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Hons flock like flamingos to 19th annual HonFest

HonFestDenise WhitingElsa Lanchester

At HonFest 2012, It was all about the hons. The 19th annual festival June 9-10 on The Avenue in Hampden will be remembered for a 100-year-old hon, a one-month-old hon, a skateboarding hon, and a handicapped hon, who was competing in the "Baltimore's Best Hon" contest.

The festival also featured a hon driving a mobile clothing store in an old school bus, and a hon so hon-like that festival goers stopped to have their picture taken with her.

Officially, HonFest is remembered for its 2012 Best Hon winner, Mary Schweiger, an Essex senior. She won a pink flamingo made of cupcakes and sang a lusty duet with an Elvis impersonator.

It was a liberating festival for its founder, head hon Denise Whiting, who was dogged by debate in the past 12 months over her trademarking of the word "hon," a common term of endearment. Whiting has since given up the trademark and apologized for using it. The controversy has dissipated and Whiting handed out stickers at HonFest that said, "Hon belongs to Baltimore."

The bus driver was entrepreneur Stacey Chambers, of Lake Walker, who bought an old school bus that she found on the Internet, and lined it inside with racks of clothes for sale.

She encouraged customers to write on the ceiling and upper walls of the 1994 International bus, named "Elsa," in honor of Elsa Lanchester, who starred in the movie "The Bride of Frankenstein."

The words "Puff the Magic Dragon" were written next to the emergency exit sign.

The business is called Go-Go's Retread Threads, and the bus is "a mobile clothing boutique," explained the 31-year-old Chambers, who looked every inch a hon, wearing cats-eye glasses and a vintage sun dress with a hoop skirt and lime green sneakers.

"I go to a lot of markets, festivals and private events, like bridal showers," said the former leasing agent.

"That was a job," she said. "This is a passion."

Skating onstage

The skateboarding hon was Stephanie Murdock, a Best Hon contestant and president of Skatepark of Baltimore, a nonprofit that has raised enough money to build a concrete skateboarding bowl in Hampden's Roosevelt Park.

Murdock used HonFest as an opportunity to promote the skatepark, the first planned in north Baltimore. She had a booth at the festival and skated onto the main stage as a Best Hon contestant.

"What (teens) really need is a skatepark," she said in her best Bawlmerese. "They ain't got nowhere to go."

Also a contestant was Margaret Manning, 62, who lives in Loganville, Pa., near York, and grew up in Baltimore. She mostly uses her electric wheelchair.

Manning never made it onstage, because the stage wasn't handicapped-accessible.

But Manning, who called herself "handi-capable," rolled up to the stage at street level, dressed as a beach hon and told the audience, "I was born a hon and I continue to be a hon."

Competing was "challenging," Manning admitted, but she looked on the bright side.

"I can always say, 'Excuse me, hon."

Julia Hidary, the centenarian hon, did make it on stage. Infirm and hard of hearing, the Pikesville resident earned a standing ovation as she stood onstage wearing a purple dress that said, "100 Hon."

The infant hon was Piper Shockey, who slept in her baby carriage, wearing hon glasses. Her mom, Tina, of Cecil County, said it was the family's first time at the regionally popular festival on The Avenue.

"We knew about it for years. We just haven't had a chance to get up here," she said.

The perfect hon

If there was a defining hon at HonFest, it was Laura Montgomery, sporting a high blond beehive and pink summer dress with pink pearls, pink earrings and a purse with a pink flamingo on it.

"Hons don't tell their age," said the Ellenton, Fla., resident, who is visiting family in Belair.

"She's one of the best I've seen," said Krista Ragaini, 25, of Owings Mills.

Ragaini and her friend, Katie Myers, 26, of Mount Washington, stopped Montgomery in the street and asked her if they could take a photo with her, although she was a hon for fun and not competing in the Best Hon contest.

"But she should be," Myers told a reporter.

"And you have to work on your accent," she told Montgomery.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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HonFestDenise WhitingElsa Lanchester
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