The Port of Baltimore will open its gates to the public this weekend, offering a rare behind-the-scenes peek at shipping and industrial operations that play a major role in Maryland's economy.
As part of the Portfest celebration, visitors will be shuttled free by bus and tour boat around and across the harbor -- from the Fells Point site of the port's Colonial origins to the Dundalk Marine Terminal, where huge cranes lift cargo off containerships.
"The purpose of Portfest is to give people a behind-the-scenes look at the world of the port and waterfront community that they wouldn't be able to see normally," said Mary Sue McCarthy, executive director of Baltimore Operation Sail, which conceived the idea.
"Our concept was to showcase an important economic engine for the region," she said. "The port and waterfront play an enormous economic role, and not many people have access to that world."
Portfest began yesterday when 250 fifth-graders from 11 city elementary schools toured the Dundalk and Seagirt marine terminals, the CSX Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, Consolidation Coal Sales Co. where mountains of coal await export, and Maryland's goodwill ship, the Pride of Baltimore II.
Tomorrow and Sunday, anyone can take in those sites and much more.
There will be sugar and salt -- the workings of the Domino Sugar Refinery on Key Highway East, whose huge neon sign is a harbor landmark, and the yard of the Rukert Terminals Corp. along the bumpy cobblestones of South Clinton Street, where huge mounds of salt await this winter's snows.
There will be a glimpse of Baltimore's shipbuilding past near the foot of Caroline Street, where the Living Classrooms Maritime Institute teaches carpentry, maritime trades and entrepreneurial skills to youths; and of the city's marine biotechnology future, at the Pratt Street site of the Christopher Columbus Center planned to open in 1995.
Other Portfest events include:
* A fifth birthday celebration for the Pride of Baltimore II at 11:30 a.m. today at the Harborplace Amphitheater.
* The Bounty on the Bay Festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Admission is $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for children and $12 for a family.
* Baltimore as a Port of Entry: Celebrating Our Immigrant Heritage -- an exhibit at the Broadway Pier in Fells Point from noon to 4 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday.
Corporate sponsors are CSX Intermodal, the Maryland Port Administration and Mass Transit Administration, the Bank of Baltimore, First National Bank, NationsBank, Hobelmann Port Services, the Baltimore Propeller Club and BALTERM.