By Keith Meisel, firstname.lastname@example.org
9:50 PM EDT, September 9, 2012
Without a Sunday Ravens game to prepare for, or threatening skies to cast a shadow on the festivities, the crowds came early for Sunday's 39th annual Catonsville Arts and Crafts Festival.
Less than an hour after its official opening at 10 a.m., crowds had already begun to jam the stretch of Frederick Road between Ingleside Avenue and Melvin Avenue, enjoying the late summer weather and the opportunity to check out the variety of crafts, food and local institutions.
"You can't ask for a nicer day," said Del. James Malone, an Arbutus native who represents District 12B that includes Catonsville, Arbutus and Lansdowne, as he stopped between two of the more 200 booths that lined Catonsville's Main Street.
"It's so nice to walk up and down Frederick Road and seeing some people that maybe you only see once a year, who may not even live in Catonsville any more, who come back to walk up and down and see people and check out all the things that are going on," he said.
There was plenty to check out.
Those hungry for a late breakfast, early lunch or just refreshment to fuel another pass down Frederick Road could sample food that was easy to eat and go from area eateries such as Catonsville Gourmet, Edible Arrangements, Ships Cafe, Taneytown Express, Regions and Peace a Pizza.
The Catonsville Sunday Farmers Market was also well represented on the parking lot behind Friendly's restaurant.
In addition to ready-made sandwiches, festival-goers could pick up fresh produce and baked items.
Those looking for less commonplace items could check out a stand stocked with a variety of fresh garlic or another devoted to growing mushrooms.
"It is so wonderful for Catonsville to do this every year," said Teal Cary, executive director of the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce which sponsors the annual festival.
"Our chamber booth has been packed," she said on the steady stream of visitors to the booth, many of whom walked away with a free gift bag that included a program, hand fan touting the chamber's summer concert series and a poster extolling Catonsville as "Music City Maryland."
"We get terrific support from the community and the vendors tell us this is the best show they do all year," she said.
Near the chamber's booth, a tented area with folding chairs offered a place to rest and enjoy live music by bands on the stage at Melvin Avenue.
Another stage at Egges Lane, the site of the chamber's Friday evening concerts, also gave visitors another place to rest and enjoy live music.
A KidZone provided younger visitors a place to play, as did the cornhole toss game at a stand manned by student-athletes from the nearby University of Maryland, Baltimore County, campus.
Tony Alleyne said those of college age were not the only visitors to his Community College of Baltimore County booth.
"We get a lot of seniors who are thinking about getting involved with our continuing education series," said Alleyne, an admissions counselor at the school.
"This is a great opportunity to see the Catonsville community come out," said Alleyne, in his fifth year manning a stand for CCBC.
"We get a lot of grads from the 70s and 80s who come out, who still remember when it was CCC (Catonsville Community College), and still show the love," he said. "It's a great opportunity to see the alumni."
Mixed in with the stands of more than 20 area nonprofits were vendors offering photographs, handmade jewelry, wooden crafts, scents, soaps and apparel items for people as well as their pets.
Among the more unique offerings was a stand offering pen flowers, wallets, lanyards, hair bows and other items made out of duct tape.
"Everybody has been pretty interested," said Christina Vaughn, the Arbutus Duct Tape Lady, in her first year at the festival.
The Halethorpe resident said she began her business about a year ago at the behest of her daughter, Serena, now 11.
She said when she heard the festival had one spot remaining for the Sept. 9 event, "I said, 'Give it to me!' "
Near the KidZone, Chris Adair and Catonsville resident Scott Westcoat enjoyed the opportunity to open the doors to their Frederick Road bicycle shop that they plan to open in October.
"We're spreading the word, offering free bike check-ups, getting to know the community," said Adair, an Annapolis area resident who plans to commute to the shop on his bicycle.
"I love this community," he said. "I come up here to ride a lot, to Ellicott City, Patapsco (Valley) State Park."
Further down Frederick Road, Holly Trevino was enjoying the foot traffic and visitors to her Twins Polish Pottery stand.
She said she has been coming to the festival for more than a decade to sell her blue and white stoneware.
"It's very family friendly. It brings a good crowd, even when it rains," said the Mt. Airy resident, referring to the downpours that plagued the festival several years ago.
"It's a lot of fun and we do well here. We have our regular customers," she said. "The atmosphere, I enjoy it so much. It's like my day off. My husband's home with the kids and once I get set up, I really enjoy it.
"It's very family friendly," she said. "I know it's outside (Washington) D.C., but it has this real small town feel to it."