CRISFIELD -- Kurt L. Schmoke was there. So was Parris N. Glendening. He was practically standing next to Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who was just a few feet from Louis L. Goldstein.
Oh, to be a political junkie in Crisfield in July.
Baltimore's mayor, Maryland's governor, the Republican who came within 6,000 votes of being governor last year and the state's comptroller drank beer, ate crabs and clams and generally reveled in a bipartisan manner yesterday at the 19th annual J. Millard Tawes Crab & Clam Bake in Crisfield's Somers Cove Marina.
Like baseball, picnics and severe thunderstorms, the Tawes Festival is one of those things that seems to happen every summer -- even when there is barely an election in sight. More than 5,000 people, including dozens of elected leaders from across the state and many of the political troops who put them into office, decided yet again not to miss it this year.
"I'm here to show that Baltimoreans eat crabs, too," said Mr. Schmoke, who seemed too busy meeting and greeting to pick up a mallet.
Larry S. Gibson, Mr. Schmoke's chief political strategist, admitted that working crowds in Somerset County may not get the mayor many votes this fall, but the festival makes it easy to conduct state business without picking up a phone. Need the governor? He's right across the way, as are several cabinet secretaries.
"It's a Maryland political tradition," Mr. Gibson said. "We all get some business done today. The telephone company is the only loser in the deal."
Mr. Schmoke's primary opponent, Council President Mary Pat Clarke, was not in attendance. The mayor knew that because he was repeatedly asked about her.
"She didn't come in on the bus I came in on," Mr. Schmoke told a well-wisher.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Sauerbrey, who attended the last two Tawes festivals as a candidate for governor, found she could relax and try to eat the seafood. No longer was she required to glad-hand, although as Maryland chairwoman for Republican Texas Sen. Phil Gramm's presidential campaign, she still had a pitch.
"I'm delighted so many people still remember me," she said.
Mr. Glendening, a fellow Tawes regular, attended with police protection for the first time, a benefit of being elected to the state's highest office. After spending the earlier part of the day touring the Eastern Shore in jacket and tie, he switched into a knit shirt and seemed almost relaxed.
Despite the afternoon heat, the beer was said to be cold, all 50 kegs of it, and the 300 bushels of jimmies and 36,000 clams were served hot. That doesn't even include the 300 watermelons, the 800 dozens ears of corn or the gallons of soda expected to be consumed by the crowd.
Scott Tawes, the event's chairman and nephew of the former governor whom the event honors, said proceeds from the $25-a-ticket event would help fund the town's Tawes Museum. The festival is sponsored by the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce.