HonFest founder says Baltimore festival will move ahead as planned for the weekend

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A no parking sign informs drivers that HONfest is taking place June 10th and 11th, 2023.

HonFest founder Denise Whiting says the Hampden festival will move ahead as planned this weekend, despite earlier controversy over a Planned Parenthood of Maryland booth and concerns about availability of volunteers.

“Everything is great, everything’s in line and we are excited to be celebrating 30 years of love,” Whiting said Thursday morning.


Preparations for HonFest are underway in the North Baltimore neighborhood where the festival got its start three decades ago. “No parking” signs for the weekend already were posted Wednesday along the stretch of 36th Street known as “The Avenue.”

Vendors also were gearing up for HonFest, which is scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.


“Because it’s such a good, well-attended festival, you put a lot of work into prepping for it — prepping starts a month ahead of time,” said Matt Muirhead, a local artist who has had a booth at HonFest for the past decade.

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Muirhead is among the vendors who are planning to show support for Planned Parenthood at the festival after controversy arose last weekend when the reproductive health care organization announced it had been denied a booth by HonFest organizers. The organizers responded on social media saying the decision was based on the festival’s policy of prohibiting “political, religious, and hot topic issues.”

But the festival later reversed its decision, apologized and invited Planned Parenthood to attend as a vendor. The nonprofit declined the belated offer of a booth and will distribute literature about its services from Flaunt Hair Boutique during the weekend of the festival instead.

Muirhead collaborated with his friend Kelly Belk, the owner of Change My Mind Vintage, to make screenprinted T-shirts supporting Planned Parenthood. He also designed a sign for vendors who plan to donate a portion of their proceeds from festival sales to the organization.

In the wake of the controversy, Whiting said earlier this week that she was concerned she would not have enough volunteers to pull off the annual festival and that she was reaching out to the mayor’s office and other city officials to see if they could offer additional support. But those concerns were gone Thursday.

She also said festival organizers will be monitoring the air quality, which has reached unhealthy levels this week as smoke from Canadian wildfires drifts into the region. Meteorologists anticipate conditions will improve Friday. The weekend forecast calls for mostly sunny weather with highs in the mid-80s.

Councilwoman Odette Ramos, who represents Hampden, said this week that she plans to attend the festival. In a statement posted to her website, the councilwoman wrote that she was asked several times to revoke a permit for the festival but declined because of its importance to local businesses and vendors.

“I look forward to showing how proud I am to be pro-choice, to live in Maryland where we protect the right to choose, and to represent residents and businesses who understand that censoring voices is not how we conduct ourselves,” Ramos wrote.