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Westminster to celebrate Shark Week in its own way

Though visitors to Shark in the Park may have the words "don't go in the water" swimming through their minds, it won't stop them from enjoying the day's activities.

To coincide with Shark Week, a Discovery Channel program that was developed to raise awareness of and respect for sharks, the Westminster Department of Recreation and Parks decided to have a showing of the movie "Jaws" Saturday, Aug. 16, but that is just part of the event, said Recreation Program Coordinator Mark Slater.

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Shark in the Park is more of a children's event than anything else, with a 22-foot water slide, sprinklers and four craft stations involving shark-themed ideas. Souvenir T-shirts will be available for $5 and visitors may tie-dye their shirts for an additional $6.

The event begins at 4 p.m. and the entertainment — including a Jimmy Buffett cover band — will last until 8:30 p.m., when everything will be cleaned up and put away in time for the showing of the movie at 9 p.m. During the movie, free popcorn will be offered to visitors. The event will be held at Westminster City Park, directly behind the Family Fitness Center on Longwell Avenue.

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"[The department] thought to either kick off or end [Shark] Week with the event, and with so many events happening last weekend we chose this weekend," department director Abby Gruber said.

Gruber said Slater suggested the idea that the department have a public showing of "Jaws" after the success of the last movie night July 18, which attracted 500 people.

Slater said they learned a lot from that event, most importantly, that the screen the department was using was not large enough for a crowd of that size. He said the park could accommodate at least twice as many people if the right equipment was used. Department officials spoke with representatives from Carroll Community College and were able to procure the college's projector screen, which is twice the size of the screen they used July 18.

In addition, organizers discovered the speaker system was not optimized for such a large crowd.

"[The speakers] were placed too close together, which affected how many people could actually hear the movie," Slater said.

He said the department doesn't hold this type of event often and is still learning about how to organize it properly, but expects the planned changes will increase the number of people that could attend. Though he wouldn't comment on exactly how many he expects, he said he is hopeful the turnout will exceed the last movie night.

"I'm hoping at the end to look at each other and say, 'We need a bigger park,'" Slater said.

Gruber said she never enters a new event with any expectations, but her greatest hope is to attract a crowd equal to or greater than the one that showed up at the last movie.

"The best thing an event planner can do is go in planning for the best turnout they can have because it prepares event employees, and our enthusiasm can catch on to the public," she said. "I don't think it's unrealistic to expect this to be big because that is the attitude we have."

All revenue brought in from T-shirt sales will be used to fund activities later in the year, Gruber said.

Gruber said she and other employees of the department did have a concern about the movie's rating. When "Jaws" was released in 1975, the PG-13 rating had not been introduced yet, so it was rated PG. Some websites have suggested the movie be considered PG-13 when considering age appropriate audiences, she said. On the official flier of the event, the department chose this stricter rating to make sure everyone, especially parents, is aware of the film's graphic content.

"We'd rather over-caution parents than under-caution them," Gruber said.

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Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.

If You Go:

What: The Westminster Department of Recreation and Parks' inaugural Shark in the Park event

Where: Westminster City Park, 11 Longwell Ave., Westminster

When: 4-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16 for crafts, music and food; movie will start at 9 p.m.

Cost: Admission is free. Food and drinks will be available for purchase and T-shirts cost $5, tie-dye an additional $6.

For More Information: Contact the department at 410-751-7701.

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