FOR MANY BALTIMOREANS, THE NEW year doesn't really start until the first Saturday in January. That's when the Rotary Club of Baltimore throws its annual Oyster Roast -- this year, its 84th. Folks line up outside the Fifth Regiment Armory long before the doors officially open at noon. Once those doors open, and the 2,000-plus guests come pouring in, the lines inside begin.

Many are at the 12 oyster-shucking stations. Unless you're like Rick Hornig, Electric Motor Repair industrial salesman. He was one of about a dozen folks clustered around a shuck-your-own oyster station.

"It's a lot better to shuck my own instead of waiting in those lines. Not only that, I like to help out all my friends and that's what it's all about today, helping out all our friends," he said.

On the other side of the room, a line formed to the right leading to 10 pit beef, ham and turkey carving stations. Steven Purchek, an electrical engineer with James Posey Associates, had cleared that line, and another winding around a hot food buffet. He was now seated with two loaded plates in front of him.

"[Next] I'm going to work my way that way," he said, pointing to the oyster shuckers. "And then progressively go that way and see what I can find," he added, pointing to the game wheels in the center of the room.

A shriek went up at the power tool wheel, as April Dixon found out she'd won a Black & Decker Jr. Kids Power Workbench.

But, as usual, it was the bacon wheel that drew the biggest crowds.

"It's mind-boggling. I still can't figure out why people bet on the bacon wheel. But, it's the biggest moneymaker we have here," said event chair Howard Weisberg.

And some folks weren't satisfied with just one prize -- a 9-pound box of the stuff. Dee Moravec, Engineering Documentation Systems, Inc. procurement supervisor, was comparing her three boxes of bacon to the three won by retired steelworker Mike Michaloski and his wife, Francesca.

Meanwhile, Hook Installations union carpenter and truck driver Bill Smenkowski boasted a stack of more than half a dozen boxes.

"Well, I like bacon," he said. "And now we have enough to eat for the next six years.


THIS YEAR, DAVID NEVINS, 53, WILL CELEbrate the 25th anniversary of the public relations firm he started in 1983. When he opened the doors of Nevins & Associates, it had a staff of one: David Nevins. It now has about 16 employees. A divorced dad of daughter Freddi, 16, and son Jake, 12, Nevins is active on several boards -- including the Maryland Board of Regents, where he is past president, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Does it make you feel old to have a 25-year-old business that you started?

No, I don't feel old. I mean, it's somewhat surprising to have started this business kind of on a whim and a lark and this is what I'm still doing 25 years later.

How have your dreams changed from what they were 25 years ago?

I was watching TV this morning, and a kid was being interviewed who said he wanted to be the president of the United States [someday]. And I chuckled to myself because I once wanted to be that, too, when I was his age, at 10 or 12. In recent years, I've become incredibly comfortable with my station in life, in terms of my level of career success.

What are some of your favorite things?

I really like modern art. I love to be surrounded by creative art and great sculpture. Lots of colors. My kids and I play word games. ... My girlfriend Susie [Schapiro], and I really love fine dining, going to the region's best restaurants and trying new cuisines on a regular basis.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

My guilty pleasures remain those foods that are the worst for you. Even if I order fish, I can't help but order it with the greatest of sauces, or puffed potatoes at Tio Pepe's. And desserts.

ONLINE Read more of the conversation with David Nevins at / drink

ONLINE Sloane Brown takes you to the party with a calendar of events and video reports at / scene

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