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News Maryland Harford County Bel Air

2013 is Bel Air Festival for the Arts 'best attended' year

A pleasant, sunny day brought thousands of people to Shamrock Park on Sunday for the 48th year of the Bel Air Festival for the Arts.

Organizers called it one of the event's most successful years, and residents said it was a good way to mark the end of summer.

"It's something we always look forward to," Abigail Dempsey, of Bel Air, said excitedly. "You do something over the summer, and [the festival] is something symbolic, starts a new season."

She had come with Allison Olender, also of Bel Air, and the two young women briefly danced along to the sounds of the Chuck Baker Orchestra while strolling through the park.

Dempsey said she always buys jewelry and also enjoys glasswork. Olender said she likes any of the "Maryland symbolic stuff," such as Old Bay cans or "Natty Boh stuff."

Event organizer Donna Stufft, who had been strolling through the festival with Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola, said there were fewer issues than ever this year.

She called this year's festival "the best attended."

"I think the crowd, even still for this late [in the day], is very good," Stufft said. "Many of the vendors told me that they are having a good day."

Lorraine Holley, of Bel Air, had come with her 13-year-old daughter, Tara Ford, who had performed with the Ryan-Kilcoyne School of Irish Dance.

Tara's sister is an artist and Holley said she used to have a booth at the event.

"What a beautiful day. This is absolutely gorgeous," Holley said of this year's festival. "This year is picture-perfect."

Holley was glad to see how the event has grown, spilling down Hickory Avenue.

"The neat thing is it has expanded over the years," she said. "It has so much variety."

Tara confirmed her mother is a big fan of the vendors.

"She has to go to every single booth," Tara said.

They, like most residents, also seemed to mostly ignore a cluster of anti-abortion protesters at the corner of Hickory Avenue and Lee Way, who displayed large images of bloody fetuses and passed out information earlier in the afternoon.

Holley said she is pro-life and was not upset by it, although "I think they could probably scale it down."

They added: "It's just strong pictures, gets the point across."

Stufft said there had not been any problems with the protesters.

"We live in a free society, so we have to respect their rights," she said, adding she would "prefer they not have images that are distressing to youngsters but that is their freedom of expression."

"We are choosing to ignore them," she said.

Former county spokeswoman Merrie Street also said she was "just thrilled that they are able to do it. It doesn't bother me."

Street said she comes to the event every year and always enjoys the invention of the crafters.

"The creativity, it's just incredible," she said, adding that wrought-iron art seems "very, very popular" this year.

"I loved it. People are walking out like crazy with that," she said.

Schmuck's Old Fashioned Broom Shop also always seems popular, she added.

Like the Darlington Apple Festival in Darlington, the Bel Air Festival for the Arts "is the place to be," she said.

Steve Barker and Tommy Stanley, both from Bel Air, said they stumbled onto the event while passing through town.

They had heard about the festival before but never attended.

"It's a Sunday, just seemed like a nice walk," Barker said. "I took a ceramics course and [the festival] just seemed like it would be a good place to go."

They were considering looking at ceramics stands, and Barker said "the woodwork is pretty cool."

With an Ella Fitzgerald song coming from the band shell and the crowd filling every inch of the park, Bel Air's kick-off to fall seemed stronger than ever.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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