Fells Point festival hopes to unite neighborhood, city

By Chris Katz
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

More than 100,000 people attended the 50th anniversary of the Fells Point Fun Festival during the three-day event last weekend, organizers said.

People from inside and outside the community gathered to hear live music from 18 bands, eat a variety of foods and buy unique crafts from over 100 vendors.

Todd Unger, the festival’s chairman, said  the festival gathered the most people in its history this year with its assortment of foods, handcrafted items and domestic beers.

More than 100 vendors were on hand at the Fells Point festival last weekend. Photo by Chris Katz.

More than 100 vendors were on hand at the Fells Point festival last weekend. Photo by Chris Katz.

As long as they have the Fun Festival cup, attendees are allowed to walk anywhere on the grounds with alcohol, which is one of many unique aspects of the festival that bring people back every year.

One attendee, Simon Jefferys, made it to the festival all the way from Barton, England. He said he was in Baltimore for a work-long conference and that the Fells Point festival was similar to English festivals.

“In England, we love to just be out in the nice weather and relax with our buddies,” Jefferys said. “I’m not even here with my buddies, but I can still feel that sense of belonging in the atmosphere.”

Christine Hollenack is one person who attends the festival regularly.

“This is my 17th year coming back here,” said Hollenack, a long-time resident of the area. “I come back each and every year to support the local businesses, connect with my neighbors and bring pride to Fells Point.”

The proceeds of the festival are split between the Fells Point Main Street for the next year’s event and the Baltimore Preservation Society.

“Our number one goal is to make everybody happy,” Unger said. “This event brings everyone in the community together, and each year we find new, fresh ways of doing that.”

Most people at the festival had food in hand. Some of the crowd favorites include soft-shell crabs, oysters and barbecue sandwiches.

“My wife and I come every year for those oysters,” Baltimore resident Kevin Cassella said. “The Bucket Shuck never ceases to impress us with those phenomenal [oysters].”

The Fells Point festival featured live music. Photo by Chris Katz.

The Fells Point festival featured live music. Photo by Chris Katz.

Although it dominates the smell of the grounds, food is not the only thing you can find at the festival. There are many different handmade craft vendors that sell unique paintings, pottery and photography.

“My favorite part of the festival is by far the handmade crafts,” Hollenack said. “The majority of my living room decorations were bought right here in past years.”

There was plenty to eat the Fells Point festival last weekend. Photo by Chris Katz.

There was plenty to eat at the Fells Point festival last weekend. Photo by Chris Katz.

The festival is more than just a celebration of a Baltimore community; it represents a historic battle between the neighborhood and the state government.

In 1966, Sen. Barbara Mikulski first organized the festival to stop the construction of a three-mile highway that would connect Interstates 83 and 95.

“This is a staple event of Baltimore,” Unger said. “We sell out with vendors every year, but the connections that are made on these very streets are priceless.”

Amidst racial tensions in the city that sprouted from the demonstrations that occurred in April 2015, the Fells Point Fun Festival is a way for citizens to unite and overcome their differences.

“Sometimes people forget that Baltimore is a close-knit community,” Fells Point resident Rachel Mercado said.  “I come back every year to not only relax and drink beer with my friends, but also to help represent Baltimore’s true colors.”

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