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Fireworks over Inner Harbor brighten a soggy Fourth


A quarter-million spectators braved a soggy, humid night to watch more than 1 1/2 tons of explosives go off over Baltimore's Inner Harbor to the sounds of "Stars and Stripes Forever."

"We've had a really great crowd all day even with the rain," said Tracy Baskerville, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Office of Promotions. "We've never canceled these fireworks, and we weren't going to let rain get in the way."

The National Weather Service said the city received more than a third of an inch of rain -- enough to delay the Orioles game at Camden Yards for two hours and 47 minutes. The fireworks began about 9:45 p.m., 15 minutes behind schedule.

Col. Leon Tomlin, who commanded more than 200 police officers at the ballgame and the Inner Harbor, described the crowd as "patient and orderly."

Colonel Tomlin said the crowd arrived later than usual because of the rain. People usually start arriving for picnics about 6 p.m. This year, he said, the big push came about 8:30 p.m. as waves of people armed with umbrellas began swarming the Pratt and Light street pavilions.

They packed the skywalks and filled in along the waterfront, where it was standing-room only from the National Aquarium to Rash Field.

Police reported no arrests and said they expected traffic to move smoothly after the 25-minute display.

"Life is wonderful," said David Willeman at a table at Taverna Athena where he and his friends had a front-row seat with drinks and food. They said they planned to stay until the crowds thinned out before returning home near Sinai Hospital in Northwest Baltimore.

Fran and Max Weisfeld of Timonium watched from the only perch they could find -- a planter near the Pratt Street Pavilion.

"We've been here for about an hour, and we've had a lot of fun watching all the people, despite the rain," said Mrs. Weisfeld, who said the couple avoided traffic by riding the light rail into the city. "It's really exciting to be here for all of this."

Not everyone was as lucky. Fireworks were postponed until tonight at Oregon Ridge and until Saturday in Catonsville.

Orioles fans were treated to an unusual simulcast. The fireworks began in the top of the seventh inning.

"We're watching them," Washington resident Jonathan Salant said during the seventh-inning stretch. "You could you hear the sounds; you could see the lights. Our attention was diverted away from the ballgame."

Mr. Salant, noting that the Orioles were losing to the Minnesota Twins, 3-1, at the time, said, "The cheers coming from the stands were for the fireworks. They weren't for the Orioles."

Nicole Ruffin, 11, was glad to have the distraction. The Dover, Del., girl said she had come to the game only to spend the day with her uncle. "To me, the fireworks were really good," she said. "The end was the best part, because it had the big fireworks and had the silver twirlies. Everything happened at once. That was the best part."

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