Storm Produces Some Winter Tales

December 20, 2009

A banner snowball fight

About 75 people were at Federal Hill Park on Saturday afternoon, either for sledding or a snowball fight that was organized via Facebook and Twitter on Friday. A handful of people brought coffee, cans of beer or bottles of cheap wine. Someone brought a boom box, wrapped in a garbage bag, that provided music. One man was buried in the snow as if he were being covered by sand at a beach.

Snow-goers used snow tubes, saucers and tops of garbage cans to sled down the hill; three inventive types even used blow-up air mattresses in lieu of sleds.The snow was a bit too dry to make good snowballs, but several people in the crowd of 20- and 30-year-olds were successful. After a few tosses, about 20 people in the crowd broke out in song, singing, what else? "The Star-Spangled Banner." (The snowball fight was called "Snow Say Can You See.")

However, the enthusiasm for snowball-throwing and anthem-singing was short-lived. After about 15 minutes, several people kept asking, "So, who wants to go to the bar?" Eventually, the official snowstorm bar crawl started at Blue Agave. For those who couldn't make it to Federal Hill, Twitter users began quickly organizing one for 4 p.m. in Canton Square.

Nathan Rauscher, a teacher who lives in Federal Hill, visited the park, but not for the fight. He still enjoyed the sights: "It's like a snow day. You don't see this very often." Originally from Rochester, N.Y., he said Saturday's storm "is impressive even by our standards."

As for the idea of the snowball fight? "I think it was brilliant."

- Carla Correa

Young entrepreneur

While most of Saturday's young snow shovelers knocked on doors for jobs, 15-year-old Alec White was a step ahead - he e-mailed the entire neighborhood.

When the contractor who handles snow removal for his Cedarcroft neighborhood sent out an e-mail saying he wouldn't be plowing Saturday, White saw an opportunity. He used the same listserv to say he was available - just call or text.

White said the calls to his cell phone were steady. He'd already done five jobs by late morning, and the work wasn't too back-breaking. "It's really fluffy snow, so it's not that hard," he said.

He plans to spend his earnings on Christmas presents for his family, and he didn't run into much competition. "I only saw one guy out there in an orange coat, but he did have a snowblower," White said.

- Tim Swift

Bearing up well

Don Wachter and Paul Zywicki beat the Bears to Baltimore.

Wachter, who is known to legions of fans at Soldier Field as "Bear Man," drove from his home in Plainfield, Ill., Thursday. Zywicki, who has missed a total of seven Bears games (including preseason games) since 1992, took a flight out of Midway on Friday night. As of Saturday afternoon, they were waiting for their favorite team to show for today's game.

"It's kind of the way our season has been going - injuries, problems with the quarterback, now this - it's kind of par for the course," Wachter said.

This was Wachter's first trip to Baltimore, and M&T Bank Stadium will be, if the game is played, the 19th NFL venue he has visited. Zywicki has missed a game because of a pilots' strike but never because of weather. Zywicki said that his first inkling of the impending snowstorm came as Wachter was making his 720-mile drive. "Don said they were expecting 4 inches, so I thought it wasn't going to be a problem," Zywicki said.

Could these two diehards take on the Ravens if da Bears were further da-layed?

"We couldn't do any worse," Zywicki said.

- Don Markus

Running for the hills

The Celtic Solstice 5-mile race always engenders a certain esprit de corps among the Baltimore runners hardy, or foolhardy, enough to show up in late December. People wear kilts (some over their running tights, some over bare legs), Santa hats and sometimes full-on Santa suits. Now in its 10th year, it has grown into a highlight of the Baltimore running calendar.

So what happens when it snows - a lot? Jim Adams, the race organizer and owner of the Falls Road Running Store, sent out a series of increasingly ominous advisory e-mails about the race over the past week, culminating in one late Friday night that concluded: "I realize that there are many runners disappointed that this weather pattern developed. There are many more who are excited about running in the snow."

About 5 or 6 inches of snow were on the ground for the 8:45 a.m. start, and the crowd was noticeably thinner than it had been in the past. The course was less dangerous than it has been in years when the roads were icy. Few, if any, runners fell. But running through that much snow is a little like running up a down escalator, especially on the hills; racers said no matter how hard they ran, they didn't seem to go any faster.

Jon Sussman, who was in the race for the third year, said he heard 1,000 runners had signed up, about half of whom showed up.

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