Forget the drugs. Forget the panoramic views of the Chesapeake Bay, the Key Bridge and Baltimore's industrial heritage. Forget the nearly full, orange moon and the blazing sunrise.
It was all about the music.
Fort Armistead Park in South Baltimore was the site of one of the biggest rave parties on the East Coast on Saturday night and yesterday morning when between 4,000 and 6,000 people from across the country traveled to the city to dance on the grounds of a municipal park.
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Starscape, an all-night party sponsored by Baltimore promoter Lonnie Fisher, was an event at which young adults danced to the fast-growing electronic music genre in a carnival-like, outdoor, waterfront setting.
"This is an amazing event. This is one of the best events that happens here all summer," said Carolyn Moore, 23, an engineer from Alexandria, Va., her feet dangling over a pier as she waited for the sun to rise behind the Key Bridge. "There are [people] here from New York, New Jersey, Florida, and they all came here to dance and have a good time."
Starscape consisted of disc jockeys playing cutting-edge music -- no lyrics, just pulsating sounds -- and an art show at which local artists sold their paintings and sculptures for between $15 and $20,000.
The event has been held at the 45-acre Fort Armistead Park, named after a local commander during the War of 1812, the past three years. URB, a national magazine published in Los Angeles that covers the music industry, called Starscape the second-best party in the country last year.
The event for people older than 18 resembled a small infield party at the Preakness without the drunks, fights and naked women. Or a combination of a rock concert -- except that people said "sorry" when they bumped into someone -- county fair and flea market.
And despite a nationwide call for a crackdown on raves because they have been linked to rampant drug use, police and city officials heralded the event as a tightly run operation that resulted in few problems.
"This is an excellent crowd," said Vincent Stevenson, a Baltimore homicide detective who was moonlighting at the event. "They are just a bunch of kids having fun that you don't have any problems out of."
Police made two drug arrests and reported no injuries or drug overdoses.
Although there were almost no signs of open drug use or dealing -- except the occasional smell of marijuana smoke -- many people acknowledged using drugs before the event. The most common drugs they said they had used were Ecstasy, ketamine (an animal tranquilizer) and marijuana.
But police and event organizers note that young people have used drugs for decades at large social gatherings.
"I have one thing to say about America," said Andrew Fulda, 24, of Columbia, who recently completed a stint as a military policeman in the Marines. "Who doesn't use drugs?"
"I can tell you as someone who used to be a police officer, a lot of these kids aren't out here doing anything other than having a good time," Fulda said.
City officials were also quick to say Starscape is much different than rave parties that have been held at other local venues.
In April, Anne Arundel County police arrested 47 people on drug charges and seized $16,250 worth of "party drugs" at a rave at the county fairgrounds in Crownsville. The arrest prompted County Executive Janet S. Owens to call for an investigation into why the party was held there.
But Thomas Jeannetta, an official of the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks, said the under-used park in Hawkins Point is a good venue for the nonalcoholic event, which is patrolled by dozens of police officers.
"We've seen raves that are out of control, but I would not consider this is a rave. It is more like a concert with a laser light show," said Jeannetta, who oversees the park.
The rave's promoter, Fisher, 32, is the owner of Ultraworld Productions, and has been sponsoring parties in the Baltimore-Washington corridor since 1992. In 1994, he started an annual Sunrise Festival at Ferry Bar Park near the Hanover Street Bridge, but city officials closed it in 1997 because of concerns about drug use.
Fisher then met with former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, according to the Ultraworld Productions Web site, and they reached an agreement that the event could start again if a portion of the proceeds went to charity.
The Sunrise Festival then became Starscape and moved to Fort Armistead Park in 1999. Ultraworld Productions paid $25 for the city permit, but the budget for the event was $160,000, Fisher said. The event was co-sponsored by Baltimore Reads, a city literacy advocacy group.
"This sets a precedent where you got the local government working in conjunction with the event promoter," said Christopher Lawrence, 34, a Los Angeles disc jockey.
Lawrence said electronic music festivals are rapidly increasing in popularity around the world because they serve as a gathering point for the youth counterculture.