Once again, the Maritime Republic of Eastport has declared war on the City of Annapolis, its colonial overlord on the “mainland.” The just-for-fun annual smackdown continues this year on Saturday, November 2nd, when the two villages work out their differences in an annual Tug of War billed as the Slaughter Across the Water.
Eastport lies on the Horn Point peninsula, comprising everything between Spa Creek on the Annapolis side and Back Creek to the south. Way back in 1998 when (for historical reasons that seemingly rubbed a raw nerve), the Maritime Republic of Eastport declared independence and seceded from the City of Annapolis, all tongue-in-cheek. And every year since, the Eastport folks collect their wits and march across the Spa Creek Bridge to deliver a proclamation of war to the Annapolis City Council. Never mind that they are all part of the same town.
Coming on November 2nd: The Tug of War and Two Tugfests
The charity fundraising event is billed as the longest international Tug of War over the water. The tug teams will line up, some on the Annapolis side and some on the Eastport side, depending on their fealties. The teams will duke it out by tugging on a giant rope across the “Gulf of Eastport” (aka Spa Creek).
Each tug team will consist of 33 tuggers from businesses, service groups, and others with the urge to compete in return for championship bragging rights. You can join the fun—if you don’t have a team, someone will find you one.
Throughout the day, two separate Tugfest parties will take place, one on the Eastport side at Second Street and Severn Avenue, and the other on the Annapolis side at City Dock. The Tugfests will include street vendors, children’s activities, live music, a chili cook-off, beverage opportunities, and plenty of merriment.
Registration begins at 10:00 am, and the actual Tug of War begins at the Crack o’ Noon. Admission is free, and vendor proceeds benefit local charities. Performers include Blue Suede Bop, Naptown Brass Band, Eastport Oyster Boys, Naptown Funk, D'vibe 'n Conga, and Dean Rosenthal.
It all has to do with the 1998 temporary closure of the Spa Creek bridge that connects Annapolis to Eastport. More about that in a minute.
Eastport in the Early Days
Eastport was once a sleepy little fishing and farming village isolated on Horn Point. Time passed, and people built houses and boatyards and fish canneries and corner stores. White-painted wooden workboats lined the shoreline by night, and rickety docks held their places by day. Skipjacks, deadrises, buy boats, crab scrapers, flat hand-tong boats—they were all there. Over time, a crisscross of narrow streets grew up. It was the kind of place where the aromas of baitfish and crabs and bottom paint mingled with the sounds of hammers and metalwork and boat engines.
The limits of Eastport spread westward, and it grew to be a small metropolis, a mixture of people from here and from away. The fishing slowly disappeared, and the town was left in the hands of a spirited collection of boatyard workers, artists, sailors, marina operators, shopkeepers, and native-born families, all living side by side and just trying to make a go of it. For a long time, Eastport remained just isolated enough to grow up with its own quirky charm, style, and architecture.
The Maritime Republic of Eastport Seceded When the Bridge Closed
There has been a bridge over Spa Creek since the first wooden span opened in 1868. In 1998, the authorities closed the bridge for needed repairs. Eastport residents jokingly called this event an “unprovoked act of aggression on the part of the City of Annapolis,” because the temporary closure cut off Eastport residents and businesses from the rest of the city.
Thus, all in mischievous good fun, the Maritime Republic of Eastport (MRE) was born on “Independence Day”—Superbowl Sunday in 1998—when “patriots residing on the Horn Point peninsula rose up in revolt against the snobbish suppression of ‘Annapolis Proper’ across the harbor,” and pretended to secede from Annapolis.
As the MRE tells it, “Like any great movement, the concept for the Maritime Republic of Eastport began in a local pub over a couple mugs of beer. The prime mission was to find a creative way to promote and encourage the patronage of Eastport businesses that were destined to be hurt by…repair of the drawbridge… The citizens of Eastport took advantage of their isolation to sever their social, political and economic ties…The goal was to foster a spirit of independence and merriment in a manner befitting the character of Eastport and at the same time, to celebrate Eastport's proud heritage and quality of life.”
The MRE story goes, “The Republic established its own passports, currency, national anthem, navy, militia, as well as its own flag emblazoned with a coat of arms flanked with rampant retrievers and the motto, "We like it this way!" Before long, the feisty MRE proposed a tug of war to their neighbors across Spa Creek, and the tradition began.
The bridge reopened long ago, but the MRE carries on today as a registered nonprofit, doing good works while having fun celebrating the eclectic Eastport neighborhood and its maritime heritage. The MRE has raised more than $500,000 for charity. If you’d like to join the fun, you can volunteer to help with the Tug of War and other events, or just show up at the next meeting. For more information, visit here.