FEBRUARY IS A month of sneezing, scraping ice off windshields, hiding from tax forms and tolerating, just barely, the kids and the mate. The only good things about February are seed catalogs and spring training reports -- harbingers that this, too, shall pass.
For folks in the restaurant trade, the spell from St. Valentine's Day to St. Patrick's is a dark one.
To make something out of nothing, the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitors Bureau has ginned up Mardi Gras 2000, from Feb. 25 to March 7.
It's the creation of Clare Vanderbeek, the bureau's director of marketing.
"Our job is to bring tourists to this market, especially at this time of the year when things slow down," she said.
Vanderbeek's work for the Maryland Office of Seafood Marketing almost two decades ago also inspired her.
"Because of our proximity to the bay, I see this as an opportunity to promote local seafood," she said.
That seafood, doubtless mixed with spicy andouille sausage, will figure on the menus of most of the 19 participating restaurants.
The program includes a gumbo cook-off at the Rams Head Tavern on Sunday, a drink mix-off at the Chart House on Feb. 29, and oyster-shucking contests at Copeland's on March 3 and Phillips Annapolis Harbor on March 5.
Some of the proceeds from the gumbo cook-off will go toward the Chef and Child Foundation, a charity that provides grants to agencies that offer feeding or nutrition education programs. Vanderbeek sees other charities being taken on in the future if this year's Mardi Gras proves successful.
When asked to contribute to a charity or civic undertaking, many restaurant owners and managers in our area jump right in and say, "What can I do to help?"
Those who do should be commended and supported.
'In His Own Words'
The Banneker-Douglass Museum at 84 Franklin St., just off Church Circle in Annapolis, introduces an exhibit tomorrow, "In His Own Words: The Life and Work of Frederick Douglass."
The show is the work of Marian Carpenter and is described as "a brief historical overview told by Douglass himself about his life achievements and hardships."
The exhibit includes loans from various sources, including the Smithsonian Institution.
Tomorrow's opening program will be from 7: 30 p.m. to 9: 30 p.m. The exhibit will run until mid-September.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
For information about the museum's activities, call 410-216-6180.
Wendi Perry, deputy director, reports that attendance at the museum is climbing. There had been fears that the expansion of the Anne Arundel Courthouse, which surrounds Banneker- Douglass, might swallow up the museum and make it less accessible.
"We're getting a lot of interest from passers-by," Perry reports. "It's all very positive."
And going to a museum is a positive thing -- especially in a month such as February.