Some communities are so tight-knit that they gather for unique events that can’t be found in most neighborhoods. To get an idea of what makes the greater Severna Park and Arnold area so special, the Severna Park Voice is highlighting some of those celebrations in a new series called Event of the Month.
On a humid Saturday in August, children tossed softballs and hurled darts to win prizes. Others chuckled as they plunged into water inside a dunk tank. Friends munched on popcorn and cotton candy. A girl sat still at a picnic table by the beach, a swan painted above her left eye.
This scene was like the ones that families have enjoyed year after year. For 104 years, Round Bay has held an annual carnival exclusive to residents.
“It’s an opportunity to get together as a community in summer, which is a very important time in this community, which is heavy into sailing and the [Severn] River,” said Kristen McGovern, who oversaw the carnival this year. “It’s a good time to play games, have fun, see your neighbors and say goodbye to summer.”
Starting in April or May, Round Bay residents start planning the event, which is made possible by about 75 volunteers.
Jill Galloway’s husband was raised in Round Bay during the 1970s, when the carnival was a fundraiser.
“They had a river carnival, boat shows, swimming and all kinds of things going on,” Galloway said. “It kind of died off because a lot of kids moved out of the neighborhood for a while, and then when kids started moving back in around 2000, we started rejuvenating it again.”
Other than a short hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the carnival has been a bustling event each year. Galloway estimated that 200 people attended the 2023 carnival, which is typical.
“My kids are older, they’re out of the house, but this is one of those rare events in the community where we have people of all generations come out and contribute,” Galloway said. “They run the games or they’re helping to cook.”
They enjoy games and activities at booths created about 10 years ago by Kevin Russell of Maine Cottage Furniture.
In Round Bay, the carnival is a reminder of a time when their community was a destination for families between Annapolis and Baltimore. Attendees participated in friendly competitions that involved swimming, diving, boat races and even canoe tilting. Contestants would stand in their canoe and joust with their opponents using a padded pole.
While the 2023 version did not include canoe tilting, it did celebrate the spirit that the carnival started all those years ago.
“It’s one of our founding traditions in our community, and I think it’s so important for the old communities along the river to hold onto those old traditions,” Galloway said. “It’s what makes the community so special, that it is old and we hold onto what made it special in the beginning and keep it that way today. It’s very Americana, right? It’s nice.”
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