Josh Berin, sawing furiously to finish a hot-dog booth in time for the Columbia City Fair yesterday, said he likes living in his home town because "everybody's the same."
As his saw grated against the rock beat of the Talking Heads, Berin explained that he did not mean that everyone looks and acts the same in Columbia.
"They planned it in the '60s so everyone could live together -- Jews with Christians, blacks with whites -- and have a lot of interaction," said Berin. "And diversity becomes one."
A 13-year resident at age 14, Berin is -- by Columbia standards -- an old-timer. In this model "planned community" of the '60s, celebrating its 20th birthday this weekend, what people consider a home town depends on their age.
"I can't say it's a home town. Most of the people are from other places," said Ellen Trippe, who moved to Columbia only a year ago. But, she acknowledged, the city will probably feel like "home" to her 10-year-old daughter.
After just two decades, Columbia has become one of the largest communities in Maryland, but it has not lost that small-town flavor. Adam Sherman, 18, said he expected to see everyone he knows in town at the city fair.
"It's home. Everywhere you go you run into people you know," said Janet Keatts, another 13-year resident.
Developer James Rouse designed Columbia as a home for people of all colors, creeds, income levels -- and philosophies. At the fair, Presbyterians handed out "Thirst for God" fliers with free cups of ice water; staunch 33rd Street Baltimore stalwarts chanted "Save Our Memorial Stadium," and high school students gave away balloons saying "Hugs Are Better Than Drugs."
Booths shaded by trees and tarps lined the sidewalks and spilled up the hillside overlooking man-made Lake Kittamaundi. People were selling pottery, knickknacks, used books, T-shirts and jewelry, and in many of the booths political and religious organizations handed out advertising and information.
At the Republican Club booth, Natalie Fenwick was distributing pamphlets on AIDS. Howard Community College sponsored sign-ups for continuing education. The National Organization for Women's Howard County Chapter was promoting a gay rights march.
And at midafternoon, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Columbia founder Rouse led a "Hometown Parade" complete with bands, politicians, police, fire engines, Girl Scouts and more.
Throughout the day, jazz, classical, bluegrass and other music could be heard from the main stage area. In one parking lot, children screamed with delight as they were spun in circles on carnival rides.
The aroma of grilled hamburgers and shish kebab floated through the air as dozens of booths offered cold drinks, sandwiches and other snacks.
"It's a nice, lively atmosphere to bring people out by the lake," said Joan Gilmore at one of the booths. "It offers something for everyone."