That community involvement was overshadowed by the trademarking controversy, Dill said.

"She made a huge mistake, I mean a real doozy, but you know what? She did the right thing in the end, and I sincerely believe that she did the right thing for the right reasons," Dill said.

Lessons learned

Whiting is also making rapprochement with Avenue merchants and this year has waived a $100 "spillout" fee for merchants who sell merchandise outside their stores during HonFest.

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"It's an olive branch," she said. "We want HonFest to be for everyone."

Any fallout from trademarking and Ramsay's visits doesn't appear to have affected the popularity of the festival, Whiting said.

"As a matter of fact, we've had more calls from potential sponsors than we ever have," she said.

And she dismisses any notion that HonFest is bad for the business community.

The fest draws an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people a year, based on beer sales, Whiting said.

"I'd like to calculate the economic impact of HonFest" for the city, she said. She bets it's about $2 million, based on comparisons to Artscape.

What has she learned from her rocky year?

"I think the come-away is really the passion people have for the city of Baltimore," Whiting said. "And when they felt like something was being taken away from them, they were passionate about it. And they were right to do that."