Baltimore City

‘They tried to cancel my parade’: Thousands attend traditional Baltimore Christmas event in Hampden

Ron Dell knows where he’ll be every first Sunday in December: sitting in a folding chair, beer in hand, to watch the Mayor’s Christmas Parade in Hampden — as he’s done for decades.

Over the past two weeks, concern mounted among parade organizers and fans that the beloved annual parade might be canceled in its 49th year because city police could not cover both the 1 p.m. parade and the Ravens’ 1 p.m. home game against the Denver Broncos. The Department of Transportation told organizers to reschedule the Dec. 4 parade.


“They tried to cancel my parade,” Dell said, wearing a Ravens jersey and standing at the beginning of The Avenue on West 36th Street. “They tried to cancel it because we happen to have a football game the same day. What comes first?”

The city’s priority, Dell said, should be on the parade he described as an intergenerational tradition. Grandparents bring their grandchildren to Hampden for the event, which they attended as children themselves.


Tom Kerr, the parade chairman who has organized the event since its inception in 1973, has said the parade costs $47,000 to $50,000, including the cost of paying the city for a police detail.

The parade was officially back on Thursday when city officials announced that the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office would staff security along with Baltimore Police.

Organizers say the event is the biggest Christmas parade in Maryland. The scale of the production, which can draw tens of thousands of spectators, was apparent Sunday as massive balloons, school marching bands, dance teams and community groups danced and cheered down Falls Road for more than three hours.

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Falls Road, Hampden’s main road, was closed Sunday while the parade snaked from West Cold Spring Lane south on Falls Road to West 36th Street. Participants continued east to Chestnut Avenue and then north to end at West 37th Street. Baltimore Sheriff’s deputies, dressed in signature green, blocked intersections along the way.

When the parade’s fate seemed uncertain, City Councilwoman Odette Ramos, whose District 14 includes Hampden, guaranteed that the city would secure the needed police detail. On Sunday, Ramos walked near the beginning of the procession and waved a purple pompom.

State politicians are frequent staples of the Mayor’s Christmas Parade. Gov.-elect Wes Moore, dressed in a Santa hat, snapped photos with constituents and often ran back into the crowd to greet more onlookers he had breezed past.

Mayor Brandon Scott, who attended both the Ravens game and the parade, City Council President Nick Mosby, incoming State’s Attorney Ivan Bates and other elected officials also marched and waved.

Betty Brown, 96, greets Gov.-elect Wes Moore warmly at the 49th annual Christmas parade in Hampden. Betty Brown, now of Rosedale, was one of the founders of the original Christmas parade with Del. Jim Campbell. Moore told Brown that he expects to see her at next year’s parade.

If the parade had not gone on as planned, Dell said local representatives would have had angry and passionate residents to answer to. Many spectators were decked in Ravens gear, periodically checking their phones for the score, and expressing alarm over the news that quarterback Lamar Jackson suffered a knee injury.


Dell said he’s marched in the parade about 12 times as a drummer. He attends most years, rain or shine, recalling numerous times he’s huddled under an awning to keep dry.

But Sunday’s sunshine made the December day dry and unusually warm. Along Falls Road, spectators sunbathed on blankets as the distant sound of snare drums crept closer, and the procession of hundreds of people in bright costumes burst onto the horizon and strode by.

The youngest members of Ballet Nouveau School ride in the Fall Green Lawn Services truck in the 49th annual Christmas parade in Hampden.
For the record

A previous version of this article misspelled Ron Dell's name. The Sun regrets the error.