By Larry Perl, firstname.lastname@example.org
11:25 PM EDT, September 14, 2013
Saturday was Hampdenfest. It was also Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement for Jews, not to mention their weekly Sabbath.
For Liz Baker, of Hampden, it represented a dilemma.
Baker, 41, certainly didn't want to miss the holiest day of the year for Jews. But she didn't want to miss Hampdenfest, either, especially its annual Toilet Races, a potty-themed soapbox derby that her husband, artist Steve Baker, started four years ago as a fundraiser for Skatepark of Baltimore, which plans to build a skatepark in Hampden.
Liz Baker found a way to keep the faith and make her peace with the day. She spent the morning at her synagogue, then raced the family's toilet entry, which their 8-year-old son, Matthew, had made. They called it "Throne of Atonement," in honor of Yom Kippur, and it featured a banner with a Jewish star.
Liz Baker, a middle school science teacher at the Park School of Baltimore, said there is a Hebrew word for their situation — izun, which means "finding balance."
"We're a family," she said.
Other contestants in the toilet races included Will "Gas Man" Bauer, who wore a gas mask; Chris Dorron, who raced in a bathtub and wore a bathrobe and a shower cap; and a team of women that included Janell Cannady of Middle River, Charlotte Hays Murray, owner of the Hampden store Charlotte Elliott; and a retired Charm City Roller Girl, who gave only her roller girl moniker, "Dramanatrix."
They raced a contraption with streamers made of toilet paper, called TURDIS, which stood for "Toilet Using Reality-Disturbing Interdimensional Ship."
The winners were Gorilla Finger Racing, a team of seven men, most from Hampden, who entered a modified tricycle and toilet that they built and decorated with faux gorilla fur. It was driven by Jordan Pugh. The team ran third last year.
"It feels awesome," said team member Joe Kibelbek, of Hampden, as several thousand spectators lining both sides of Chestnut Avenue cheered.
In other Hampdenfest contests, chefs at the local restaurants Cafe Hon and Alchemy won the People's Choice and Critics Choice awards respectively in the annual Mac-Off, a macaroni and cheese competition. Results were not immediately known in the Waiter Races, in which people race while carrying trays, and Hampden Idol, a karaoke contest modeled after the television show "American Idol."
Back for another year on The Avenue was the tongue-in-cheek carnival show Moloch's Midway and Cabinet of Infernal Mysteries. It included Zagam the Vile (aka Gavin Graham, of Silver Spring) lying on a bed of nails while 8-year-old Clara Gilleran, of Bolton Hill, was plucked from the audience to stand on a board atop Graham's body. Also plucked from the audience was Alice Simpkins, 30, of Roland Park, to attest that the nails were real.
Sugar, the local sex toy shop, had a tent, and was joined by a representative of Equality Maryland. There was no repeat of women at the tent stripping down to their bras, as they did at HonFest in June.
The day started cloudy, chilly and slow, but as the sun came out, so did more festival goers.
"Have fun, Hampden," said a sign outside the wine bar 13.5 Percent. "Your day has come."