If Baltimore's neighborhoods are the heart of the City Fair, listen to the heart speak:
"Welcome to Mount Holly, neighborhood of love," says a smiling Georgine Edgerton, sitting under the big top at the City Fair. "We are the neighborhood that cares about people, not only in our neighborhood but all over the world."
"It's not the suburbs," Sarah E. Quarles says of her Garrison Hills neighborhood, "but it's the next best thing. I can jump on the subway and go to Owings Mills. In 16 minutes."
"Kurt Schmoke grew up in our area," says Bernice Smallwood, a resident of Hanlon for 37 years. "When he was a little boy he went to School 60."
Mount Holly? Garrison Hills? Hanlon? These are Baltimore's other neighborhoods -- not the Roland Parks or the Pigtowns or the Belair-Edisons. They are neighborhoods hidden within neighborhoods, localities that spill over several blocks or stretch along a single street, communities that define themselves not by an historic landmark or the local industry but by the nature of their urban locales and the size of their communal hearts.
And yesterday was their day to shine as the City Fair, Baltimore's annual celebration of itself, opened its three-day run.
For the first time since the fair was begun in 1970, the event's organizers decided to take it out of the downtown area and bring it to a real residential neighborhood.
They chose one of Baltimore's best known -- Lakeside-Ednor Gardens, home to Memorial Stadium and Baltimore City College, a half-mile from Lake Montebello and Herring Run Park. And there under a big white tent sat a cross-section of Baltimore's residents, offering visitors yellow pound cake and red candied apples, sachets of potpourri and home-made dolls -- along with facts, figures and reminiscences of their communities.
Take Kenilworth Park in Northeast Baltimore. Bounded by two public schools, Chinquapin and Winston middle schools and Midwood Avenue and The Alameda, it is a neighborhood of red brick row houses with ample back yards made for children. When Walter and Lena White wanted to move out of their house on Hoffman Street in 1969, they drove up to Northeast Baltimore to look for a new one.
Mr. White wanted a house like the ones he remembered from his Ohio childhood: "individual homes with nice yards with plenty of room to roam around in." His wife, Lena, a native Baltimorean, wanted a little bit more. The couple stumbled on a house in need of repair on Beaumont Avenue. As they stood on the front lawn, a neighbor from across the street walked over and introduced himself.
"Right there, I said this is where I want to live," Mrs. White recalled yesterday, as she sat in the Kenilworth Park booth. "I want to live where people care about people."
When City Fair organizers moved the fair to a residential neighborhood, they decided to scale it back as well. Once the four communities in
the Waverly-Lakeside-Ednor Gardens area agreed to host the fair, the organizers picked their theme: "Neighborhoods -- The Heart of the Fair; the Heart of the City."
Fair organizers said that they took to heart the neighborhoods' concerns about inviting hundreds of thousands of people into their community front yard. When the director of this year's fair, -- Mark Quackenbush, was deciding where to put the carnival games and amusement rides on the Eastern High School site, he located them on the side of the asphalt parking closest to the school and away from the homes on Ellerslie Avenue.
He scrapped plans to charge for parking, fearing that fairgoers would gobble up spaces on neighborhood streets. Parking is free at Memorial Stadium.
Visitors to the City Fair can still ride on a Ferris wheel, suck on a lemon stick or chew on pit beef sandwiches.
They can also fill out a social security card, figure out where the 61 bus goes, get free legal advice, sign up to be adoptive parents or partake in any number of other services offered by area institutions and organizations.
But before they go, they might want to stop in at the booth staffed by the Mount Holly Improvement Association, its 22nd year at the City Fair.
"Let me tell you something about our baked goods. It's a secret," said Ms. Edgerton, president of the association. "No calories. Just love. We'll only be here for three days. But we will be back in 1992."