Published October 18, 2002
BETHESDA, Md. – From restaurant rows and city parks to pumpkin patches and outdoor arts festivals, the sniper's shadow has cast a chill on weekend activities in the Washington area, with dozens of events canceled or postponed.
Fear of the roaming sharpshooter has dampened traditionally joyous autumn traditions in the nation's capital and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs.
Some Virginia high school football teams are traveling up to 150 miles to play in locations deemed safer, despite exhortations from Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose "to carry on with life."
In Rockville, antique vendors won't be setting up tables beneath the turning leaves at Chestnut Lodge. The event was canceled.
"The best brains in public safety say they can't guarantee our safety and I don't want to be wrong," said Eileen McGuckian, executive director of the group Peerless Rockville.
"There's a mentality that I undersigned and I share, that we're not going to cave in to someone terrorizing us. I can make that decision for my family, but you're looking at a greater issue when you invite people to a public event," McGuckian said.
The sniper has killed nine people and wounded two since Oct. 2, felling each victim with a single shot as they went about the mundane tasks of daily life, such as shopping or filling up their cars at gas stations. One young victim was going to school.
Other events affected include the 27th annual Country Market Day, which was planned for Saturday on the five-acre campus of the Georgetown Day School in Washington.
The private school postponed the festival, which features games, crafts and a bake sale, until Nov. 2.
"We just felt that, given the fact the kids haven't been able to go outside, that perhaps it was wiser to postpone," said Florri Decell, publications director.
Other schools in the area have kept students indoors for as much as two weeks.
A yellow banner advertising the Bethesda Row Arts Festival still hung along the city's main street of trendy shops and eateries Friday but the artists were making other plans. The cancellation disappointed photographer Daniele Piasecki, one of 147 juried artists who had paid a $350 fee that will be applied toward next year's show.
"It's a show I was really looking forward to," said Piasecki, from Alexandria, Va. "It was a pretty good show for me financially the last few years."
Yet she understood the need to cancel the event.
"If they didn't cancel the show, we would have had lower attendance," she said. "People aren't going outside. They're scared."
Tourism in the area was suffering even before the sniper shootings began. Industry officials say tourists are choosing Washington hotels over the suburbs, while residents are changing where and when they shop.
The financial fallout has hit Cherry Hill Farm and Orchard near Clinton. It could lose more than $100,000 from canceled trips, including field trips from 500 Washington-area schools and day care centers, owner Pat Gallahan said.
Other weekend cancellations included an outdoor Latino music concert Sunday in Washington and classic car shows in Rockville and Alexandria.
The Rockville event was expected to attract 100,000 people to the 150-acre Rockville Civic Center Park. Joe Palamara, production specialist at a theater in the park, said the grounds would have been too hard to secure.
"The last thing people want is to be at the car show and have helicopters overhead doing patrols," he said.
Jim Mackay, director of the Lyceum history museum in Alexandria, said he hoped to reschedule his car show next spring. He worried, though, about Halloween safety if the sniper isn't caught soon.
"You have probably one of the largest family outdoor activities of the year. When their parents start telling them they can't trick-or-treat, it's going to be difficult," he said.