Fun on the waterfront

Fells Point festival showcases neighborhood with food, music, rides, art and culture

October 05, 2006|By Kristin Gray | Kristin Gray,Sun Reporter

In Fells Point, walking down cobblestone roads amid quaint boutiques is an effortless excursion into the past. The rapid pace of modern life converges with the city's simpler days to create a unique, colorful community.

At the 40th annual Fells Point Fun Festival this weekend, thousands of people will revel as this waterfront neighborhood bustles with live music, art, carnival rides and cultural expression. The list of events scheduled for the two-day celebration includes an international bazaar featuring more than 300 retailers and free ethnic dance lessons.

The lighthearted festival has roots in more serious overtones involving an effort to preserve the district from an anticipated expansion of Interstate 95 across the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. The Preservation Society fought to have the district added to the National Register of Historic Places and to ensure that the locale would maintain the legacy of old Baltimore. The festival is the society's celebration of the victory.

"It's a real enjoyment to walk around Baltimore City and be able to walk through and see the people having a good time and enjoying city life," said Denise Whitman, festival director and member of the Preservation Society.

"Festivals are the culmination of all the good things about city living, and this is it," she said. "There are smells, parents and kids. Kids are smiling."

The 40th celebration boasts a number of entertainment, food and shopping choices. Past festivals offered customary entertainment stages, children's areas and food vendors. This year more is planned. Crowds can watch the Pride II clipper ship arrive at Broadway Pier to traditional bagpipe music and fire boats. For children, up to 20 carnival rides and face-painting areas will be available.

"We've increased the children's block, and we have more interactive activities," said John Yuhanick, the festival's public relations consultant. "We have an area called Arts on Parade, and through the years we've had a number of requests for different artists to present watercolors, oils, sculptures and classic cars."

The festival organizers hope to reach out to the cultural and ethnic diversity burgeoning in the city with areas such as La Plaza Hispana. This section of the festival will feature free salsa- and flamenco-dancing lessons, traditional South American cuisine and performances by artists such as the JCJ Band and La Banda Kaliente. Hawaiian, Irish and belly dancers will also perform. Representatives from Iceland will also be on hand to give away free raffle tickets for a getaway on Icelandair.

"About 250 people are there to entertain," Yuhanick said. "Now that's 40 years of entertainment."

Festival events are targeted to all ages, Yuhanick said, and he hopes to attract more people than in years past.

"There's no Ravens game that day - it will be on Monday," Yuhanick said. "We look to surpass any of our attendance records."

The Fells Point Fun Festival is 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Fells Point. Admission is free, and the event will take place rain or shine. For more information, 410-675-6769 or go to preservation

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