No raining on Keswick's Memorial Day parades for babies and bike riders

Children on bicycles and parents carrying food and drink descended on The Circle to spend the Sunday before Memorial Day.

The occasion was the annual Alonsoville Memorial Day Picnic. That's how it's been for 39 years in the Keswick community - also known as Alonsoville - where a stately cherry tree and benches form the circle at Wingate and Wickford roads.

"It's probably the only time (all year) everybody gets together," said Marge Cheek, 72, a 20-year resident of the leafy community near West Cold Spring Lane, where homes sell for $350,000 to $500,000.

There's a pumpkin carving at Halloween time, and a Crab Drop on New Year's Eve. But Memorial Day is a big deal in the Roland Park-area community of 102 households, best known for Alonso's restaurant.

On Sunday more than 100 people came to The Circle, where kegs of beer and a bucket of wine joined juices and soft drinks under the cherry tree.

Events included a bike parade, baby parade and water balloon toss.

The bike parade, more of a race, drew 10 children as well as Cheek.

"At least I didn't finish last," she said.

Many residents wore Alonsoville T-shirts that the community has printed over the years. Cindy Leahy, president of the Keswick Improvement Association, wore an old one with the slogan, "Alonsoville, where Homeland meets Hampden."

Leahy said all of the T-shirts in Keswick's history are hanging framed in the upstairs bar at Alonso's.

More than a good time, the picnic was a fundraiser to help the community care for its tree canopy, a serious pursuit in Keswick, which has 130 trees, from Linden trees and elms to Zelkovas and ash trees - and all of them cataloged.

The Alonsoville Tree Committee manned a table with information about its 2012 Action Plan for planting a tree on The Circle and doing pruning and other work.

The community must do much of the tree work itself, because Baltimore City can't afford to, residents said.

The picnic included a raffle and a silent auction with goods and services ranging from tree services to art. Alonsoville T-shirts and buttons were sold as well.

The community usually raises about $2,000, Leahy said.

"It's a lovely picnic neighborhood," said Cheek. "You're represented by all ages and professions."

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