Chillin' with the sharks at museum's annual festival


Solomons, MD - On Saturday, July 14, Calvert Marine Museum (CMM) hosted Sharkfest, the shark-themed extravaganza that has been held off and on since 1994 and annually for the past nine years.

As patrons approached the museum traveling down Route 2 they could see the tail of a megalodon shark poking above the buildings. After parking in the field across from the museum, Sharkfest goers saw that the tail of the once-menacing shark was a giant inflatable slide for the kids, provided by Tidewater Dental.

Upon entering the building, after picking up a sticker from the CMM members tent out front or paying the regular entrance fee at the desk, “Sharkfestians” could pay $5 to get their faces at the desk painted with a variety of marine-themed designs. With freshly painted faces, or not, children and parents alike were greeted by the warm smile of Steve Grossman, a fossil hunter with 30 plus years of experience. Grossman had on display his sharks’ teeth collection which featured several megalodon teeth, as well as his favorite shark tooth—from the mouth of the mako.

Following the alluring collection and advice on finding sharks’ teeth from Grossman who recommends Breezy Point or Brownies Beach, children could play and learn in the discovery room where several volunteers were teaching them about turtles and horseshoe crabs among other marine animals. Some patrons were immediately drawn into the winding display of prehistoric animals which led to some aquatic animals of today a little further down. Spread amply throughout the displays and aquariums were even more volunteers as well as CMM staff who were more than willing to teach children and parents alike about sharks, their skin, and share information on all the other animals on display in the aquariums.

The much-adored otters were more than happy to swim and flop around, drawing the allure of many families, but they were not the primary reason of many for venturing into the sweltering heat that day, for the event’s main attraction was located just around the corner.

Patrons wound through a roped-in line with several tents and a mist spewing fan, set up to help attendees cope with the heat. They then entered the Corbin Pavilion to see the event’s main attraction, live sharks. This year the museum touted the edition of the swell shark to their live shark tank making the number of live sharks at the event three. Accompanying the swell shark was the horn shark and, in its own tank, the chain dogfish which is the only shark, that was on display, who can be found in the bay. Given extensive guidance from many volunteers, event-goers could touch the sharks and hold egg casings located on a separate table.

Eventually, shark enthusiasts touched and saw all that the Corbin Pavilion had to offer and proceeded out over the water along a path bringing them back towards the otters. The newly hand sanitized shark touchers could rent a peddle boat or venture back inside of the museum to seek out any missed exhibits, visit the busy gift shop, grab something to eat from Dan D’s and Rita’s, or head home after an exhausting, shark-filled, day.

The organized chaos that accompanies an event that draws many families was mitigated very well by the CMM staff and volunteers who added more activities aimed to engage the children and keep them interested in learning about the ocean’s top predator. Cutting through the occasional whining of kids and nagging of parents were the welcoming smiles of the people behind the tables. This, coupled with a willingness to educate all who wanted to learn about sharks and marine animals alike, will undoubtedly bring families back again next year as it has many times before.

Calvert Marine Museum is open year round and offers convenient hours with reasonable admissions fees. Visit the CMM web site for more information.

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