event, going back repeatedly when only a few stragglers remained. The best part, he said was that no juice spilled onto his white shirt and tie.

"They were very good," Morris said. "The guy shucked them really well, too. It was a good lunch hour."

Morris, who called himself an old Navy guy, dropped by the harbor to check out the boats now that most of them have docked.

A significant line had formed at the entrance to Cisne Branco, a 294-foot Brazilian navy tall ship and training vessel, before it opened for the day. Pilot Schooner Virginia, a 122-foot replica of the original Virginia Pilot Schooner, and Clipper City had a steady stream of visitors throughout the afternoon.

Clipper City was one of the first stops for Bill Kelly and Eileen Snead of Ellicott City. The 77-year-olds, both widowed, said they have been friends for a long time and that neither has more than a passing interest in boating.

It was everything else that makes a festival festive that captured their interest.

"We really just wanted to see the ship and all the other things that are going on," Snead said. "And he's going to take me out to dinner."

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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