The fun goes global at Fells Point fest

UP FRONT

Culture: Additions to the annual festival include a microcosm of Australia, Latino music and more goodies for the kiddies

September 30, 1999|By Randi L. Kest | Randi L. Kest,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Australian accents and Latino music are two new sounds that will fill the air at the 33rd annual Fells Point Fun Festival on Saturday and Sunday.

The new, improved, family-oriented festival will feature three new attractions this year. Alongside the traditional food and craft vendors, there will be a children's area; Bank of America's Down Under Tour, which focuses on the 2000 summer Olympics; and La Plaza Hispana, a celebration of Latino culture and music.

Supporting the 2000 Olympics, which will be held in Sydney, Australia, the Down Under Tour is an introduction to the culture of Australia. It begins at the Olympic Gateway, a tribute to athletes who have improved their game dramatically. An inflatable version of the Sydney Opera House welcomes visitors to view a film about Australia's most exciting destinations. It may not be Sydney Harbor, but it's worth a visit.

At the Outback Airlines Experience, a four-minute tour on a three-axis simulator takes 12 people at a time through an interactive journey Down Under. There's a virtual visit to the Outback, along with a whitewater rafting trip.

The Ayers Rock (Uluru) Climbing Challenge invites visitors to attempt to climb a simulation of one of Australia's most significant attractions. The mechanical rock is equipped with visual and audio aids to simulate the sights and sounds of climbing in Australia.

An Aboriginal art exhibit will showcase cultural facts about Australia's native Aborigines, along with authentic Aboriginal art. Dot paintings, wood carvings and musical instruments, such as the didgeridoo, will be on display. Aboriginal artists and musicians will give demonstrations, and the whole exhibit will have Aboriginal curators as hosts.

Ten Australian "ambassadors" will be on hand to talk to visitors about Australia and the 2000 Olympics. Annabelle Foss, an ambassador representing the state of Queensland, says that although the city is undergoing construction, "Sydney is abuzz at the moment."

There are also interactive kiosks that ask trivia questions about the country and the Olympics, and those who answer are entered into a contest for a trip to Australia.

The Latin beat

Most people don't leave a country without purchasing at least one souvenir, so it's no wonder the Down Under Outpost will sell Aboriginal artwork and other items from Australia, along with U.S. Olympic team merchandise.

Music is a mainstay of the Fells Point Fun Festival, and new this year is an entertainment area devoted to Hispanic culture. Jose Ruiz, founder and director of EBLO (Education-Based Latino Outreach), an organization sponsoring educational and cultural programs for the Latino community, is the coordinator of La Plaza Hispana. Ruiz is also the producer and host of Baltimore's first Latin music radio program, "Fiesta Musical," airing Tuesdays from 9 p.m. to midnight on WEAA-FM (88.9).

Adding a Latino stage to the lineup at the Fells Point Fun Festival comes at a great time, says Ruiz, because it falls during National Hispanic Heritage Month.

A historical military presentation, "Hispanics in History," will kick off the performances at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The rest of the two days will be filled with salsa, merengue, Tex-Mex, Spanish rock, Latin jazz and other Latino music. Bands such as Grupo America, J.C.J. Band, Diana Urquiza and Natalia Montelcon are scheduled to perform. "My love for Latin music ... being on the radio ... I know what the people like," Ruiz says. "That is how I put my music together."

A highlight will be salsa lessons presented by Manuel Martinez at 3: 30 p.m. on Saturday. Ruiz expects a couple of hundred people to participate in the lessons.

Music isn't the only reason to visit La Plaza. Throughout, there will be food and craft vendors representing the Dominican Republic, Bolivia and other Latin countries. Booths will offer information about EBLO.

Puppet play

Puppet Palace is another new feature at the festival. At the intersection of Ann and Thames streets, vendors, performers and masters of the circus will entertain kids. Black Cherry Puppet Theater and Stringling Marionettes will perform classics such as "Billy Goat Gruff," "Hansel and Gretel" and "The Amateur Magician.

Children will enjoy NicoloWhimsey's show, in which they can see juggling and rope-walking and even take part in a tug-of-war with a Siberian strong-woman. Lula's One Woman Circus will offer comedy and acrobatics, and professional clown Tim Marrone will discuss the changing seasons. Workshops, interactive games and kid-performed puppet shows will also be part of the fun.

Puppet Palace is produced by the Fells Point Creative Alliance in association with the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point.

Many of the festival's mainstays will be back.

More than 300 vendors will sell handmade crafts, antiques and other fun items; the traditional Beer Garden returns; and 50 food vendors will serve down-home American food, as well as ethnic dishes.

THE FACTS

What: Fells Point Fun Festival

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