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Despite parade cancellation, merchants roll down The Avenue in homemade float

Bound and determined to get some bang for their promotional buck

10:32 AM EST, December 16, 2013

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The Hampden Village Merchants Association made an expensive promotional float for the Mayor's Christmas Parade on Dec. 8, but when a snow storm canceled the parade, the float became moot and merchants were left out in the cold.

On Friday, still bound and determined to get bang for their buck, association members staged a one-float parade up and down West 36th Street (The Avenue), Hampden's man commercial corridor. Two bicyclists, including newly named Merchant of the Year Will Bauer, aka Lou Catelli, pedaled laboriously to get the attached float rolling. Motorists honked and waved as the H-shaped float (for Hampden) cruised The Avenue several times at twilight.

Even Laura Myers, who heads a squad of "elves" that are trolling The Avenue on weekends to greet shoppers, hopped on the float for a brief ride.

Looking on with some satisfaction was graphic designer Paula Bogert, a merchants' association member who spearheaded the making of the float at a cost of some $1,400, $400 of it from the association and the rest raised by her.

When the parade was canceled, "I was sad about that," said Bogert, who had commissioned Xibitz, a Hampden-based fabrication facility for the museum and trade show industry, to construct the float out of lightweight but sturdy foam board. They were just loading it onto the truck to take it to the parade when the event was canceled for the first time in its 41-year history.

But then, Bogert got thinking that the float, still decorated for the holidays, might be of some promotional use yet.

"I said, 'You know, why don't we ride it around just for fun? It'll never look this way again.'"

A wintery sign on the float said, "Holiday Greetings. This holiday season, visit Hampden, Baltimore's best for shopping, dining and just plain living."

Also looking on with bemusement was Charlotte Hays Murray, owner of the store Charlotte Elliott, located on The Avenue.

"Only in Hampden would we put up a float without a parade," Hays Murray said.