Baltimore County

Hampdenfest and toilet races back on again (Hampden Column)

So, Hampdenfest 2014?

Some of you may be wondering what's going on with that. First it was happening, then it wasn't, now it is again. Being one of the organizers, I'm in a somewhat unique position to be able to explain what happened, why and what's happening now.

Traditionally, Hampdenfest has been scheduled to take place the second Saturday in September. When doing an annual festival, it's good to stake out the same time every year, so that other festivals know which weekends to avoid.

For most of 2014, we had been planning on Hampdenfest taking place Sept. 13. Then, a few weeks ago, we were notified by the city that we simply couldn't hold our festival on that day because all of the city's resources would be taken up by the Sailabration downtown. The city said they'd be glad to let us do the festival on the week before or the week after, though.

Hampdenfest organizers got together to discuss the logistics of the situation. Moving the festival up a week earlier was impossible. Moving the festival back one week, given the resources at our disposal, seemed too difficult to pull off. We discussed pushing the festival to later in September or October, but the problem with scheduling a festival in Baltimore during the spring and fall is that virtually every weekend is claimed by some other large festival, and it seems kind of jerky to counter-schedule against them. We didn't want to compete with the Baltimore Book Festival or the Fells Point Fun Festival or The Shindig Festival or religious holidays.

And moving a festival date that had already been planned would mean potentially losing sources of revenue, including sponsors and vendors, who might already be booked at other festivals. Bands, too, might have scheduling conflicts..

After much deliberation, we felt it was better to cancel the festival instead of trying to put on a less than ideal Hampdenfest.

This is when everything erupted. Letters were written, emails sent and calls made. Our City Council representatives, Mary Pat Clarke and Nick Mosby told us they'd do everything in their power to ensure the festival happened. The message we got from the mayor's office was that Hampdenfest wasn't a matter of "if" we had it, but "when" we had it..

So we had a makeshift meeting in Atomic Books' Eightbar with festival organizers, Clarke, Mosby, representatives from the mayor's office, merchants, residents and festival volunteers to see what we could do. 

We decided we would investigate the feasibility of having Hampdenfest on Sept. 20 instead. Organizers spent the next several days contacting sponsors, vendors, bands, sound engineers and beer sellers, to see if they could make the switch to the new date. And while there were a few people who couldn't, by and large, everyone came through.

The last remaining point of concern was the toilet races. The regular organizers weren't available to make the date change. However, several other people have stepped up to fill in to organize the races.

So it is with great pleasure that I'm able to announce that Hampdenfest 2014 will take place on Saturday, Sept. 20.

Yes, we will have three stages of bands with a very special surprise guest announced days before the festival. Unfortunately, there won't be Hampden Idol this year, but we are working on something else we hope to be just as awesome. Brewer's Art and Union Craft will again be providing our beer.

And yes, the toilets will be racing down Chestnut Avenue. Festival organizers feel that with everyone's dedication and cooperation, we will be able to deliver another excellent Hampdenfest.

As the date gets closer, I'll have more information as to what Hampdenfest has to offer. For updates, visit And on behalf of all of the Hampdenfest organizers, I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support. The fact that Hampdenfest is happening in 2014 is a direct result of you.

And to get us in the mood for Hampdenfest, there will be a Hampdenfest Poster Show opening this Friday, August 1 (First Fridays in Hampden!), at Atomic Books' Eightbar from 7-10 p.m. All the Hampdenfest posters from the past 12 years (created by Exit 10) will be on display through the end of September. Serendipity Kitchen will be supplying Baltimore-themed snacks.

All posters will be available for sale and profits go to help fund Hampdenfest.


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