Picnics, people nourish the Soul

Celebration: Relaxing in the shade or in the comfort of a deluxe party oasis, visitors to the Stone Soul Picnic enjoy food, drinks, music and good company.

Metro

News From Around The Baltimore Region

August 14, 2005|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Anthony Bullock takes the "picnic" part of Baltimore's annual Stone Soul Picnic seriously.

Under a shady mesh shelter, the former Reservoir Hill resident had set out 25 pounds of snow crab legs, fried chicken, grilled fish, deviled eggs, chicken salad, macaroni salad, potato salad and collard greens, all prepared in his Perryville home.

He had gone to Pennsylvania for corn on the cob, and made the sauce for his barbecue beef to feed 30 guests in his party, along with sundry police officers and fellow picnickers.

Bullock said he has attended the picnic, which celebrates African-American heritage, since it began 14 years ago.

"It's one of those events where you know the end of the summer is here," he said.

But for thousands gathered yesterday in Druid Hill Park to enjoy the company and musical performances by R&B singers Toni Braxton and Eric Benet, the summer's heat showed little evidence of letting up.

The National Weather Service reported a high of 94 degrees yesterday, with heat indices reaching up to 104 degrees in areas.

Some people chose to risk baking in the direct sun in front of the stage.

Many, however, remained on blankets under trees on the outskirts of the stage area even though the sounds of generators from barbecues and ice cream trucks sometimes competed with the music.

"I went down into the dust bowl [in front of the stage] and I came back up here with the breeze," said Kellye Brown of Aberdeen, who was part of Bullock's group.

Traffic in the streets surrounding the park was slow or at a standstill as concertgoers dashed across Druid Park Lake Drive toting lawn chairs.

Drivers purchased cold drinks from vendors who weaved around vehicles to make sales.

"It's a major event for Baltimore," Bullock said. "It's one of those events that the [less] fortunate can come out and enjoy themselves for free."

Many had worked hard to create little oases away from home under portable picnic sanctuaries with coolers stuffed with beer and shrimp.

For those who traveled more lightly, vendors sold strawberry daiquiris and ice cream, fried fish and snowballs to the crowds of children and adults.

Some people purchased hats made of bamboo and mini umbrellas.

Seven-year-old Denisha Vendryes of West Baltimore ran in and out of a misting tent set up by public safety officials.

Stone Soul "is a real family affair," said her mother Carolyn Vendryes. "She gets to play with other children."

Others feel the annual gathering celebrates more than neighborly ties.

Soul "is a feeling [that] African-American people have," said Balogun Olugbala of Mondawmin, as he and his wife, Ongsingco, relaxed at a picnic table.

"We know that we are related," he said.

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