Tittering out in the hallway, they waited through the Pledge of Allegiance and proclamations for a young singer and a longtime civic volunteer. They were shushed a few times.
And then it was time: Members of the Maritime Republic of Eastport stormed the council chambers at Annapolis City Hall and declared war against the rest of the capital city.
"2-1-4-0-3! We are the MRE!" they chanted, waving yellow flags and marching to the lectern.
Stephanie Moore, the mock republic's "minister of war," recalled the history of the faux rebellion and challenged Mayor Josh Cohen and the rest of the city to a tug of war over Spa Creek, this year set for Nov. 2.
The declaration of war and the tug of war are an annual tradition in Annapolis, dating back to 1998, when repairs closed down the Spa Creek Bridge, cutting off the Eastport peninsula neighborhood from downtown Annapolis.
That's when the Maritime Republic of Eastport was formed as a way to celebrate the neighborhood and needle the rest of Annapolis.
Cohen, who lived in Eastport at the time, was one of the mock secessionists.
The MRE didn't let the mayor forget it, with two members marching around the room holding up photos of Cohen in his MRE days. A few cries of "traitor!" rang out.
The war is settled each year with a series of tugs with a giant rope stretched across Spa Creek, with downtown Annapolis at one end and Eastport at the other end.
Cohen accepted the challenge, but not before doing a little taunting back at his former compatriots from Eastport.
On cue, the winner's plaque was brought out. It's spent the last year at the Red Red Wine Bar on Main Street in downtown, a reward for the Annapolis side winning the tug for the first time ever last year. Annapolis was victorious in four of the seven tugs.
"We let our deeds speak for ourselves," Cohen said.
But the tug isn't all about winning. Some said it's about who raises the most money for charity. More than $500,000 has been raised over the years, according to the MRE.
Alderman Ross Arnett, who represents Eastport, waved an MRE flag from his desk and offered different idea: "It's about who drinks the most beer!"
Alderman Joe Budge, who represents downtown, offered some trash talk for his colleague from across the creek.
"I would like to point out that the traitors from Eastport seem to only be able to count to four. And I enjoy the fact that we can count a lot higher than that and we're going to win!"
Added Alderman Fred Paone: "We ought to adopt a slogan: '2-1-4-0-1! Last year we won!"
The Eastport v. Annapolis tug of war is set for the "crack of noon" on Nov. 2. For information, visit themre.org.