When a group strolling down Park Avenue yesterday asked where they could get lunch, they were whisked inside Grace & St. Peter's Episcopal Church and Day School to the annual Spring Fair, where international fare competed with all-American hot dogs and fresh lemonade.
Brightly colored murals and life-size canvas figures hung on the Baltimore school's iron fence. Children danced and played games in the courtyard while their parents meandered among booths selling flowers, gently used uniforms and freshly baked cakes.
But on this unusually hot day, sales of sun visors were brisk and the snowball stand had the longest lines. The heat had everyone at Grace & St. Peter's and other events across the region searching for shade.
The temperature reached 91 degrees in downtown Baltimore yesterday, approaching the record high of 96 set in 1986. The unseasonably hot weather is expected to last into this week, with predictions for the low 90s until Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures are not expected to drop to the low 80s until Wednesday, forecasters said.
"These temperatures came up quickly and are quite a change from what we saw last week, with highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s," said meteorologist Andy Pace. "We have gone from one extreme to the other. It is not uncommon, but certainly warmer than usual for this time of year."
The good news, Pace said, is that the humidity will remain low, making conditions more bearable than they will be in July and August.
May ushers in the fair season, and the Baltimore region held many, including the 33rd annual Towsontown Spring Festival, a two-day event expected to draw crowds of up to 200,000, and the annual Union Mills Flower Market in Carroll County. Roland Park Presbyterian Church held a Victorian Carnival yesterday and its tea room offered steaming cups all day.
"After all the rain we had, nothing will keep people from getting out," said Gary Glover, church elder.
Grace & St. Peter's event might be one of the oldest in the area. For more than 50 years, the first Saturday of May has been synonymous with spring fair at the school at Park Avenue and Monument Street.
"You can have a lot of fun here seeing people and artwork, and you can win things for your class," said Natashia Dorsey, 10, who hoped to snag a pizza lunch for her classmates.
The school's only fund-raiser opens with the fifth grade's traditional Maypole dance, a farewell event for the "seniors" who will graduate in a month.
"The dance is hard to do because you have to work together with a partner," said Heather DeBell, 11. "But I was looking forward to doing it since I was in first grade. It means a lot because this is our last year."
Austin Kaak and Michael Frection held the pole and distributed silky ribbons to their circling classmates. The lack of breeze kept the ribbons from tangling.
"It is really harder to dance than distribute ribbons, but you do have to keep them straight," said Austin, cooling down with a bubble gum-flavored snowball.
The fair also showcases student artwork, including the fifth-graders' self-portraits on canvas. Billy Cooper portrayed himself as a large red crab with glassy eyes.
"We have to take care of the Chesapeake because it is one of the biggest estuaries in the world," said 10-year-old Nicole Elardo, whose crab-handled sword hung on the church door.