SummerFest in Gaithersburg

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SummerFest in Gaithersburg is a beautiful lawn party for young and old and everybody in between. It takes place on the grounds of Bohrer Park at the end of June, an early celebration of Independence Day. From late afternoon through late in the night there is a non-stop offering of music and entertainment, games, contests, mini-parades and activities.

The festival invokes thoughts of the Great Gatsby in its elaborate festivities (minus the flapper dresses and boater hats).

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The band NATION provides truly amazing music throughout the afternoon and evening. People merrily sing and/or dance along.

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There are food trucks and local breweries galore.

Gaithersburg is one of the most diverse cities in the country. Statistics prove it, and, beyond the numbers, Gaithersburg Park and Recreation events year-round show it. But nowhere does Gaithersburg’s amazing diversity show so much as at SummerFest. People of all backgrounds come together to celebrate, get along, and have fun together.

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To me, SummerFest encompasses some of the things I love about America—the things that Americans take for granted but are unique to Europeans like me. For one, Americans just know how to party in the great outdoors! And they know what to bring: picnic hampers, coolers, chairs, tables, blankets, games, balls, frisbees, bubbles and especially a positive attitude. They come to have fun and they DO have fun!

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The festival is a great place to make new friends by joining in a pick-up volleyball game or jumping into - literally and figuratively - the sack races.

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The little ones can have fun together at the Touch-a-Truck site with a firetruck and school bus.

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During the course of the afternoon and evening a marching band, occasionally accompanied by colorful characters, walks around and invites people to tag along, thus merrily forming an impromptu parade. It’s a happy sight.

It’s a very, very hot day and people are encouraged to cool off in the air-conditioned Activity Center. The two gyms are transformed into a magical play area for kids, with giant inflatables, organized games, arts and crafts and fun photo-op spots. The hall of the building offers the popular book giveaways, some games, and spaces to just hang out.

At some point during the evening, the mayor of Gaithersburg and several Gaithersburg and Montgomery County council members address the party-goers from the main stage and kick/throw large beach balls into the happy crowd.

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Once dusk sets in, a special vibe is in the air and excitement starts to build. It’s almost time for the fireworks. This is a nerve-racking time for me. Photographing fireworks is tricky and I feel a lot of pressure. I spent a fair amount of time researching and preparing but I am not completely happy with my photos. My favorite is the “blue” photo with children in the middle. I think it has a dreamy quality but probably belongs more in an illustrated children’s book than a blog about SummerFest and its beautiful fireworks.

As soon as the fireworks are over, the marching band, followed by a colorful, glow-in-the-dark lineup of costumed characters, inflatable creatures, stilt walkers, jugglers and hula-hoopers, parades through the park and ends in front of the stage. It is time for the SummerGlo party. It is a tremendous event and therefore not surprising that so many people stay for the spectacle. Unfortunately, approaching thunderstorms put an early halt to the event.

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PS:  I love photographing for Gaithersburg.  After the OktoberFest and the St. Patrick's Day Parade, this is my favorite event.  It’s a long, hot day but I would do it again in a second. My only regret: no time for a hot dog and a beer.  Luckily, I had (more than!) my share of both the next day, at a fun restaurant in the area in the company of my lovely family!

Bread baking demonstration.

Being from Europe, bread is “sacred” and treated with the utmost respect! A few months ago I decided to start baking my own bread and miraculously discovered (against all odds) that I can actually succeed in this! I developed my own whole wheat, multi grain, multi seed bread and it is delicious! See photo at the end of this blog.

But there is so much more to learn and I was therefore very happy when I came across an announcement of a baking demonstration by King Arthur Flour in my hometown (Gaithersburg, Md.) This was offered as part of a road trip by a King Arthur team, visiting schools to teach kids to learn, bake and share. The program is called “Bake for Good".

The demonstration was just wonderful! What a great ambiance! The King Arthur team was very welcoming and friendly. A large table was set up in the front of the room with ingredients, utensils, measuring cups, bread rollers, samples, etc. While the instructor was talking and showing how to knead, roll, let rise, knead some more, add ingredients and knead again, we could simultaneously watch a more close-up view on a large screen. We learned about making whole wheat yeast bread, quick bread and braided bread and much more. There was a raffle at the end with some really fun door prizes. And at the end everybody was given a bag with flour, recipes and other goodies.

Here are some photos, taken with my brand new Nikon Z6.

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And here’s my bread!


Black Ankle Vineyards

All too easily I let weekends slip by.  Not this weekend!  After photographing assignments Friday night and Saturday morning and an amazing Halloween party that evening, I asked my husband to plan a little outing for Sunday afternoon.  As it's his hobby to plan trips and culinary adventures (he's really a master planner!), he came through - much to his credit because he didn't particularly feel like leaving the house!

So mid-day he drove me through windy, narrow stretches of road in a beautiful countryside;  the sun smiling upon us and the sky as blue as blue can be.  It wasn't too far from where we live but I had never been there.  Our trip led us to Mt Airy, Md. at the beautiful Black Ankle Vineyards. This is supposedly one of the best wineries in Maryland.

For the European readers I have to explain that wine-tasting here can be a very different experience.  It's maybe a little less formal and strict, people often take a picnic and a blanket and once they have tasted some wines and decide on a bottle or two, they take it all outside to hang out.  Although there may not be the amazing caves as, say, in France,  the scenery is often beautiful, there's ample space for the children to run around and play and there may be some musicians.  It's a wonderful atmosphere.

As soon as we arrived at Black Ankle winery we loved it!  It was truly one of those times when one good thing was followed by the other and then the other, culminating in an incredible experience.  We tasted some lovely wines inside the cozy strawbale cottage and since our charming server felt bad for us because she was so busy we were even treated to some dessert wine tastings.  We then took some wine outside and enjoyed it on the patio, overlooking beautiful fields of grass and vineyards with some foliage in the background.  We admired groups of people enjoying themselves with their picnics and wines and chatted with some others on the patio.  It made us feel energized and  happy and we really didn't want to leave!