MARBLEHEAD — Loretta Lang owns the finish line of the old Great Race. The new proprietor of Maddie's Sail Loft has come to appreciate the history. "People come up and tell me all about the race," she says. It was a wild event in the '60s and '70s — contestants followed a course from Watertown to Maddie's.

Some took non-polluting vehicles overland, some floated by sea. With some exceptions the racers themselves apparently floated, too — on all the beer they could get their hands on.

Lang eagerly asks any former participant, "Do you have any pictures?" She wants to display them, but few seem to have photos. It was that kind of event. The subjects were apt to want to buy your picture on the spot. Along with the negative.

The bus comes to Marblehead

No, it wasn't Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis, it was a real bus belonging to U. S. Senate candidate Jeff Beatty. Parked outside The Landing Restaurant last Thursday, it was hard to miss.

Beatty is reporting for duty as a Republican, facing off against the winner of the Democratic primary. He met with, among others, former Selectman Buck Grader, current Selectman Harry Christensen and U.S. Marine Cpl. Cody Dulaney.

A former FBI agent, Beatty also has a military background.

Fulbright and all bright

Marblehead hosted 20 of Europe's smartest undergraduates this week as part of a summer program financed by the State Department and a Fulbright Grant. Former Marblehead resident Katrina Wright-Singer brought the youngsters on behalf of Bentley College, which is overseeing their visit with the help of her mom, Marblehead resident and professor Mary Wright.

The visitors, who also toured Salem, came from locations as diverse as the United Kingdom and Eastern Europe. For that matter, the American diversity of opinion impressed them most, according to Singer, "... and how free thinking we are."

They were less favorably impressed with our public transportation.

Local historian Bette Hunt was called on to lecture in the selectman's meeting room at Abbot Hall. "They are nifty, nifty youngsters," she said later. The room, meanwhile, reflects the sweep of Marblehead history, with its bust of patriot and Vice President Elbridge Gerry, the "Spirit of '76" and a haunting painting of a massive transatlantic tall ship emerging from the fog and nosing its way past a fleet of Grand Banks fishermen.

Yet, Hunt told a Greek student, even the 400 years of American history in Marblehead must seem lacking compared to sites like the Acropolis, which is 2,500 years old. The student nodded, but observed, "You have more reverence for your history than we do for ours."

Exercised about the new YMCA

A former director of the Marblehead-Swampscott YMCA, Darrell Gallant left the area some years ago to run a sprawling YMCA in Sumter, S.C.

From there, he managed to retire early — at age 57 — and promptly decided in 2005 that there's no better place to retire to than Marblehead.

Meanwhile, he can't wait to sign up for the new facility, now nearing completion on Legg's Hill Road.

"It's a state-of-the-art Y," he says. "And I'm going to be the first to join."

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