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In search of charm during a first few trips to Harford [Column]

Driving from the city up Belair Road onto Baltimore Pike, as I headed into the Town of Bel Air, I did not know what to expect.

I was born and bred in Baltimore and aside from a short stint in the Sunshine state, "Charm City" was all I knew.

While many people have negative connotations about Baltimore, for whatever reason, be it "The Wire," which touted Baltimore's crime rate and the drug trade, I had always seen a different side of the city. I understood first hand the city's "charm."

Chatting up an old friend at the small corner cafe in Station North, taking a Saturday trip to the Peabody Library or grabbing a crab cake at the Inner Harbor make Baltimore ... well, Baltimore.

No city or town, will ever quite be "home" the way the place you grew up will be to you. Something about home makes you feel comfortable and safe. And that charming feeling about Baltimore always made me feel that way.

But there's no growth, without change. And as life goes on, change is expected.

As I turned onto Bel Air's Main Street, I parked the car and began walking down the blocks, with my eyes wide open, not to miss anything.

The first thing to catch my eyes were the quirky consignment shops. As a fashion lover, rummaging through old bins at secondhand stores is something I enjoy. Every piece and garment tells a story about the last owner.

The handful of consignment shops made me excited to learn the history of residents in town.

Then I looked to the left and noticed a Medieval castle, which looked as if it was left over from the Middle Ages. It took me back to one of my favorite HBO shows "Game of Thrones." How exciting would it be to have a Medieval themed party at that place?

The rough stone and historic appeal of the Bel Air Reckord Armory made it seem slightly out of place among the more modern brick store fronts on Main Street.

But it was that out of place feeling, which made the armory seem fun and cool. It gave Main Street a little unexpected character... and charm.

The next thing I noticed was a huge heart shaped structure stuck in the ground near Klein's Shop Rite. As I drew closer to the figure I noticed it contained a painting incorporating the Maryland flag and arguably the Orioles' most well-known baseball player Cal Ripken Jr.

The "Hearts of Harford" reminded me of the fish sculptures, which were planted around the Inner Harbor and downtown Baltimore. The simple reminder of my hometown made me feel a little more at ease in the unfamiliar town.

In the past month, as I've covered festivals and council meetings in Bel Air and throughout the county, I always keep my eyes wide open looking for the charming things, which make the area just as special to its residents, as Baltimore is to me.

So far, I've seen that there is nothing quite like Darlington's Apple Festival, which even on an unusually warm fall a few weeks back, drew a crowd of thousands into the area looking for apple pies, dumplings and fritters.

Talking to the local farmers and businesses at the festival showed the comradely of local economics. And of course good eating.

Covering the Tomato Run in Aberdeen, while a goofy sight to see, actually got my wheels turning about fun ways to encourage exercise. Never have I seen a 5K run, in the city, which incorporated flying tomatoes. And I'm sure I probably never will.

As the newest recruit to the paper, I can only vow to continuously look for the charm in Bel Air and the surrounding areas. I can only hope to understand what makes the town tick. And try to comprehend the little quirks and inconsistencies that make up any town or city across America.

And of course... I will keep searching for charm.

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