Thumbs up — and down: Bad things happen all the time, but sometimes brave individuals are willing to put themselves at risk to help others to survive. Most often we hear about uniformed first responders rushing toward danger in this way. But it doesn’t take a uniform to be a hero, as Mike Watson showed on Friday morning. Watson, who retired as a Baltimore city firefighter 30 years ago, stormed a burning house in Westminster in an attempt to rescue a dog trapped inside. Watson had been passing by in his truck when he saw the smoke at 500 North Gorsuch Road. Watson’s first instinct was to check for people inside — then he heard barking. With no protective equipment, he entered the house through an unlocked basement door, climbed the stairs and called out to the dog. But it never came. And heavy smoke made it impossible for Watson to search. The dog, Fred, did not survive the fire, but that does not lessen the valor of Watson’s decision to try and help. Other bystanders did their best to help as well — calling 911; kicking down the front door to give the dog an escape route; trying to revive the dog after he was pulled from the house. The outcome of this fire is tragic — hence the thumbs down — but the actions of these locals to try and save Fred are nothing short of heroic.
Thumbs up: Candace Birger and Jess Tanzey are local examples of a kind of artistic expression that some might not know much about. They both are cosplayers, meaning they use craft work and theater skills to build elaborate costumes to bring fanciful characters from film, comic books and video games to life, embodying them in photoshoots and conventions. “ ‘Cosplay’ is a mixture of the terms ‘costume’ and ‘role play.’ These don’t have to be characters that already exist, you can make these kinds of characters up or you can put your own spin on them,” Tanzey told us. It’s a great outlet for creative energy, and it draws people together. Both told us they have found the cosplay community incredibly positive, an experience they hope they can model and share with others in the area. “We’re both 10, 12 years apart [in age], but it doesn’t matter because we can be friends because we have this similar hobby. It doesn’t matter your age group or your interests outside of cosplay — it brings people together in one united nerd nation, and it’s really fun to see everybody come together,” Tanzey told us. We admire their willingness to pursue their artistic interests in this field.
Thumbs up: A pair of inaugural events are coming to Carroll County. One, the first-ever Westminster Film Festival, is a fresh addition to the Carroll entertainment landscape, and the other, the Relay for Life Carroll County, adopts a new approach for an event likely familiar to many locals. The festival, which starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, is open to local artists as well as others from Washington, D.C., Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. “I've always seen Westminster as a kind of niche arts community, and kind of wanted to have this festival to bring that community out, bring them together,” the festival director, Ryan McNulty, told us. Especially for new filmmakers, the experience of seeing their work on the big screen can be exciting. We’re glad that this festival provides such an opportunity. Then, the Relay for Life will come to the Carroll County Agriculture Center on June 21, featuring a centralized approach and a particular focus on pediatric cancer. The fundraising event for cancer-fighting efforts will be the first in a new series in Carroll, a merger of the previously separate Westminster and Freedom Relay for Life events. It will also feature the first GoldTogether team in Carroll. Many people form teams to raise funds and then take turns walking around the track at Relay events, and GoldTogether teams agree to direct all the funds they raise toward pediatric cancer research, Vivienne Stearns-Elliott of the American Cancer Society told us. We have high hopes for this approach, and we urge all to consider supporting it.
Thumbs up: Four Carroll County Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) cadets made their way to the top level of their program when they landed a spot in the National Academic Bowl. Century High School’s team will be one of 32 teams to participate in the National Academic Bowl in Washington, D.C., on June 21. Unfortunately, because they made it to nationals they will no longer be allowed to compete in the academic bowl at any level in the future — although they may mentor the competitors. That said, it seems they have reached a peak, and that is certainly something for them to be proud of. And we’re proud of them as well.