A breeze buffers the blazing heat

Judy and Ernie Jenkins leaned back in their folding chairs in a shady spot by the harbor's edge at Fort McHenry on Monday, catching the breezes that kept an otherwise blazing Memorial Day comfortable. They had plenty to drink and lots of ice, and couldn't have been happier.

"This is my Ocean City," Judy Jenkins said. "It's fine."


Maybe it doesn't have the Atlantic at its doorstep, but Baltimore turned out to be an agreeable place for many city residents and visitors to enjoy the outdoors on a day when summer served notice that it would be taking over for the next several months.

The temperature crept into the mid-90s, but the heat was buffered much of the day by a gentle wind — if you knew where to look for it.


Hundreds of Baltimoreans and visitors figured out that the place to be was Fort McHenry, where a lively crosswind brought a little natural air conditioning to the patriotic ceremonies of the holiday.

Dozens turned up early to enjoy the best weather of the day while watching the Pride of Baltimore II sail out of port and past the channel that separates the fort from the Canton waterfront.

"They'll be firing their cannon, so you want to get down," park Ranger Scott Sheads playfully warned as the clipper ship sailed past about 9:40 a.m. on its way to Canada. A few minutes late, the ship's cannons fired twice, drawing no return fire from the fort as it turned in the direction of the Key Bridge.

Rick Barnwell of Elkridge, making his first visit to Fort McHenry, was a little disappointed — but just a little.

"We thought the fort was going to volley back," he said.

Elsewhere in Baltimore, others found creative ways of staying cool.

Robin Maitland, a volunteer coach visiting Baltimore with a group of students from Daniel Hand High School in Madison, Conn., was reveling in her crew's victory in a dragon boat race in the Inner Harbor.

"I'm having a great time here out on the water," Maitland said.


They were in town for a problem-solving competition at the University of Maryland, College Park.

"We just beat our opponents by probably six lengths," she boasted.

At the World Trade Center, an open lobby door let cool air pour out onto the concourse.

Nick Houhoulis, a staff member at the Top of the World observation deck, said ticket sales for the 27-floor panoramic view of Baltimore were brisk. He said several customers had told him they relished the chance to get out of the heat.

While the escaping cool air might not have been energy-efficient, Houhoulis said it had been good for his business.

"It ends up being a good promotional tool," he said.


Back at Fort McHenry, the Benzing and Blottenberger families of Catonsville were packing up and thinking about heading for the pool. The Pride had passed, they'd had a nice breakfast, and Donna and Chuck Benzing's grandkids were feeling the late-morning heat.

Mark Benzing said it was a good day to "enjoy some of the things Baltimore has to offer." It was also an opportunity, he said, to talk with his nieces and nephews about the family members who had fought in the nation's wars.

"You kind of go through all the history and why we're here on Memorial Day," he said.

For Wade Wilson of Fells Point, who was resting with his bicycle near the end of the Locust Point peninsula, it was already late in the day. Up and on the road at 7:15 a.m., he had already pedaled all the way up to Falls Road and Lake Avenue in North Baltimore on his winding trip through Baltimore.

"You can't beat this view," he said as he gazed out toward the bay.

While shorts and sundresses were the uniform of the day for many, others sweated it out in the attire of centuries past.


Park Ranger Jim Bailey wore a top hat and frock coat from the late 19th century as he delivered a patriotic oration first given at the fort in 1890 by the Rev. R.M. Pullman.

"It is a bit warm, but you get used to it," Bailey said. "Being uncomfortable, hot and sweaty is a small price to pay to honor those who gave everything."

At noon, Bailey enlisted several dozen of the park's visitors to help with the lowering of the 48-star flag, which had been flying to honor the veterans who fought beneath that standard from 1912 to 1959, and the raising of the 42-foot-by-30-foot replica of the 15-star flag that flew over the fort in 1814.

Among those surprised to be pressed into flag duty was Rolando Rodriguez of Parkville, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who was visiting with his wife, Lauren, and daughters Anna, 8, and Isabel, 7. He was happy to see the ceremonies being observed on Memorial Day and impressed with the size of the flag.

"When they actually brought it out and had us expand it, that's when it actually dawned on me how huge it is," he said.

The heat of the noonday sun wasn't having much impact on Rodriguez — not after where he'd been before. Memorial Day in Baltimore was a relief compared with their previous home in Texas, he said.


"At least in Iraq, it's dry heat," he said.