April brings May (and June) showers

Eight straight weekends of rain have dampened outdoor plans of Easterners, from soccer to beach outings.

And the weather forecast for this weekend is ... aw forget it, you really don't want to know.

That's about the way many residents of the East Coast feel after Mother Nature has produced eight straight soggy weekends. Soccer tournaments have been canceled, Mother's Day picnics moved to screened-in porches, trips to the beach turned into trips to the mall, and lawns ... well forget using the mower - you'll need a tractor.

Those leaden skies mean that Larry Marchese of Quincy, Mass., is running out of museums to take his 9-month-old son, Jackson. "I have school on Saturday so I only have one family day per weekend," he says. "All I want to do is take him for a nice walk or spend the day on a boat."

A boat? How about an ark?

According to the National Climactic Data Center, such places as New York, Boston and Wilmington, Del., have had over 6 inches of rain on the weekends between April 1 and June 9. While monthly totals aren't that bad, it seems that most of the rain has fallen when people are trying to barbecue or smack a softball.

Of course, some people are trying to make the most of those leaden skies.

That's the case with Jodi Henkel of Parsippany, NJ. In January, she bought a new royal blue and white WaveRunner jet ski. Now, she can be seen skimming along North Jersey's Greenwood Lake - yes, in the rain. "The raindrops are pelting you in the head," says Ms. Henkel. "It was neat."

And some people are positively singing in the rain. Take Nicholas Wolaver of Atlanta, Ga. On one of these wet weekends, Mr. Wolaver had a lunch date with a female friend. While walking around midtown Atlanta, the skies opened up. They were soaked and started dancing in the rain. There was more than lightening in the air and romance bloomed. Now Mr. Wolaver sees the rain as "a welcome asset."

But one person's asset is another's liability. Instead of an engagement ring, Fran Capo's boyfriend decided to buy her a Harley Davidson so she could zoom around northern Westchester county with him. "Of course, the Harley is gorgeous and big for me since I've never ridden before except during the motorcycle class and that was on a small bike," Ms. Capo says. "I've been trying to learn how to ride this bike, and so far in between all the rain and cold weather I have ridden it a total of 20 minutes! I need sunshine, or a really, really large warehouse so I can finally ride my ring!"

Yes the rain is wreaking havoc with engagement parties, birthdays, and all kinds of celebrations. Silandara Bartlett in Rochester, N.Y. had to squeeze her engagement party into a friend's lime-green garage with lawn furniture reassembled in between boxes and bikes, instead of gathering on a brand-new deck. Andrea Pass has rescheduled the birthday party by the pool for her 12-year-old son, Eric, four times so far. Now it looks like a bowling party, says the Fair Lawn, N.J., mom.

Of course all the wet weather is not good for the beaches or all those businesses that sell sno-cones, cotton candy, or suntan lotion. Judy Corcoran, a resident of Fair Harbor on Fire Island, N.Y., is planning to sell cut flowers on Fridays. So far, she says, "People come out and say they won't buy flowers until the weather stays nice for longer."

Patrick Adams, proprietor of The Dock, a local restaurant on Fire Island, estimates business is off by 50 percent. "It's my worst spring ever," he complains. "We're going to maximize the time we have left to try to do as much business as possible."

On Coney Island, the local community is planning a lot of promotions to let New Yorkers know that the boardwalk and amusement park are open for business. There will be Circus Day, a Mermaid Parade, and the Village Voice's Siren Festival.

At Astroland, home of the famed Cyclone Rollercoaster, people will walk around in costumes, but "we're never going to make up what we've lost already," says manager Mark Blumenthal.

Some are trying to plan events between the raindrops. The West-Windsor-Plainsboro soccer league, which already canceled a 250-team tournament, is trying to cram half the season into just a few days. "A big part of the problem is that even if it stopped raining, the fields are in such bad shape there is a risk of injury, and the owners don't want the playing fields destroyed," says Ed Emerman, manager of the twelve-year-old girls' team.

In fact, as residents are discovering, all the rain is good for one thing: making the grass grow. This reality hit home for Roy Berendsohn, who volunteered to mow the lawn at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Morrisville, Penn. With 30 years of experience behind the wheel of a mower, he likens the current experience to cutting sugar cane, salt marsh hay, or perhaps rice harvesting. "It was the first time that I nearly had a walk-behind mower stuck in the mud," he says.

The rain has been such a drag that some have stopped listening to the weather report. But, just in case anyone is ... the forecast calls for sun on Sunday - after more rain on Saturday.

Elizabeth Nesoff contributed to this story.

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