The 1991 City Fair delivered as promised -- a downsized urban carnival staged in Waverly with a renewed emphasis on community participation.
"We're very pleased," Mark Quackenbush, the fair's chief, said early today. "The fair was a critical success. There'll be one next year. We made money and hope to retire more of our debt."
Quackenbush gave the paid attendance as 114,000 -- 15,000 Friday, 54,000 Saturday and 45,000 yesterday.
Framed by the facade of Memorial Stadium, some Ellerslie Avenue rowhouses, a wall of St. Bernard's Church and clumps of green trees, this community bazaar seemed to have found the home it has wanted for many years. Great weather didn't hurt either.
"This spot is a great improvement over Festival Hall. I could walk here if I wanted, " said Willie Williams, of the 4800 block of Old York Road, who sat at the Govans neighborhood booth in the large white community tent.
Over the weekend, thousands of visitors dropped by the neighborhood stands, which were stocked with small displays, photos and literature.
Some communities were merely craving a little visitor recognition. Pity poor Locust Point in South Baltimore.
"People came up to me all the time and said, Where's Locust Point?' " said Sue Hoadley, of the 1200 block of Hull St. "I told them it's next to Fort McHenry. They came back with, "Where's Fort McHenry?' "
A few booths away, the women of the Mount Holly neighborhood in Walbrook sold their packages of sugar, lemon and ginger cookies as they have done for many years.
"This is the perfect spot if there is a perfect spot," said Dorothy Burgess, of the 3800 block of Clifton Ave., as she fixed a visitor a cup of coffee.
A new and welcome addition to the fair was the large display for the President Street Station, the important, but vacant Civil War landmark to the south of Little Italy. Visitors pored over military history display panels as the Friends of the President Street Station strolled around in their period reproduction uniforms.
Families gathered around the Gwynns Falls Park booth as naturalists produced live birds and rabbits from carrying containers. The Leakin-Gwynns Falls park system is the city's largest park system.
The fair was not a yuppie gathering place. Missing were booths from Federal Hill, Otterbein, Bolton Hill, Mount Vernon, Original Northwood, Guilford, Homeland and Roland Park.
Even Ten Hills, with its concentration of Schmoke administration top brass, was absent.
But other places took up the slack -- Windsor Hills, Franklin Street, Kenilworth Park, Remington, Waverly, Greenmount West, East Baltimore Midway-Barclay, Carroll Improvement, Hanlon, Charles Village, McKim and Mount Holly.
"I'd like to have seen Roland Park represented here; it's their 100th anniversary," said Brian P. Hannon, who represented the Ednor Gardens-Lakeside Civic Association at its booth.
The tone of the fair was represented by the Better Waverly's booth, which spotlighted such vital neighborhood personalities in pictures as Ralph Sica, Olga Ways, Betty Wilson, Ann Gordon, Thelma Pool, Ed and Jean Johnson, Tanya Jackson and Jerry and Dawn Burchett.
And, in the concession area, neighborhood restaurants had their day. Micah's, a popular northwest Baltimore restaurant, sold crab cake and lake trout platters.
Such things are what the City Fair is all about. The tribute to the neighborhood dry cleaner and tailor, the woman-next-door who sweeps the street and that amazing first-grade teacher we'll never forget.