In Ellicott City, 'bubbles to forget your troubles'

She'd only just left that morning, but by 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, Hurricane Irene was old news in historic Ellicott City.

Instead, it was "Barry the Bubble Man" who held the attention of families enjoying the sunny, day-after weather outside of The Forget Me Not Factory on Main Street, blowing rainbow-hued bubbles into the air.

"You have to play with bubbles to forget your troubles," said Barry Gibson, who has been working his corner of Main for 30 years.

Despite the fact that at least three routes into the historic district – New Cut Road, Old Columbia Pike, and Frederick Road west of Toll House Road – were still closed late Sunday afternoon due to fallen trees and electrical wires, the historic strip's many antique shops, restaurants and kitschy boutiques were abuzz with activity.

"We heard it's the best time to come out after a hurricane," said Stacey Baron, of Ellicott City, who was strolling down Main Street with her husband, Matt, and son, Nicholas. "It's the best weather."

In a town that was flooded with 14.5 feet of water during tropical storm Agnes in 1972, nothing looked damaged after Irene. In fact, aside from the blocked routes – New Cut Road had a large tree toppled across it – Irene's impact couldn't be seen.

The storm remained fresh in people's minds, though.

"We cleaned up the mess from the hurricane in the backyard, and were exhausted, so we decided to take a break and come down here," said Terri Butrum, of Highland, who had just finished eating at the Ellicott City Brewery with her husband, Bruce, and kids Jocelyn, 18, Haley, 16, and Luke, 13.

The family's backyard had looked like "a giant salad with all the leaves everywhere" Sunday morning, Haley said. And the family had to clean sticks and leaves out of their backyard pool as well.

But then it was off to enjoy the weather – one last family outing before Jocelyn heads back to Salisbury University for her freshman year.

The whole family had taken her to school earlier in the week, sleeping in Ocean City Wednesday night and moving her in Thursday, only to be told by school officials just before they left that the dorms were being cleared.

"At least she got to move in, get settled and get her books," her mom said.

Tomorrow, Jocelyn heads back across the Bay Bridge once more, she said.

Scott McClurg, of Oella, also strolling along Main Street, said he was out hiking on the Appalachian Trail until 4 p.m. Saturday, and was unimpressed by Irene.

"It was pretty much a non-event, as far as I'm concerned, " he said. "Fortunately, it didn't live up to what they said."

Back with Barry the Bubble Man, Meghan Roberts sat watching Morley, her 2-year-old son, stare wide-eyed as Gibson swung his hooped bubble wands.

"We were supposed to go sailing, but then there was the hurricane," said Roberts, who was in town from Toronto.

Dan Trivette, of Ellicott City, was there with his daughter Alyssa, 3, just to "get out of the house and do something" after the storm, he said.

Roger Tarr and Anne Gonnella, also of Ellicott City, stood watching their daughter, Linnea Tarr, 2, giggle at Gibson as well. Tarr said they'd cleared the family schedule for Sunday, anticipating a day of clean-up after Irene, but were happily enjoying Main Street instead.

"We had no plans, because we weren't sure if the power would be out or if we'd have to saw some wood out of the way," Tarr said. "But it turned out to be nothing, so we decided to come down here."

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