Baltimore Spring Fling

April 06, 1994

Baltimore has an odd problem: Out-of-town visitors rave about the city and its Inner Harbor attractions but many area residents do not share this enthusiasm. They are scared, it seems, by all the blood and gore that fills evening newscasts on the local TV channels, where the guiding principle seems to be: "If it don't bleed, it won't lead."

Spearheaded by the Downtown Partnership, the city, its cultural institutions and business community have now decided to deal with this image problem by throwing a giant party. On Saturday and Sunday, more than 100 free and special events will turn the city center into a big open house.

Illuminated hot air balloons will rise next to Federal Hill Saturday night. There will be free music and dancing on the streets -- from country to jazz and Top 40 -- at six sites. Many shops and restaurants will have specials. Merchants along Howard Street's Antique Row will offer free appraisals.

This event has attracted attention nationwide. It is seen as a novel way for a city to promote itself to its own residents and suburban neighbors.

"If if sounds a little hokey, maybe it is," the New York Times wrote recently of the publicity campaign that is preceding the weekend event. "But an advertising campaign selling a city to the people who live there can be an effective tool against the kind of urban rot that undermines municipal efforts at a time when the federal government has left states and cities substantially on their own against violence, drug abuse and other civic ills."

"The Downtown Baltimore Show," as the open house is called, is a splendid opportunity to visit the center city and its many attractions. It will kick off a whole series of special events ranging from the Baltimore Home Festival April 23 through April 25 at the Convention Center to Preakness Week and its plethora of festivities in May.

The downtown area has had its ups and downs. With ambitious redevelopment plans in the works, things are again looking up. The area has great attractions -- ranging from Lexington Market to the Walters Art Gallery and the Mount Vernon cultural district. Downtown Baltimore is a place waiting to be rediscovered. This weekend is a good time to reacquaint yourself with it.

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