Fun seekers overflow in Fells Point

Jacques Kelly

October 08, 1990|By Jacques Kelly

Because of the crush of people, there were times yesterday when it looked as if Thames Street might break off from the city's mainland and fall into the harbor.

Where there weren't people, there were beer taps. The Fells Point Fun Festival delivered everything it promised -- fun and people of good cheer. This is the city's greatest annual gathering of people.

The weekend's warm, flawless weather seemed to bring out the whole world under the age of 30. Saturday's crowd was estimated at 90,000. Yesterday's was even larger.

"It is the best or the worst of the Fells Point festivals, depending on whether you like people or not," said Bradley Stedding, owner of the Antique Guild of Fells Point and a veteran of many of these October rites.

There were signs advising visitors against bringing alcoholic beverages or dogs into the festival area. The order was laughed at.

Nearly every person on the streets carried some kind of firewater and there were enough canines under foot to arouse the anger of the animal-rights people, who had a booth at Ann and Lancaster streets.

Many of the Fells Point revelers were too young to remember the 1960s, the decade in which this event was created and which gave it its philosophy of fun and funkiness. The annual festival was created 23 years ago by the staid and proper Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point to raise money to fight the interstate highway that was planned to cut through the neighborhood. The highway opponents won and the festival survived.

There were reminders of the Sixties throughout this street fair. Tie-dyed T-shirts sold almost as fast as the malt and hops. There were booths stacked with leaflets that espoused legalizing marijuana. Unicyclists performed in the middle of the street.

There were also signs of the normal doings of Fells Point and of the present. The tables filled with wares as some residents set up mini-flea markets. Middle-aged Polish ladies who dropped by the Broadway Market for a plastic bag full of imported sauerkraut, a pound of sausage and a box of potato dumpling mix. The Franciscan nuns at St. Stanislaus Church on South Ann Street who didn't let the crowds deter them from running their own little carnival. And 18 people patiently waiting in line to use the automated teller machine at Fleet Street and Broadway.

The Fells Point Fun Festival is Baltimore's biggest street fair. But because of the warm weather that's the norm this time of year, people probably would still crowd into Fells Point on the first weekend in October even if there was no festival.

"It's still funky. It hasn't lost its charm. It brings out the strangest people you've ever seen. And you don't see them again until next year, in Fells Point," said Ted Pearson, a regular at the annual event, as he made his way through the Thames Street throng.

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