Few Will Play in Sniper's Shadow
By Manny Fernandez and Debbi Wilgoren,
Weekend events ranging from a major outdoor concert in the District to a classic car show in Rockville to virtually all outdoor school or youth league sports activities in the Washington region have been canceled or moved outside the region.
Residents face yet another weekend hobbled by fears of a sniperwho has claimed nine lives since Oct. 2. With the latest victim shot inside a parking garage, the scope of cancelations has grown, reflecting how profoundly the random killings have altered perceptions and routines in a metropolitan area of 5 million people.
Fairfax County's public schools, eager to resume the high school football season, announced that games would be played tomorrow -- but not in the area. They will be held across Virginia, some as far as 150 miles away, with exact locations and times not publicized.
The annual Bethesda Row Arts Festival, an event featuring works by more than 145 artists, was canceled, and the city of Rockville rescheduled its annual Antique and Classic Car Show from tomorrow to Oct. 26. The show normally draws 10,000 spectators to Rockville Civic Center Park. A spokesman said access to the site is limited and could be monitored, but city officials did not want to take any risks.
"It was just, how do we justify it if something happens?" Rockville spokesman Neil H. Greenberger said of the decision. "How do you justify it if people get shot at a gas station going to the car show? What would you tell a family?"
Even the pumpkin patch has been affected. In Centreville, sniperfears have cut into the crowds at Cox Farms. Up to 10,000 visitors a day usually arrive this time of year to pick the pumpkins, visit the animals and enjoy a hayride. But the number of weekday visitors -- the majority children on school field trips -- has dwindled to just 300 or 400, and weekend traffic is half the norm. "We're trying to keep a stiff upper lip, but it is really tough," said co-owner Gina Richards. She said the family-owned farm has extended its fall season into early November, hoping the sniper will be caught and business will return.
Sports events, both school and youth leagues, have been especially hard hit. At Gallaudet University, the Bison football team's home game scheduled for tomorrow will instead be played in Pennsylvania. Concern over the sniper led Gallaudet's opponent -- the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, a junior college outside Philadelphia -- to request that the game take place far from Washington.
"For some college students, it's an inconvenience, but for others, it adds to the fear factor, and it's one more indication that life isn't normal," said Mercy Coogan, a spokeswoman for Gallaudet.
In Virginia, Sterling's Potomac Falls High School called off its homecoming game tonight, but an indoor dance will go on as planned tomorrow. Ashburn's Broad Run High School canceled tomorrow's homecoming game as well but will have its indoor dance that night.
The Prince George's County school system has canceled all athletic events indefinitely. School officials had planned to have all football games at three centrally located high school fields last Monday, but they quashed that plan because of concern that they could not make the sites secure enough.
The D.C. Stoddert Soccer League, with 400 teams and more than 5,000 players ages 4 1/2 to 19, called off all games for tomorrow. Youth leagues in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs were told to follow the lead of school systems, most of which had canceled outdoor events.
In Fairfax County, parents and students today will be told of the times and locations of the relocated football games. "These kids have worked really hard this year, so it's sad this situation exists," said Hayfield High School football coach Billy Pugh, whose team will play Lake Braddock this weekend.
In Washington, an outdoor Latino music concert planned for Sunday at Freedom Plaza and sponsored by the telecommunications firm Verizon was canceled "because of the mood and climate" in the region, event spokesman Mark Gunderson said. "There's a lot of anxiety in the air right now," said Gunderson, who added that the free event was expected to draw up to 4,000 people. Performances planned for indoor auditoriums Monday and Tuesday will take place as scheduled.
Administrators at Georgetown Day School in Northwest called off an annual fall fair scheduled for tomorrow. The 27th annual Country Market Day, which typically attracts a few hundred to the private school for children's rides, crafts and food, was postponed to Nov. 2.
An annual walk-a-thon fundraiser for Northwest Washington's Lafayette Elementary scheduled for tomorrow was postponed indefinitely. The D.C. Public Library postponed the first in a series of programs -- at the Benning neighborhood library -- designed to guide residents through the home-buying process. The program was rescheduled for January.
In Virginia, the "Orphans in Alexandria" classic car meet -- featuring vehicles whose makers have gone out of business -- planned for tomorrow in the parking lot of the Lyceum, the city's history museum, was postponed. Organizers said plans are in the works to put the event on early next year.
Organizers were canceling events into next week. The Solace Caregivers Conference, set for Tuesday at the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College, was postponed, organizers announced. A new date has not been set.
And in Maryland, Rockville's weekend farmer's market was canceled, as were outdoor recreation activities, including sporting events. The historic society Peerless Rockville scrubbed plans nine months in the making for a house tour, a cycling tour of the city and an antique and crafts fair. Anne Arundel County school officials ordered all indoor events concluded by 6 p.m., precautions taken at other Washington area school systems as well.
Not all outdoor events have been called off.
The 18th Annual Army Ten-Miler, popular with military and civilian runners, will take place as scheduled Sunday morning. The race, with about 18,000 registered runners, starts outside the Pentagon at 8 a.m. and heads to downtown Washington before returning to the Pentagon.
A spokesman for the Military District of Washington, the run's organizer, said there will be a heightened police presence along the route, and spectators and runners will have to go through a security checkpoint at the start and finish lines.
Also Sunday, several hundred are expected at the Capitol for a rally to fight global warming and promote wind and solar power. Organizers said a number of people have informed them that sniper anxiety would keep them from attending. "It's just one more way that this crazed individual is hurting our society, by thwarting the efforts of nonprofits like ourselves to bring an important message to the public," said Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a rally co-sponsor.