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Response to new Frederick Road Fridays venue largely positive

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Even as thunder boomed in the distance under a dark sky at 6:15 p.m. last Friday, hundreds of people poured into the Mellor Avenue parking lot in front of Peace A Pizza to enjoy another installment of Frederick Road Fridays in Catonsville.

About 7:30 p.m., the sky opened up and rain began to pour, cutting The Players Band's time on stage an hour short.

But as the annual summer concert series reached its halfway point of the season, the response to its move across Frederick Road from its original location on Egges Lane to the Shops at Mellor has been positive.

Despite the unpredictable weather on July 19. the new venue was bustling. In addition to the free music, the new site has room for a variety of tents, representing the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce, Cosmic Comix, Farmers Insurance and Scittino's Italian Market, among others.

Heavy Seas Beer and a variety of wines are available for purchase and consumption within the event area. Catonsville area nonprofits staff the stand, in exchange for a percentage of the proceeds.

Attendees also have a chance to admire and bid on more than 20 Adirondack chairs sponsored by local businesses and painted by local artists as a chamber fundraiser.

The Catonsville Celebrations Committee was the nonprofit assigned to selling the beer and wine Friday night — the group's second appearance this summer — and DyAnn Moree, a director of the committee, said it was a  fundraising opportunity to pay for Catonsville's annual Fourth of July parade and fireworks.

"We're really grateful," Moree said. "The chamber has always been awesome with us."

They made about $1,500 from beer sales on June 28, their first night working the event, and about $300 in tips from the community, Moree said.

After setting up the stage, the beer truck, wine table and all the tents, the group's volunteers then have to break it all down at the end of the night, she said.

"We really do work it hard," she said.

Maryland Search and Rescue will be the nonprofit volunteering this Friday during the performance by One Flight Up.

Catonsville resident Heidi Barth was at the event Friday with her husband, Todd Barth, and their 7-year-old daughter, Patricia Barth, who was front and center dancing with her friends while the band played reggae music over the speakers.

Her cousins, Andy and Danny Schnider, were in the band, on drums and bass respectively, and she said she was really enjoying the new space.

"We used to go to the one over at Jennings (Cafe on Frederick Road); this is our first time over here," Heidi Barth, 36, said. "The space for the kids; there's more for the kids to do -- the face-painting, the hula hoops."

She was sipping a Heavy Seas Beer while she watched the band and said she loved being able to roam around the concert space while enjoying her drink.

"It's definitely nice to be able to get it right here and not have to go in the (beer) garden," she said.

Nicole Dali stood near the stage and watched her 18-month-old son, Gavin Dali, dance and shake a tambourine in front of the crowd.

"We live really close, so we come here pretty much every Friday," Dali said. "We love it."

She said the added space offered by the new venue makes it a more child-friendly environment.

"We don't have to worry about the kids, really," she said.

Former chamber President George Brookhart — who, along with Catonsville resident Craig Witzke, helped create the concert series five years ago — said that, though he didn't want to see the event moved, he has enjoyed the new location.

"At first, I objected to it," Brookhart said. "I've only been a couple of times, but I like the new location, I do."

He said he has heard complaints about not being able to bring in alcoholic beverages and the fence at the venue's perimeter, but he thinks the move was the right decision.

"There are people that are complaining that ... the location feels too sterile, too mechanical," Brookhart said. "It seems like it's a few people, not many.

"I would've liked to see Omar (Jennings, owner of Jennings Cafe) continue getting business, but I think the location they have is larger. It's more open. There are more trees there," he said.

"He's (Jennings) still very busy and the local shops are still very busy and that's the whole intent of this, to bring business back to the village," Brookhart said. "It's better for the community. It's more space. It's more enclosed.

"From that perspective, I like it a lot," he said.

Catonsville resident Debra Hudson was munching on a large slice of pizza from Peace A Pizza right before the show started while she talked and laughed with her husband, Bruce Hudson, and their friend, Holly Martin, from Ellicott City.

"This is the second time we've been this year," Debra Hudson said. "We really like it since they moved.

"It's nice that you can buy beer and wine over there," she said.

Teal Cary, executive director of the chamber, said she's seen a positive response to the new venue.

"I think it's gone very well," Cary said. "Many families with young children are very happy. It's a safe environment for the kids.

"I think Frederick Road Fridays is a wonderful catalyst for rediscovering the Shops on Mellor," she said. "I think helping to revitalize that area is very positive."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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