Forty-four years ago, their waterfront neighborhood threatened with being paved over in the name of highway construction, residents of Fells Point knew they had to do something. So they threw a party, primarily to raise awareness of what the city was about to lose.
Their plan worked. The highway project was re-routed, Fells Point survived and thrived, and more than four decades later, the Fells Point Fun Festival continues as one of Baltimore's biggest and best annual parties.
"It's just down-to-earth, it's very much a street festival," says Denise Whitman, associate director of festival organizers the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fell's Point."It's not overly produced. People come down here, they feel like they're at home. They like the ambiance, they like the waterfront, they like seeing the historic ships. Where else do you get a view like that?"
Yes, the view dockside is unrivalled. But this year, that won't be the only thing festivalgoers will be staring at. Sunday, in a nod to Baltimoreans who might have other things on their minds, festival organziers have arranged to have a big-screen TV on the Harbor Point lot showing the Ravens take on Pittsburgh.
"It's like being on the field, it's so amazing," Whitman promises.
Not that the fair needs more inducements to atract visitors; every year, some 700,00 people venture down to the area around the foot of Broadway to take everything in. the festival covers some 390 square blocks, features some 500 vendors selling all manner of arts, crafts and food, and includes continuous live music on multiple stages scattered throughout the area.
All of which is wonderful, says Whitman, a Fells Point native about to work on her 11th festival. But those aren't the best parts, at least as far as she is concerned.
"I love the children's area," she says with a laugh. "All the different puppets and magic shows, the Punch and Judy shows. I love watching the kids. I guess I'm just a kid at heart."
If you go
The 44th annual Fells Point Fun Festival is set for 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 2 and 3. Information: 410-675-6756 or preservationsociety.com.