Baltimore's new Charm City Fair puts on a happy face But many miss predecessor's spirit

September 20, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

The Charm City Fair was created to pick up where the old Baltimore City Fair left off, but yesterday some of the fair-goers said it would take more than food, games, and thrilling rides to make the event an acceptable replacement.

"It's something missing here -- the aura that used to surround the fair downtown," said Joanne Bradley, a clerk for Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone. "It was more like a neighborhood gathering, a community thing that brought people together."

But Ms. Bradley, who described herself as "40-ish," conceded that younger people would love the new fair with its many food stands, games booths, amusement park-style rides, and crafts and art displays.

Early yesterday afternoon, Ms. Bradley and her 11-year-old niece, Yasmine Gordon, were among the people who trickled into the fair. Yasmine said she loved one of the rides, "Roy's Snow Express," and other attractions at the fair.

"I think it's great," she said, swaying to Kris Kross' mega-hit "Jump," which was blaring from a loudspeaker on the ride. "The boys are cute. I like it. I'm having fun." The Charm City Fair opened on Friday evening on the old Eastern High School parking lot in the Waverly community. It ends at 9 o'clock tonight. Unlike the old fair, which highlighted the city's neighborhoods, the Charm City Fair is being staged simply to provide entertainment, said fair director Jay Harris.

This year's fair is sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and the city Department of Recreation and Parks. The last city fair was held in 1991, but its organizers -- Baltimore City Fair Inc. -- were unable to raise enough money to stage another fair this year. The city fair had fallen deeply into debt since its inception in 1970.

Tony Wells, a hot dog vendor at the fair, said the new location lacks the ambience of the downtown sites where the city fair was held. Ethnic diversity was a key ingredient for the old fair and the new fair simply does not have it, he said.

"You saw all different types of people at the fair when it was near the Inner Harbor, and even when it moved under the [Jones Falls Expressway]," Mr. Wells said.

Cedrick Clark, one of the operators of the "Airborne" ride, agreed.

"It was more racially mixed downtown because the Inner Harbor drew people from the suburbs and the people in the city could get there, too," said Mr. Clark, who lives in the Waverly area. "But now, the people downtown aren't going to want to come over here and the people in the suburbs won't either."

"That's why they built that new stadium downtown -- easy access," said Mitch Pamplin, a Timonium resident who also operates the ride.

Not everyone agreed that the new location was a bad idea. Terrie Henson, a nursing assistant who lives in the Waverly area, said the huge crowds that flocked to the old fair kept her away from that event.

"I never went to the ones downtown," Ms. Henson said. "They were always too crowded."

Debra Thornton, 23, likes the change. She lives near Morgan State University, not far from the fair. Yesterday, she was baby-sitting a friend's daughter and decided the fair would be a good way to entertain her.

"It's more convenient for parking," said Ms. Thornton, adding: "I didn't have a problem finding a space at all."

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