Evan and Heather of Rochester, N.Y., both 11 years old, have been friends throughout childhood. They are also fellow nudists and some of the youngest competitors in the second annual Nude Olym-picks.
The mock-athletic event for nudists, or "naturists," as some prefer to be called, got under way in earnest today at a private campground near the tiny Harford County village of Darlington. Organizers of the four-day gathering of nudists from the mid-Atlantic region and elsewhere played host to dozens of journalists, and Evan and Heather were comfortable despite the attention.
Soon after participating in a relay race without clothing, Heather and Evan spoke of what it's like growing up in families of nudists.
"Some people just don't understand," Evan said.
"They think it's strange," remarked Heather. "When you're used to it, it's not strange."
Aside from the more traditional activities, such as volleyball, tennis and swimming, the youngsters were looking forward to the chocolate-pudding toss, where they get to splatter each other with pudding.
Word of the offbeat gathering of as many as 1,000 nudists has been streaking over the news wires, piquing the interest of zany radio disk jockeys and other media types from as far away as Germany, Japan and New Zealand.
"We just never expected this kind of response," said Bill Pacer, 41, a nudist and Baltimore County resident. Pacer, a dispatcher for a state agency, is serving as spokesman for the games, which are to last through Sunday. A similar event was held last year near Philadelphia.
Organizers welcomed journalists partly to put out the message that nudists are regular folks. Many nudists' groups lobby for more access to public beaches and other areas where they can shed their clothes.
"We're a users group just like hunters and fishermen," said Mark Orpen, 51, a quality-control engineer from Doylestown, Pa. He and his wife, Nancy, 47, an accounting clerk with a local newspaper, have been nudists for more than 10 years.
Many of the nudists stressed the participation of families. Pacer, who has three children, said the Nude Olym-picks is a "wholesome" gathering of "social, family nudism."
There were some more serious activities planned, including a seminar on how to be a nudist parent and on skin-cancer screening.
A note to the curious: The games are not open to the public. Pacer added, "We've got a very good security force."