Roped into annual rivalry

Tug of war puts Eastport, Annapolis residents on opposite sides of the creek for bragging rights, charity

November 02, 2006|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun Reporter

Last year, Eastport Tug of War teams heaved and hauled but couldn't beat their Annapolis foes.

This Saturday, the Eastport tuggers are hoping time is back on their side of the rope.

Most, if not all, of the eight previous Tugs of War have started at noon sharp, organizers said. But last year, a scheduling conflict pushed the contest at Spa Creek to the unheard-of hour of 10:30 a.m. Annapolis swept Eastport, 5-0.

With tongues in cheek, folks on the Eastport end of the line accused their Annapolis rivals of rigging the tug. Eastporters have reputations as Friday night partiers and could hardly be expected to roll out of bed and be coherent at 10:30 a.m., they claimed. This year, the tug will commence at the traditional time.

"We thought it was part of their strategy," said Nicole Cullari, an Eastport sympathizer and the minister of propaganda for the tug of war. "We lost all tugs last year, and we thought it was the hangover principle working. We're glad it's back to noon."

Years back, a group of ruffled Eastport residents decided (over drinks at Rams Head Tavern) to secede the neighborhood from Annapolis and form their own nation. Hence, the Maritime Republic of Eastport was formed. The tug developed as part of the cross-creek rivalry.

This year, said puller and organizer Brett Cureton, the plan is to have six tugs: all men; all women; a co-ed battle of the brawn between Gold's Gym and Eastport Boot Camp; two banks head-to-head; teams of bar servers and patrons; and Republican John White vs. Democrat John P. Sarbanes - the two are running for the Third District congressional seat being vacated by Benjamin L. Cardin.

The winning team must pull the roughly 1,800-foot rope decisively to their side of Spa Creek. The tugs are coordinated and judged by observers on the schooner Liberte, which floats in the middle of the creek. Just to clarify - people don't actually get pulled into the creek.

All in all, the tugging goes on for about an hour, Cullari said. The festivities, which take place on the Eastport side, include live music, food and drinks. Proceeds go to charity.

Triumph - or failure - can come in seconds. Last year, the shortest tug lasted just 20 seconds, and the longest took 2 1/2 minutes - which can feel like an eternity, Cureton said. "It seems like forever."

Not to mention the pain.

"The first one or two that you pull is not too bad, but if you pull more than once or twice, you'll be hurting for days," he said. "Your arms, your legs - everything. It's like pulling a rope out of a wall."

Cureton, a team captain, has tugged two years on the Annapolis side and one year on the Eastport side. This year, he's headed back to Eastport, he said.

Gloves are optional, and some manly men prefer to spit in their hands, rub them together and grip the rope, Cureton said. The key to winning is a mixture of strength and cooperation, he said.

"When it's time to pull, everybody's got to pull together," Cureton said. "The years that I've seen people sometimes pulling, sometimes not, if they're not working together, they're going to lose really quick."

The Eastport Tug of War starts at noon Saturday on the Annapolis side at the Susan C. Campbell Park at the City Dock and on the Eastport side at Second Street, next to the Chart House. Free. For more information, call 410-916-5500 or go to

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