More wet weather in Baltimore tops off a summer full of rained-out events

It hasn’t been easy doing stuff outdoors this summer.

A flurry of canceled events this weekend, as Hurricane Florence looms over the Mid-Atlantic, is but the latest losing battle between people who stage events outside and the rain.

Over the summer, the Baltimore area lost an evening of Artscape, a day-and-a-half of the Charles Village Festival, three concerts in Patterson Park, a chunk of the Harford County Farm Fair, a few hours of the Big Glen Burnie Carnival and the last evening of the St. Anthony Festival in Little Italy, to name a smattering of the outdoor fun that has been sacrificed to the rain gods.

Already, organizers canceled, postponed or scaled back several events planned for this weekend because of the forecast. That includes the Maryland Wine Festival in Westminster — rescheduled to Oct. 13; the Baltimore County African American Cultural Festival — postponed, with a new date yet to be set; and the nighttime Star-Spangled Banner Weekend activities at Fort McHenry — lost forever.

“This was a hard one,” said Abbi Wicklein-Bayne, chief of interpretation at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, of the decision to seriously cut back on the annual Defender’s Day festivities, which would have commemorated the Battle of Baltimore and bombardment of the fort with a Saturday evening program of band music and fireworks. “There’s a lot of people who put over a year into the planning of this. But we really have to err on the side of safety.”

A lot of people have had to make similarly tough calls this summer, as Baltimore has slogged its way through one of the wettest summers ever. From May 2 through July 30, the city was soaked with its wettest 90-day period on record, with a total of 29.61 inches of rain.

“It’s tough,” said Katie Long, program director for Friends of Patterson Park, which had to call off three free outdoor concerts this summer, on June 10, July 24 and Aug. 12. They were able to reschedule one, and the acts scheduled to perform at the other two have agreed to come back next year.

But “people look forward to them, and we just love holding these events,” Long said. “It’s like your birthday party getting rained out.”

Charles Village was forced to cut its 22nd annual festival back by nearly three-quarters. The evening festivities on day one, June 2, were shut down, while the second and final day was a total washout.

“It’s always difficult to make a decision like that, but the decision was more or less made for us,” said Paul Weber, the festival’s vendor coordinator.

In Little Italy, the annual St. Anthony Festival, held to celebrate the neighborhood being spared the ravages of the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, had to shut down at 3 p.m. on its closing Sunday, June 3.

“With the weather, no one wants to be outside,” said Rob Daniels, facilities manager and social event coordinator at St. Leo the Great Roman Catholic Church, where the festival is held. That holds true for both visitors to the festival and the volunteers who staff it.

“My decision is based on the volunteers,” Daniels said. “If they don’t want to be there, they can leave.”

And it isn’t just disappointment that follows rainouts like these. The St. Anthony Festival is a major fundraiser for the church, he said, and attendance from 2017 to 2018 dropped more than 50 percent, from between 40,000 and 60,000 to about 15,000.

“I was thankful we broke even and we made a little bit of money,” he said.

Likewise, organizers of the Charles Village Festival, where proceeds are donated to local nonprofits, just about broke even.

“Usually we make a good bit more than that,” Weber said.

The rain forced Artscape to shut down at 6 p.m. on July 21; a concert featuring reggae legends Toots & The Maytals was canceled. Overall attendance for the three-day free arts festival was around 250,000 — well below the 300,000 to 350,000 that usually show up.

But attendance was way up on its July 20 opening night — its biggest opening night ever, said Kathy Hornig, who directs the festival for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. Perhaps, she said, people saw the bad weather coming and were determined to get to Artscape while they could .

“Maybe our Baltimoreans are getting used to this rainy weather,” she said.

Regardless, it does little good to curse the heavens when rain puts a damper on your celebration, said Barb Moeller, president of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association. Its carnival, a northern Anne Arundel County tradition dating to 1908, had to open later than its normal 6:30 p.m. starting time the first two nights, she said.

Overall attendance at the carnival, which ran July 27-Aug. 4, was down, she estimated.

“You get prepared, and you make the decision which is best for everybody,” said Moeller, who has been associated with the carnival for 31 years. “I go with the flow, that’s all you can do.”

ckaltenbach@baltsun.com

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