Festivals Build Communities

Written by on September 29, 2011 in Baltimore Voices - No comments

Neighborhood festivals reflect the ethnic and cultural history of our city...

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October is a month of festivals, and most of them are in, or run through, our waterfront communities.

For residents, it can be a big pain. For businesses, it can be a big boon.

For instance–the heartless academics at Educational Testing Service have scheduled SAT testing for Saturday, Oct. 1, the first morning of the Fells Point Fun Festival. My friend lives about a block from the center of the festival, and parking during the festival is a big pain—even the garages are close to full. And he will have to move his car twice on the biggest day of the festival. Good luck with that!

On the other hand, the bars and restaurants in the festival grounds will make a lot of money as people seek refuge inside from the crowds outside, and keeping businesses afloat these days is a good goal.

After that, the Fells Pointers get a weekend off—no traffic cones or police barricades—and then comes the Baltimore Marathon, which is an all-day affair during which it is inconvenient to get anywhere on foot, let alone by car, anywhere along the waterfront.

Festivals are a good thing and they help fund nonprofits that do good things. There are advantages for residents too—you don’t have to cook all weekend, because there’s always someone ready to sell you a calzone or falafel or hot dog on a stick. And you can stand outside and have a beer with your friends without a visit from the cops.

Nothing brings a community together, though, like a good block party.

And besides, they’ve been around just about forever. 1966 Fells Point Fun Festival, by Tom Scilipoti

The Catholic Community Churches of South Baltimore had their Oktoberfest on Saturday in front of St. Mary Star of the Sea. It was an old-fashioned get-together with wheels, raffles, a silent auction with just about every business in the neighborhood pitching in, priests, nuns, kids running around and plenty of beer. And sour beef and dumplings. And bratwurst and lots of sauerkraut.

And good will. Everyone had a great time. People even enjoyed losing at the wheels, and there were people scribbling bids at the silent auction all day long.

The Fort McHenry Business Association had its own version of a block party last week–a great big crab feast, again with a silent auction and raffles to raise money for community projects like Little League and Police Explorers. Once again, everyone had a great time. And the crabs were great. And there was plenty of good will.

The point is this. We don’t need any more enormous festivals. We’ve got plenty. But we need more small and medium-sized festivals. They’re fun.

Patterson Park seemed pretty barren this summer without the Polish Festival and Fest Africa. We need to find a way to tempt them back to the city. Toun Olumide, organizer for Fest Africa, cried when she announced she would have to move the festival to Silver Spring. Let’s get those festivals back.

Neighbors around Patterson Park and city officials are right when they say that the park’s turf and facilities take a beating during festivals. But there’s a perfect place, right in the middle of the park, to hold them. It’s Linwood Avenue. It’s convenient and it’s easier to clean. Trucks and cars don’t have to come up on the turf. Pressure-wash the street after the festivals and you’re done.

The festival organizers have already come up with locations for satellite parking.
Let’s see what we can do together.

by Jacqueline Watts

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