Christopher Columbus was an occasional actor and self-professed beach bum; Queen Isabella, a Calvert County commissioner; and King Ferdinand, the owner of Nice and Fleazy Antiques. A battered rowboat stood in for the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, and the women whooping around in stereotypical war paint and moccasins weren't really Native Americans.
But the folks gathered at Jean and Larry Hatch's North Beach home on Monday didn't show up for a museum-ready, historically accurate reenactment. For them, the story behind Columbus Day was tangential--coming in after the champagne, kazoo band, festive Spanish music and Columbus in a floppy hat "discovering" their little slice of the Calvert County peninsula.
The town crier--real estate agent Michael Bojokles--announced the explorer's arrival.
"Here on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, he will see people who love their homes, their families and especially their favorite wines," Bojokles proclaimed as 30 or so onlookers cheered. "A toast to good old Chris!"
This eclectic combination of camp and community began in 1992 when Larry Hatch, a retired history teacher, realized that year marked the 500th anniversary of Columbus's voyage and decided it was an occasion to celebrate. Hatch bought some champagne and handed out glasses to passersby at his waterfront home. The celebration has become bigger and zanier every year. On Monday, some of those joining in the fun had traveled from Florida, North Carolina and Delaware to attend the party.
"We loved it," said Ohio resident Aggie Marcellino, whose family owns a summer home in North Beach. "We come to close the cottage for the winter, and we make sure the timing coincides with Columbus Day."
Dale Thomas, who played King Ferdinand, praised the Hatch family for celebrating a holiday that means nothing more than a long weekend to most Americans.
"They just picked up something obscure--like North Beach--and created a focal point," he said.
CAPTION: Christopher Columbus--otherwise known as Marc Goodman--nears North Beach on Monday.
CAPTION: Friends and neighbors of Larry and Jean Hatch, hosts of the unofficial North Beach Columbus Day celebration, perform "God Bless North Beach" on kazoos.