A weekend of polka and sausages Ethnic festivals: More than a dozen celebrations underscore Baltimore's diversity.

June 01, 1996

THIS WEEKEND KICKS OFF the Baltimore area's season of ethnic festivals. People of Polish ancestry gather around the Pulaski Monument in Patterson Park; Lithuanians celebrate at the Catonsville Armory. By the time the series ends in late September with the Ukrainian festival, more than a dozen ethnic festivals will have highlighted the diversity of the Baltimore region's roots.

Ethnic festivals have existed here for more than 200 years. Except that in the early days they were just an ordinary part of the social life of a wide variety of immigrant communities. Outsiders were often welcomed but not actively invited.

In the early 1970s the city's various ethnic groups realized that festivals were a wonderful way for them to showcase their traditions, handicrafts and culinary specialities. Most were held outdoors at Hopkins Plaza. In the mid-1980s, when Festival Hall was built adjacent to the Convention Center, many festivals moved indoors.

With the demolition of Festival Hall in 1994, the situation (P changed again. As a result, most ethnic festivals are once more held outdoors. Hispanics and Latinos, Indians and Koreans will again use Hopkins Plaza, Germans will be in Carroll Park, Trinidadians in Clifton Park and other West Indians in Druid Hill Park. The Afram festival will be at the Oriole Park parking lot. Ukrainians, Greeks and Irish will hold their festivals indoors as will Lithuanians who, for the second consecutive year, will use the Catonsville Armory.

Recent years have seen a new blossoming of traditional culture in Eastern European countries. At the Polish and Lithuanian festivals this weekend, Baltimoreans will have an opportunity to marvel at the rivalry of folk dancers and sample Old World delicacies, ranging from sausages to traditional drinks. This promises to be a fine start of the ethnic festival season.

Pub Date: 06/01/96

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