Festival celebrates living in Locust Point

Music, food, friends are big attractions in annual benefit for park

September 24, 2001|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

In Locust Point, the sugar, flour and butter on the doorsteps last week meant that it was festival time again.

Each year, in the days before the neighborhood's annual community festival, residents leave the ingredients outside to be collected and turned into a fried dough confection called "Polish neckties." Made in the kitchens of two local churches, the neckties are pure sweet profit for the Locust Point Civic Association, which puts on the fair of singing, eating and visiting and uses the money to improve Latrobe Park.

Yesterday, they were quickly sold out.

"We've got a good community down here," said Joyce R. Bauerle, who has lived in the southern Baltimore neighborhood of 1,100 houses and Fort McHenry for all of her 59 years. She is the president of the civic association. "It's all volunteers."

The festival was a mainstay in the 1970s and some of the 1980s, before it petered out. In 1992, the community, having a difficult time getting city money for a new playground, reinstated the festival. They raised $35,000 for playground equipment, and the festival has been a yearly tradition since, Bauerle said.

"It's like a homecoming, so many people that were born and raised here come back," said Bauerle's brother George J. Acton. He was selling his book, Locust Point: Of Thee I Sing, at a card table. He had 500 copies printed but sales were so brisk he said he might have to print more. The line of people waiting for him to sign books was steady.

"Could you make that out to Eleanor?" asked one woman. "It's a Christmas present."

Yesterday, on a gorgeous fall afternoon, there was live Irish music, as well as dancing, face-painting, a television set for a small crowd watching the Ravens game and food, lots of it, all sold and prepared by residents. There were snow cones, Italian sausage, candy apples and pizza, cooked and served by Del. Brian K. McHale and his wife, Brenda.

"The Locust Point festival is a celebration of our community," McHale said as he readied a cheese pie for the oven. "We have a very rich history here."

Locust Point was second only to Ellis Island in New York as a gateway for immigrants to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many immigrants continued to other parts of the United States, but many stayed and made their homes in Locust Point and elsewhere in Baltimore.

"I'm a third-generation, my children are fourth-generation Locust Pointers," McHale said.

There are also newcomers. Tom Whitaker, whose son Josh, 4, had a turtle painted on his cheek, brought his family from Severna Park to be with friends. His friends bought houses to renovate and sell. "They liked it so much they decided to stay," Whitaker said.

Latrobe Park was bathed in red, white and blue yesterday -- even a puppy was in a T-shirt decorated with the American flag -- to show support for the nation, particularly victims of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11. Bauerle said at least $1,000 of yesterday's proceeds will go to the American Red Cross.

"In light of Sept. 11, it's a celebration of all that's right with America," McHale said. "We want to continue to celebrate the great things America represents."

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