The Fell’s Point Fun Festival, traditionally held the first full weekend in October, is in for a major overhaul this year, according to Mike Maraziti, president of Fell’s Point Main St., the organization that is running this year’s event, which will attract upwards of 500,000 festival goers.
Two of the most noticeable changes this year, says Maraziti, are that the large beer garden won’t be returning—the festival will have four smaller ones—and the Latino section of the festival will become an international village.
The site of the large beer garden, which is west of Caroline St. on the Harbor Point site, will be converted to a parking lot for 600-800 cars at a tentative price of $15-20 per car.
“We need the parking. With this kind of event, we can’t say to attendees, ‘Have at it [for parking spaces] in the neighborhood,” Maraziti says.
The international village, says Maraziti, will reflect the historic multiculturalism of Fell’s Point.
“We want to bring it back to our roots as a neighborhood,” he says. “We want to make it into a history lesson, so people know where Fell’s Point came from.”
The current plan for the international village is to have a smaller stage with international music and ethnic foods.
Other substantial changes in the festival concept will reflect Fell’s Point Main Street’s effort to localize the event—to make it more Baltimore- and Maryland-centric.
“We’re hoping to increase the number of local vendors and have fewer traveling festival people making money, leaving their trash behind, and leaving town,” he says.
This year’s festival, which takes place the first weekend in October, will offer a crab garden at Thames and Ann streets, a wine garden either on the Square, or in the Thames St. Park, and a children’s area near the playground.
The exact details are still being finalized, Maraziti notes
Plans are also in the works for a 20-truck food truck rally on either side of the north Broadway Market.
Other changes to this year’s festival are designed to mitigate the impact the event has on the nearby neighborhoods.
One difference this year, says Maraziti, is the staggered closing times for the four beer gardens.
”That way we’re not dumping people out on the neighborhoods all at once,” he says.
Another change concerns trash disposal. The Waterfront Partnership will assist with trash removal this year, he says, and the festival is instituting its own recycling program.
“Recycling bins will be next to the trash bins this year,” Maraziti says.
Another change, which Maraziti hopes will lead to more responsible drinking, is that the festival may be moving toward an open container policy this year.
“It’s one piece we are working on,” he says. “I don’t want it to be the focus of the festival, and I want to quell any rumors right now that this is going to be a drunkfest.”
Maraziti, who owns the bar One Eyed Mike’s, notes that other large festivals, such as Artscape, allow open containers—i.e. walking with your beer or wine in the festival area and not confining alcohol consumption to a beer garden. He adds that years ago, the Fun Fest itself used a similar model.
He believes that allowing open containers encourages people to drink more responsibly because they are among the general public rather than drinking among a cordoned-off group made up exclusively of drinkers and partiers.
“When you’re walking with your drink, you behave better. You’re not getting drunk in a beer garden all day or pounding shots in a bar,” he says, adding, “All of this is pending the approval of the Liquor Board, the city, and permitting.”
He adds that part of the plan is for Fun Fest vendors with liquor licenses to sign a memorandum of understanding that would outline what is expected of them.
Maraziti adds he’s interested in community input on the festival: what residents would like to see and what they’d like to change.
“I want to hear people’s ideas…It’s a legacy event, and one that has a tremendous economic impact on the city, but one that also has had numerous issues. We’re trying to re-brand the festival to get the image to be a good one,” Maraziti says.
He acknowledges it will be a challenge.
“People of Fell’s Point have taken a leap of faith, and I have the responsibility to come through for them,” he says.
Maraziti points out that Fell’s Point Main Street will host two town meetings in September, so residents will know about festival-related street closures, the festival footprint, and can have their questions answered.
“We’ll also be soliciting volunteers,” he says.“We want the community to be a part of this”
by Danielle Sweeney