Here's hoping the groundhog doesn't see his shadow today, and that spring is on its way. Do you remember that old movie,"Groundhog Day"? At this time of year I think we all feel a little bit like that character — one day feels pretty much like the last. Of course that could be a welcome break after 2011, with its miserable flood on Main Street and the jolting earthquake, among other unwelcome surprises.

Even though there were some hiccups last year, in the historic district there were also many memorable events — some of which will be back this year. Who didn't love the Second Sunday Market in Tonge Row, with lots of fresh vegetables, crafts, and Nathan's breads? That should start up again in March.

And we didn't have to go far for a free family night out at the movies, with The Wine Bin providing outdoor entertainment during the good weather. Tourism brought us the ever popular ghost tours, history tours and my favorite, "The Past with Pastry."

We were entertained by the popular thespians with Shakespeare in the Ruins at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, concerts, lectures and the wildly popular Antiques Appraisal Fair at the Howard County Historical Society, and living historians re-enacting the Civil War at the B&O Railroad Museum, Ellicott City Station.


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Individual weekends were set aside for the Blossoms of Hope events — many participated in the Lanterns of Hope parade as well as the Hills of Milltown 5k. Another weekend it was delightful to see the artists set up their easels for the "Paint It" plein air event organized by the Howard County Center for the Arts.

The Ellicott City Restoration Foundation sponsored a photo contest as well as a holiday window decorating event. They coordinated with Whipps Cemetery volunteers to plant hundreds of daffodil bulbs in the historic district for a major display this spring. They also helped cover the parking meters when they were free during the holidays.

The Ellicott City Business Association brought us First Fridays in the historic district, as well as Trick or Treat on Main Street and Midnight Madness to kick off the winter holiday season. The Friends of the Patapsco Valley staged a variety of stream clean-ups and training programs. And of course on any given weekend we can enjoy the sidewalk show of Barry the Bubble Man at the Forget-Me-Not Factory.

In addition to providing a fun show for kids, Barry, along with his wife, Nancy, is one of the town's tireless volunteers, always pushing to make things better for visitors and town folk alike.

Volunteers

If you review the list of events and activities I've mentioned you will notice a running theme — most would not be possible without volunteer efforts. So, rather than be home and bored during the 'three dog nights' of winter, why not consider volunteering your time to one of the local nonprofit organizations who need your help.

One of the most obvious to me is the new Miller Library and Historical Center. This massive endeavor requires a lot of man hours to make it work for the thousands of people visiting regularly. They would welcome help stocking shelves and manning information desks. I have been a volunteer at the Howard County Historical Society for over a year now (a member for 15 years) and find with their move to the Miller Library there is a renewed excitement and dedication to preserving our county's unique history. Don't you want to be a part of that?

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is on a Tuesday this year. Since the $400 tasting menu at Le Bernardin in Manhattan is already sold out, you have every reason to share the day with your sweetheart locally. Many restaurants in the historic district are offering special menus, and parking in the evening is always easier during the week. Enjoy!