Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy Spring!

I love this time of year. A time to celebrate, and we did, a little, but we did not burn our socks.

Annapolis welcomes the season with a sock-burning ceremony

The Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Is that spring in the air or an old gym sock on fire?

In sailing-crazy Annapolis, boaters celebrate the first day of spring with a ceremonial Burning of the Socks, signifying it will soon be warm enough to wear boat shoes without socks.

"It's a good idea to stand upwind," said John Morgan, 77.

The tradition began in the mid-1980s, when an employee at Annapolis Yacht Yard tired of his winter days doing engine maintenance on yachts and power boats. He stripped off his stinky socks, put them in a paint can with lighter fluid and drank a longneck beer while looking forward to warmer days.

"There's a whole industry of people who work all winter long on people's boats so that they'll be in shape for their owners to go out and play all summer," said Jeff Holland, director of the Annapolis Maritime Museum.

This year's sock-burning ritual attracted more than 130 people Monday evening: boatyard workers and wealthy sailboat owners alike. Celebrants sipped beer and red wine and speculated how long they could go barefoot until their toes reddened from the cold.

Annapolis resident Michael Busch, speaker of the Maryland House, joked that socks constitute formal wear in these parts. The most hard-core sock haters refuse to wear them from the spring equinox until the first day of winter.

"The uniform is deck shoes and khaki pants in winter. The uniform is deck shoes and khaki shorts in summer," Holland said. The sock bonfire, he said, is a way of remembering Annapolis' bygone days of working-class watermen who brought in crabs in summer and scraped paint off wooden vessels in winter. These days, waterfront lots go for millions, and bonfire revelers retire for crab cakes and oysters after burning their socks.

Prudent sailors might want to hold on to some socks. Snow was forecast today, with highs in the mid-30s.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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