Honfest 2016 brings towering beehives, crowds to Hampden

Towering beehives, cat's-eye glasses, pink feather boas galore: Honfest 2016 took over Hampden this weekend.

Even a double bypass heart surgery couldn't stop Sue Hodges Grant from making it to Honfest 2016.

Grant, a retired librarian who was named Baltimore's Best Hon 2006, has made the three-day drive to attend the festival each year since moving with her husband from Essex to Phoenix, Ariz.

The surgery in February made her nervous she might miss it this year. But after some coaxing, her cardiologist gave the OK.

"I wouldn't miss this for the world," she said. "Baltimore is my home; it's my heart."

The 23rd annual Honfest featured all of the usual old-timey Bawlmer flair — towering beehive hairdos in a rainbow of colors, cat's-eye glasses, pink feather boas galore — and crowds packing the Avenue in Hampden to enjoy the music, food and people-watching.

Bonnie Marie Shiksakowski, an organizer, said the event honors the working-class women of Baltimore who took up the mantel when their husbands went off to war.

"It's a tribute to our mothers, our aunties and our grandmothers," Shiksakowski said. "God gave us talent. It's our job to find out what it is and make the world a better place."

In the Glamour Lounge, hairdresser and self-described "Honmaster" Sue Ebert teased, sprayed, pinned, sprayed, tucked, sprayed and sprayed some more.

Ebert said she crafted so many beehives throughout the weekend that she'd lost count by Sunday afternoon. Ladies and young girls formed a line in the tent for the $25 hairstyles.

The highest hair Ebert managed over the weekend reached 18 inches, though she said she'd also fluffed up two 16-inchers Saturday. She kept a tape measure next to the chair.

The winds Sunday threatened even the sturdiest, most hairsprayed hives, but Ebert didn't balk.

"It's challenging, but the show must go on," she said. "I've been doing this for 15 years."

Stephanie Williams, 29, of Bowie, sipped a margarita in the styling chair. She said it was her first time coming to Honfest — much less getting the signature up-do.

"It's a local attraction," Williams said. "I'd never been, so I had to check it out."

Rebecca Hall, 35, of Severn, wore six National Bohemian beer cans as curlers in her hair for the Baltimore's Best Hon Contest.

"A friend came up with it last year," she said. "I had one row. This year I took it up a notch."

The hairdo took half an hour, Hall said, and required "lots of bobby pins and hairspray."

Katie Shea, 64, of "Govans, hon!," joined three friends, donning beehive wigs, pink flamingo aprons, boas and capri shorts for the event.

"It's Bawlmer, hon," Shea said, laying the accent on thick. "You'n get a snowball!"

Her friends Vonnie Baran, 67, Winnie DuVall, 65, and Barilyn Ellis, 40, laughed as they displayed their matching get-ups.

On the main stage, the four-piece, pink-clad Rock 'n' Roll Relics made their Honfest debut.

"We heard about Honfest, and we figured our brand of music would fit in," said Chip Chiappone, the group's 64-year-old bassist. "It's fun music that brings back all the great memories and makes everybody feel young for a little while."

Alaina Rumbley, 30, and Vivian Ballantine, 40, both of Abingdon, picked up slices of the "Baltimore Bomb" Berger's Cookie pie from Dangerously Delicious in Hampden.

Rumbley said she was showing Ballantine, who is from Norway, "the quirkiness of Baltimore."

Ballantine's favorite part of her first Honfest? "The Bald Elvis."

Indeed, Darrell Grant, 51, the husband of Sue Hodges Grant, looked every bit like the King of Rock 'n' Roll — except the hair.

"I love coming down here, enjoying the people, enjoying the sights," he said. "And getting seen."

Leslie Moore and Bob Weyforth, co-owners of Moore Sauces by Leslie, peddled Sweet Heat red pepper sauce, two horseradish sauces and a balsamic vinegar barbecue sauce under an orange tent.

Moore said Honfest reminds her of the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia.

"It's Baltimore at its best," she said. "It's a cultural thing, a city thing."

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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