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How Eddie McGowan made a local stop on the Celtic circuit

There may be nothing quite as rousing as men in kilts wailing away on bagpipes — at least to Eddie McGowan.     A group of bagpipers walked into a bar, and he was smitten. “I knew I had to learn how to play,” says McGowan, whose appreciation of all things Celtic has grown into the Annapolis Irish Festival.     Back in 2010, McGowan talked a few bands into coming to Annapolis for a weekend of music.

Unity Gardens grants grow leaders as well as plants and flowers

Plants and flowers aren’t the only things that grow in a garden. Leadership and civic involvement can also bloom. That’s a motivating idea behind Unity Gardens, a nonprofit that backs its philosophy with dollars.     “We want projects that build community partnerships, bringing in volunteers and creating opportunities for leaders to emerge and take on new projects,” says Unity executive director Barbara Dowling.

Unsung hero of the ­Annapolis July 4 Fireworks

Planning and producing the fireworks display in Annapolis Harbor on July 4 is a big deal. “The 15-minute show takes a thousand hours of work to plan and produce” says Tom ­Chepurko, this year’s coordinator of July 4th Annapolis, the non-profit set up to raise the funds for the display. Twenty thousand people will come by car and boat to watch the show — and all will leave safe and happy. The plan to assure this success is 30 pages long, spelling out the roles and details for the police, fire, harbormaster and several other city agencies.

Leg 8 gives women their first win and Abu Dhabi Racing the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race trophy

It has been a long time coming, but an all-woman team has won a leg of the modern Volvo Ocean Race.     English skipper Sam Davies and her largely rookie crew of Olympic champions of Team SCA had won some in-port races but not an offshore leg.

Bernie Fowler’s Sneaker Index measured 44 inches — the best in the annual Wade-In’s 28-year ­history but a long way from the days of his youth

Ninety-one-year-old river warrior Bernie Fowler added some new followers at his 28th annual Wade-In to measure his beloved Patuxent River’s clarity by Sneaker Index.     Chesapeake chronicler Tom Horton flew in on water taxi. The Patuxent Voices sang a tribute, adding a capella artistry to Island Girl Deanna Dove’s folk hymns and bridging the gap opened by the 2010 death of Chesapeake bard Tom Wisner, Fowler’s inspiration in the now-famed ritual.

Special Olympics athletes set their sights on the summer games in Los Angeles

Brandan Ehrmantraut of Prince Fredrick loves being part of Special Olympics. “It shows we aren’t different even with our disabilities,” the 20-year-old says. “We can compete like everyone else.”     Ehrmantraut and seven unified cheerleading teammates are journeying to Los Angeles later this summer to support and energize special athletes from around the world in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games. They will be cheering on five of their Maryland peers at the games.

Latest push to save honeybees

Plants pretreated for insect resistance with neonicotinoids will no longer be on the shelves at Ace Hardware. That’s good news for any bees in the area. A relatively new class of pesticides, neonicotinoids have come under scrutiny as a possible cause of the collapse of honeybee colonies. The chemical pesticide targets an insect’s nervous system, causing paralysis. Bees are apparently as susceptible as pesky bugs.

Blooms are bigger, badder

The Bay is being overrun by algae. Billions and billions of the tiny creatures are making life harder on the rest of the ecosystem. The three most common algae in the Bay have been blooming more frequently over the last 20 years, according to researchers at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.     Mahogany tide, formally known as Prorocentrum minimum, doubled its average number of annual blooms between 1991 and 2008.

Big strides toward a healthier planet

48 Days of Blue made waves. By the time the National Aquarium campaign to protect the environment (started on Earth Day) concluded on June 8, World Oceans Day, it had proved that small changes can help to protect the oceans that cover 71 percent of the earth’s surface.

Widgeon grass has made itself a 13-acre bed around South River Farm Park, reports Riverkeeper Diana Muller, from her June 4 reconnoiter with the Underwater Grass Expedition Kayak Team. That expansion “is exciting news in water quality,” Muller says.     A species native to the river, the underwater grass has great value for waterfowl, listed in the authoritative Life in the Chesapeake Bay as one of two “of the most important.”