Denise Whiting tries out a feather boa at her restaurant, Cafe… (Baltimore Sun photo by Jed…)
Usually, Honfest is a celebration of kitsch, from beehives to cat's-eye glasses.
This weekend, the annual Hampden festival will be honoring a different Baltimore icon.
"It was all about the beehive," said Honfest founder Denise Whiting. "This year, it's all about the bird."
Whiting is referring to the giant pink flamingo affixed to the front of her restaurant, Cafe Hon. It was there for years, until the city demanded Whiting take it down or pay an $800 "minor privilege fee" last fall. Whiting refused to ante up, and the city eventually relented, cutting the fee in half so the bird could stay. Now, she's playfully calling this year's Honfest "The Year of the Bird." For the first time, the bird, who some have taken to calling Big Pink, is a part of the Honfest logo, she said. Whiting thinks much fuss will be made about the hot-pink fowl at this weekend's celebration.
"I think there will be a lot of pictures taken under the pink flamingo, for sure," Whiting said.
Big Pink isn't the only new addition to this year's Honfest celebrations. The festival is expanding from two days to three, and annexing Roosevelt Park. Instead of starting on Saturday, it will kick off today with live performances by Hyjinx and Sabrina Clap.
As always, festival-goers are encouraged to wear beehive hairdos and funky, retro clothes to pay tribute to the Hon, something of a Baltimore icon. Last year, Honfest drew about 60,000 attendees over the course of two days, with most coming on Saturday, Whiting estimated. This kitschy spirit is part of what makes Honfest such a success.
"The genius of Honfest is, it gives people permission to have fun and lets them step outside themselves for a moment," Whiting said. "They can let their defenses down and be the person they are inside — the genuine person who has heritage in their heart."
As always, Hons will compete in Bawlmer's Best Hon Contest, to see who can win first prize with a combination of attitude and attire. Whiting is also thinking of organizing an impromptu gathering of Hons this weekend, as a practice run at a Guinness record for most beehives in one place. She thinks the official record will be set next year.
It wouldn't be the first time a record was set at Honfest. Last year, Jim Cupp, a sales manager for a seafood processing company in Crisfield, put together the world's largest crab cake. Weighing in at 253 pounds, it shattered the previous record, also held by Cupp, he said. All but 25 pounds were eaten in the first half of the day last year.
In addition to the beer booths and other vendors at the festival, the Roosevelt Recreation Center will be selling food and sodas to raise money for center activities. All of the food and drinks were donated by companies such as H&S Bakery and Royal Farms, Whiting said, so money raised will result in 100 percent profit for the center.
"That's really what community festivals are about," Whiting said. "We should be rooting for the local organizations to fundraise."
Charlene E. Osborne, who was voted Baltimore's Best Hon last year, will be selling copies of her new coffee-table book, which chronicles her past year as reigning Hon, Whiting said.
"This coffee-table book puts every other coffee-table book to shame," Whiting said.
As always, most of the action will be on and around 36th Street, also known as The Avenue. Woodward's Record Show, which features thousands of vintage vinyl, cassette tapes and CDs, will take place Saturday and Sunday, with an auction Sunday.
When Honfest began in the early 1990s, it was a one-day affair. With it now stretching into three days, anything is possible in the coming years, Whiting said.
"I cannot tell you what lies in the future of Honfest, because it creates itself," Whiting said. "I am merely the administrator."
If you go
Honfest starts with a concert in Roosevelt Park 6 p.m.-10 p.m. today and continues 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday on The Avenue in Hampden. Go to honfest.net.