Festival: A unique, colorful Baltimore neighborhood celebrates itself this weekend. This year, more family-friendly events are being planned.

FELLS FUN HERE'S THE POINT: FUN BEYOND BEER

October 02, 1997|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

At least 300,000 people are expected to descend upon the historic waterfront of Fells Point this weekend for the 31st annual Fell's Point Fun Festival. More than 200 vendors will be on hand selling everything from arts and crafts items to antiques to clothing and, of course, food. If you're into music, there will be nonstop tunes on three stages. Even children can join in the celebration this year, which traditionally has been considered an event solely for the older, drinking crowd. There will be a separate area for little ones with clowns, jugglers and storytellers.

Not bad for an event that started out with just 2,000 people, a hot dog cart and a keg of beer.

The first Fell's Point Fun Festival in 1967 was more of a neighborhood rally than a weekend festival. Back then, Baltimore was considering building a road to connect Interstates 95 and 83 that would mean demolishing almost all of Fells Point. Residents didn't want to lose their homes, so they decided to have a party. All of Baltimore was invited to come and see why Fells Point was so important to both its residents and the city itself. Many Fells Point neighbors even opened their homes to visitors for tours.

"It was a way for them to show people that Fells Point was a viable community," said Karen Moul, this year's festival coordinator.

The first festival proved to be both popular and successful, Moul said. Not only did people enjoy visiting the waterfront neighborhood, but the city decided not to go ahead with the road construction.

Today, 31 years later, the Fell's Point Fun Festival continues as a way for Fells Point residents and merchants to raise awareness while having a good time. Proceeds from this year's festival benefit the Preservation Society for Fell's Point, which works to save and restore historic buildings in the area. Plans include restoration of the London Coffeehouse, one of the last Colonial coffee houses in the United States. "It was where people used to gather to get the news of the day," Moul said.

There are some additions to this year's fun festival. There will be more food vendors and games, a motion simulator ride and a new stage area. Many of the additions were included to make the festival more family-friendly, Moul said. The festival has a reputation of being one giant beer blast, but there's more to it than that, Moul said.

"Over the past few years, we have seen more families with children coming to the festival, and we have been paying special attention in providing the right kind of activities for them," she said.

Even the Fun Festival beer garden has gotten a little more family-friendly. This year, the festival added an area called the Harvest Garden, which will serve wine and local microbrewed beers. "It's a bit more mellow and relaxed. There will be acoustic music. Parents should feel comfortable sitting down with their children there," Moul said.

But don't worry, you Fun Festival traditionalists. Those who want to party on away from the family-friendly areas will still find what they're looking for at the Frigate Stage Beer Garden. There you can rock out with area bands like Love Seed Mama Jump, Spitshine and Skypup.

Having local bands play at the Fun Festival is a long-standing tradition, Moul said. The event always tries to showcase area talent. Rarely does the festival feature big-name national acts. "That's not what we want," Moul said.

But sometimes, when a local boy gets a national recording contract, you just have to let him come back.

Singer-songwriter Neil Coty lived for 10 years in Fells Point and got his start in the music business performing at Max's on Broadway and at past Fun Festivals. His first album, "Chance and Circumstance" on Mercury Records, hit the stores this month. Like most musicians with a new album, Coty is "touring endlessly," he said. Still, even with a tight schedule, there was one place he just had to perform.

"I love Fells Point. I had to come back," Coty said in a phone interview from his new home of Nashville, Tenn.

Coty has fond memories of the Fun Festival, he said. "I met my wife there. She was working the daiquiri bar at Max's," he said. "I wish I could move back to Fells Point. As a songwriter, you can't beat this place. There's always a bunch of interesting characters to write about."

This weekend, Coty will be performing at Fletcher's nightclub on Friday night and on the Harvest Stage Saturday from 5: 15 p.m. to 7: 15 p.m.

But there's just one more place Coty would like to perform while in town. The singer, whose custom-designed Gibson guitar bears the likeness of the Oriole bird, has just one thing to say: "I'm available to sing the national anthem, if anyone is interested."

The Facts

What: Fell's Point Fun Festival

When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: Fells Point waterfront community

Admission: Free

` Call: 410-675-6756

Schudule time, the following acts were scheduled to perform at the Fell's Point Fun Festival.

Frigate Stage:

Saturday:

11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.: Poorbillies

2:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.: Blue Yard Garden

5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: Lake Trout

Sunday:

11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.: Skypup

2:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.: Love Seeds Mama Jump

5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: Neil Coty

Market Stage:

Saturday:

11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Brickhead

2 p.m.-3 p.m.: Montgomery Cliffs

3 p.m.-4 p.m.: Splitsville

5 p.m.-7 p.m. Spitshine

Sunday:

11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Willis Prudhomme

2 p.m.-3 p.m.: 2-4 Underfoot

5 p.m.-7 p.m. Linwood Taylor

Harvest Stage:

Saturday:

11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m.: Dr. Tastee

2:15 p.m.-4:15 p.m.: Willis Prudhomme

5:15 p.m.-7:15 p.m.: Matthew Ryan

Sunday:

11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m.: FBI

2:15 p.m.-4:15 p.m.: Swing Speak

5:15 p.m.-7:15 p.m.: Eden's Poets

Pub Date: 10/02/97

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