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  • Steve Summerhill

Annapolis, MD

This past weekend Rudy, my faithful Golden Retriever, and I packed up the car and drove to Annapolis where the city was hosting its annual boat show. This is a big deal in Annapolis and the city was teaming with boat enthusiasts. Every restaurant was filled, merchants were working overtime and there wasn’t a parking place to be had.

My mission was to find a spot in the middle of all that excitement and set up my sound gear to do a little busking. Busking, by the way, is the act of entertaining in a public place for tips. I had never done this before, and the whole idea had me pretty jazzed up. Unlike my experiences in Ohiopyle and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (see previous blog posts), there would be no business to lend me their stage, no electrical outlet to plug into and no designated seating for my audience. I would need to earn people’s favor as they passed by. Scary cool!

I had to buy new sound equipment to pull this off, something that ran on batteries. In the weeks leading up to this I had purchased a Bose S1 Pro self-powered speaker with a built-in battery and a Jackery Explorer 240 Portable Power Station (basically a 16lb battery) to power my mixer and effects. This stuff would replace my larger sound system for busking.

The spot I found was close to the Market House restaurant, so close in fact, I was practically standing in their outdoor café. Even though I didn’t have to, I first checked with the restaurant management to make sure they didn’t mind. My chosen spot is part of the larger Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley memorial, which is across the street from the restaurant. My side of the street features a beautiful, tiny park with benches and shade trees and its own Kunta Kinte memorial plaques. Perfect.

I played for four hours over lunch and into the afternoon. It was a gorgeous, sunny 70-degree day and I enjoyed every minute of it. People were generous, both with their wallets and their kind comments. The Market House owner asked if I would be willing to come back and play for them on a night they offered entertainment to their guests (as a paid performer). Sure, I would!

Ocean City, MD

After wrapping things up in Annapolis, Rudy and I drove the 3 hours to Ocean City, where we scoped out the boardwalk for a busking spot the next day. I hadn’t been in Ocean City for many years, but I found it as exciting and colorful as I remembered. We walked the night time boardwalk for a couple hours, hoping to find other buskers and see how the “professionals” did it, but we only came across one guy who was killing (in a good way) some Boston tunes. I figured he probably knew the best spot to set up, so I decided to take his spot the next morning (assuming he would not come back to it during the day).

The next day, we showed up shortly after 7AM, hoping the parking spot we had found the night before would not be full. There were 2 spots open. Whoopie! After parking, we walked the boardwalk for a while and, within 15 minutes, were confronted with a parade of antique and classic automobiles crawling up the center of the boardwalk. We had stumbled into OC’s annual car show! There were thousands of people lining the boardwalk to watch the parade – at 7:30AM!

By the time the parade was over, I had my sound gear set up in my chosen spot and fired up the vocal cords, where I sang and played for the rest of the day. It was an amazing experience, and I had a blast! I didn’t expect to make a lot of money, but I didn’t care. I didn’t expect a lot of people to stop and listen and most didn’t, but some did. One of those who stopped and sat on a bench to listen told me I should look at people’s faces as they passed by. “Look at how happy you make them! They smile and sing along as they go past! You have quite a gift!”. This made my day.

Another guy who sat and listened for a while told me I was “a professional act and better than most of the entertainers we see on the boardwalk”. Things just kept getting better! And, as it turned out, people were generous with their tips and made the trip financially worthwhile as well.

By 3PM I had sung myself out and foolishly decided to head back to Annapolis to play the next day (Sunday). Foolish because I was exhausted, but I was determined to wring every moment I could out of this busking weekend.

Annapolis, MD - again

Back in Annapolis the next day, Rudy kept people entertained while I set up the sound gear. I don’t say this tongue-in-cheek either. He is an amazing dog, I know, everybody thinks this about their pets, but take a look at his YouTube channel if you don’t believe me.

By the time I got the guitar fired up, it was almost noon, and I discovered my fingers were having a hard time with intricate guitar parts and my voice couldn’t hit the high notes. My state of mind was a little fuzzy from lack of sleep and I just kept wondering what I was doing there. Still, I pressed on, determined to not waste a minute of the weekend. Again, people were kind and generous and I saw hundreds of people who passed by on their way to the boat show across the street, but boy, I was in a different mental place from my visit on Friday. I hung it up around 3pm and piled Rudy and the sound gear back in the car for the 3-hour drive home - thankful for an awesome weekend and wishing (a little) that I was younger and had more stamina to have fueled my last day there.

I also wished I had started down this road earlier in the year. It’s now October 11 and the summer tourist season is all but over, but hey, I now have seven months to prepare for next season – and you can bet that’s what I’ll be doing.


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