Farewell to Blob’s Park; A Baltimore Legend and Annapolis Favorite Hang-out

Some "regulars" hanging out at the bar.
Some “regulars” hanging out at the bar.

Blob’s Park is closing in less than one month.   And I for one am going to miss its unique attributes. Where else could you go to get authentic German food, listen to live music, go waltzing across a dance floor and feel as if you’d stepped back in time to the 1960s?

Blobs

 In recent years, probably my husband Peter and I have not gone there nearly enough— but oh the memories!. A trip to Blobs Park, for many  patrons means polka dancing.  But there was so much else.  I remember visiting Blobs for an evening of dinner and dancing in the 1990’s and marveling at the wide variety of patrons. There would be women with beehive hairdo’s, men with rolled up short sleeves and crew cuts and entire wedding parties and anniversary parties set up at the various long banquet tables. Men and women still spry in their 80’s would be doing the jitterbug and the Lindy hop. Often I’d see small children sitting at some tables earlier in the evening, ready to dance along with Mom and Dad or not waiting and making up dances of their own.  On a Sunday afternoon there might be a band with an accordion playing  a variety of German and Polish folk dances and lots of folks out on the dance floor who knew all the patterns and steps.

Friends Doug and Wendy enjoying a dance!
Friends Doug and Wendy enjoying a dance!

Max Blob, opened Blob’s Park in 1928 as a private gathering place (think Speakeasy) It opened to the public in 1933.  He was known affectionately as “Onkle Max. “ In recent years Blobs has hosted Latin Bands, Country Music, and last Friday night it was a 1940s style Swing Band.  Unfortunately, despite the good music, the hall has become increasingly empty.

But that’s not why they are closing.

December 2012  and January 2013, 29 acres of Blobs Park land was sold to the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. The plan is for a church and school to be built on the land but the current owner/manager Max Eggerl, who is a grandson of Max Blob, the original founder , thought he had a verbal agreement to keep occupying the Hall for a few more years. Evidently that is not to be. Blob’s Park will be closing at the end of the month. The last event at the hall that has seating for 1000 people, will be  “Our Last Polka and will feature Mike Surratt and The Continentals on March 30th

In the last few remaining weeks that Blob’s Park remains open, make a  pilgrimage and walk around the place. A bit of the spirit of “Onkle Max” still remains.

Blobs Park is located at the Intersection of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 1765 in Jessup, Maryland; just a short drive down the highway from the entrance to Fort Meade.   As the western part of Anne Arundel County continues to grow in density, another little piece of history is lost.Bar Band

Last DInner?
Last Dance at Blobs?

Dancing for fun and exercise near Annapolis

Image

It’s a challenge to find places with good music for dancing swing, latin, and ballroom if you happen to live in Annapolis and don’t want to drive all the way to Baltimore or Washington D.C.  The good news is that I just rediscovered that Blob’s Park Bavarian Garden located in Jessup Maryland, has expanded their offerings beyond the polka to include more Swing Dance  and just this past week Salsa/Latin night.  I just happened to check their schedule and discovered that this past Friday (3/15) was the first Salsa/Latin night and went to check it out.  The  Rumba Club Band was playing and they were excellent.  Nine musicians on drums, timbales, keyboard, trombone, flute, bass, and sax. There was plenty of room on the dance floor to try the rumba, cha cha, and merengue along with salsa dancing.  When the band breaks there are free lessons. There were some excellent dancers to watch and there were others just learning (like me).
The cover charge for the night is $12 per person and can vary according to the night. DInner, snacks, plus drinks are available if you want to make a complete evening of it. The music begins at 8:00 p.m. The next two Thursdays will feature swing dancing and on Friday March 29th, playing will be the Bayside Big Band. Looking ahead, their next salsa night will take place on April 19th. The Rumba Club Band will be returning and I look forward to hearing them again. See you there!

Annapolis High student performance highlight Mardi Gras Gala

Yesterday I blogged about what I was wearing at this year’s Anne Arundel County Arts Council Mardi Gras Gala but I didn’t write about the event itself. The highlight for me was listening to and watching two wonderful renditions of song and dance routines from the musical “Working” which will be performed this spring by students in the performing arts magnet program in collaboration with the theater department. Particularly outstanding was the soloist in “Just a Housewife.”  Part of the money raised by the arts council goes to support educational arts programs in our schools, both public and private, so the entertainment was very appropriate.

Too bad some people couldn’t  stop themselves from talking while the kids were performing. This has happened before, at the Annie Awards no less, honoring local artists for their work and support of the arts. I was sitting in the auditorium at St. John’s College, where the event was taking place behind some very noisy people while a string quartet was performing on stage.
Meanwhile, when we wanted to talk to our dinner companions during dinner, the band for dancing was playing too loud. This has happened at a number of events I’ve attended this past year.  So any event organizers out there take note. During the dinner hour, if there is music it should be “background music”, low and subdued.  I love good music and want to give it my full attention when there is a performance, but sometimes social time should take precedence. Just my humble opinion.
At any rate, kudos to the Arts Council for a great evening with good food and dancing. I hope you made lots of money to support the arts.

Blue Skies Smiling at Me

Blue skies and sunny weather mean that spring fever has arrived. It’s hard to stay indoors but thankfully the weekend is just about here and I won’t have to stay indoors much longer. Maybe I can do a little garden raking and clearing, but what I’d really like to do is kick back and read a good book even if my eyes are a bit bleary.
And then I am tempted to try to convince my husband we have the time to go back to the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo and do some more swing dancing. Casey MacGill’s Blue 4 Trio is playing. The band covers many decades of repertoire including swing songs from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s featuring sweet harmonies and a driving rhythm (this is swing don’t you know).
What is so enjoyable about the venue is the wide open space, beautiful wood floor, and wide variety of people dancing. Sometimes it’s just fun to watch all the different styles from smooth and slow to fast and staccato, everyone’s having a wonderful time. Admission is only $15. Arrive a 8:00 and receive a free lesson from Tom and Debra. And if you can’t make it on Saturday night they are having their waltz lesson and Tea dance on Sunday afternoon, also with a live orchestra ELIXIR. Sunday admission is $10. Find out more on their website.

Dance the Night Away

I’e discovered a new venue for dancing. Last week I wrote about the Red Dress Dance at the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park. What a beautiful space with tall ceilings, a large stage for a big orchestra, and beautiful wood floors for doing everyting from the Lindy hop to a waltz. The only drawback was it was very cold. The temperature was only in the 50s and some of the ladies were wearing gowns held up with spaghetti straps. Oh those cold shoulders. I never took off my sweater. It is just too expensive to heat such a large open building. To stay warm, my husband Peter and I just kept dancing for three hours straight. We were even dancing to the taped music when the band went on break. Towards the end of the month I hope to be back there again. Here’s some of what they have scheduled.
All Things Blues Dance
Friday, February 25, 2011 – 8:00pm – midnight
in the Ballroom Annex
Admission: $10 before 9pm; $8 after 9pm
Swing Dance
The next evening return to dance again to the wonderful sound of the Tom Cunningham Orchestra from 8:00 p.m. to midnight, In the Spanish Ballroom, admission is $15.
And on Sunday afternoon there is a tea dance!
Join the Hot Society Orchestra of Washington for an afternoon of dancing, featuring music and dances from the 20s, 30s and 40s. Dancers will enjoy foxtrot, two-step, waltz, cha-cha, rhumba, swing and more in the Spanish Ballroom. A basic dance lesson at 3 pm for all levels is followed by dancing to wonderful live music from 3:30 – 6:00 pm. This month’s dance lesson is the basic Rhumba provided by professional dance instructors from Dushor Dance Studios. Admission includes the lesson. No partner or prior experience needed.

Dancing Date in Red

Our top story on the What’s Up? website is all about “Dancing Dates” and a quick look around the region for dances this weekend caused me to zero in on Glen Echo in Montgomery County managed by the National Park Service. The location of a number of weekly dancing events, on Saturday night February 12th they are having a “Swing Dance and Red Dress Ball” from 8:00pm – midnight, presented by Flying Feet Enterprises in the
Spanish Ballroom. Admission is $15. If you need some brushing up on your dance technique they will start off the evening with a beginning swing lesson from 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm, and then the Eric Felten Jazz Orchestra (complete with a romantic male crooner) will take the stage for your dancing pleasure until midnight. Ideally all ladies should wear a red dress. If you don’t own a red dress for dancing, perhaps some red shoes or a red rose behind the ear will do! While the picture I selected shows a Flamingo Dancer, inspired by the location of the Spanish Ballroom, more appropriate would be attire reminiscent of the 1940s,50s, and 60s. A full skirt that swings is always fun to wear when you are dancing the jitterbug. At any rate, the Red Dance Ball sounds like fun, so that is where I’m planning to be on Saturday night with my valentine. Happy V-day.