Maryland played the role of a reluctant host yesterday, waiting and watching through a long gray day until Hurricane Isabel announced its arrival with powerful winds and drenching rain. Across the region, people weathered the storm in stride.

  • Annapolis: At the 27th Maryland Renaissance Fair in Annapolis, vendors threw plastic over their wares and checked into motels or stayed with friends - a rare luxury for performers and workers at the medieval show who typically bunk in trailers or unheated booths.

    But not everybody changed their routine on account of the storm.

    Toni Lamberti, a native of Floyd, Va., and the owner of the Q Heart clothing booth, planned on spending the day sewing in her stall, which had a slightly damp tree trunk growing through the floor but was otherwise dry.

    Go to a hotel? "That would be kind of boring, don't you think?" Lamberti said. "I just hope a Porta-Potty doesn't fall over."

  • Baltimore: Worries about high winds and flying debris took on a practical note along 3600 block of Keswick Road in Hampden, where the belongings of two recently evicted families lay in large piles on the street.

    As the approaching Isabel produced a strong breeze and drizzle, neighbor Ethel M. Zentz worried about the couches and chairs of her former neighbors becoming airborne projectiles.

    "I'm uneasy about the furniture and stuff out there," Zentz said, eyeing the mattresses, children's toys, carpet and upholstered furniture left in the road. "I'm concerned about what's out there with [the] hurricane coming."

    The families - one with small children - were evicted Wednesday, neighbors said.

  • Ellicott City: The Phoenix Emporium on Main Street drew a positive response from customers who heard the bar would stay open last night for a hurricane party. Owner Mark Hemmis painted a sign on the bar's window to advertise the event.

    But yesterday afternoon, Howard County Police Chief Wayne Livesay came into the bar and asked that the sign be taken down, Hemmis said.

    The owner noted he has always had a good relationship with the police, so he agreed to change it.

    The revised window sign just said there would be a hurricane party at 9 p.m.

  • Baltimore: A crew of New Yorkers who work with the hit stage show Hairspray and who came to Baltimore for its hometown opening this week scrambled yesterday to get home before the storm.

    And never mind all of Baltimore's kitschy charm, home for this group is not Charm City.

    "We were going to have lunch here and then go back, but because of the storm we decided to move it up," Michael Lynne, chairman of New Line Cinema Corp., one of the play's producers, said as he waited with his wife at Baltimore's Penn Station just before noon.

    Suzanne Goldensohn, who works for Clear Channel Entertainment and is involved with the show, canceled an 11:30 a.m. meeting to make an afternoon train back to New York.

    "Rather than having to stay another night in Baltimore, I wanted to go home," Goldensohn said.

  • Towson: At an abbreviated Farmers Market, vendor George Breidenbaugh of Glen Arm said he had been having a pretty good day selling flowers, pumpkins and vegetables before late-morning rains chased away the buyers and handful of sellers.

    "Only a few vendors showed up today," he said. "The rest must have gotten scared off by people on the news."

    Breidenbaugh said his only preparations for the storm involved picking the tomatoes and green beans ahead of time. "I also made sure there were no tractors sitting under trees," he said.

  • Charlestown, W.Va.: Tempting fate in two ways, Josephine Castorina and her friend, Mary Miller, both 86 and both of Johnstown, Pa., got on a bus yesterday for Charles Town Races and Slots in West Virginia, where they played slot machines as the sky darkened and the wind blew outside.

    "I said, 'If we get stuck, we'll sleep in the casino and gamble all night,'" Castorina said.

    No need. Castorina hit a $337 jackpot on a quarter machine and was back onboard the bus by nightfall.

    A fellow slots player, Mike Jones, 29, of Front Royal, Va., also was prepared to pass the storm in the safety of the casino, reasoning that there was "nothing to worry about in a building this size."

    Except your shirt.

    By Sun staff writers Sandy Alexander, Jeff Barker, Stacey Hirsh, Jamie Smith Hopkins, Linda Linley, Jason Song and Matt Whittaker.