Baltimore City

‘Brilliant Baltimore’: Light City, Book Festival combine on daylight saving weekend

Tom and Erin Penniston brought their kids, Jude, Ali and Matilda, to downtown Baltimore bundled up in Ravens gear on Sunday night.

Their destination wasn’t the prime time Ravens-Patriots game at M&T Bank Stadium. Instead, the family spent their evening at other major downtown weekend attraction: Brilliant Baltimore. A combination of the annual Light City and Baltimore Book festivals, the event coincided this year with daylight saving time, taking advantage of the earlier nightfall to light up the Inner Harbor with art installations.


The book festival wrapped up Sunday, but the light exhibits will be on display through next weekend.

“It’s one of the events that brings community together, and being part of all this is awesome," said Tom Penniston, who lives in Bolton Hill. "You have the book festival, you have the lights, you have —”


“Sunday Night Football!" Erin Penniston reminded him. "Go Ravens!”

The couple took pictures of their kids pedaling on “The Canopy,” an interactive light exhibit that inflates and opens like a rainbow-colored tree or umbrella when powered by accompanying stationary bicycles.

“This is part of the reason we live in the city,” Tom Penniston added, “to have all these activities, all that’s going on around us.”

Emily Orlins pushed her 1-year-old daughter, Marley, in a stroller nearby. They had just stopped to listen to a live music set and eat some Thai food near the Baltimore Visitors’ Center.

Orlins 31, of Baltimore, was a little wistful for the separate festivals, but only because they were both favorites of hers and she liked having both events on the calendar.

Light City used to be in the early spring, and the Baltimore Book Festival took place in late summer. Organizers combined them this year, intentionally emphasizing brilliance — both in the light exhibits and in the imagination inspired by the books.

Putting the two together makes sense, Orlins said.

“It’s a fantastic festival,” she said. "I think it’s really nice to be here all at once.”


Nia Duggins and her mother, Ora Graham of Owings Mills, have been coming to the book festival for years.

Adding Light City to the offerings was a great way to bring in a larger crowd, Duggins said.

“It draws more people here, and it can get more buy-in from businesses and the corporate sector,” she said.

Standing within view of book vendors and the giant glowing Ferris Wheel, Graham called the event “grand.”

“You get more people down in the Inner Harbor, and with the lights, it is a collaboration,” she said. "This is awesome.”

Sabrina Turriate, 12, of Florida, stepped into one of the exhibits and posed with her thumbs up. Dutch artist Alex P snapped a picture with a camera attached to a laptop, quickly scanning her silhouette on the white backdrop.


When Sabrina stepped away, her silhouette remained, moving slightly in a psychedelic, multi-colored painting.

Her review: “Really cool.”

"It’s just really interesting you just stand there and it does that,” she said, her eyes lingering on the illustration.

Alex P, who is participating in his first Light City Festival, said people, both kids and adults, enjoy the simple pleasure of seeing their outline lit up in different colors.

“They see themselves in a way they’ve never seen before," he said. "I think that attracts people.”

Kelli Anne Turriate, Sabrina’s mother, was impressed by the festival, which they had stumbled onto in a visit to the city.


“It was more interesting than I thought it was going to be," she said. "I thought it was just going to be lighting. I like the art aspect of it.”

Soundarya Avantsa attended the festival on a weekend visit to see her friend Shreya Vuchula, who recently moved to Federal Hill.

They picked up a handful of books — “Water for Elephants” and “Gone with a Handsomer Man” for Vuchula, “The Notebook” and “The Wife Between Us” for Avantsa.

The light installations were “really cool to watch as you’re walking around,” Avantsa said.

Vuchula said she liked browsing all the books. “You’ll never know what you’ll find,” she said.

The lights and books weren’t the only attractions. Darious Sadberry sat removing his and his daughters’ ice skates near the Inner Harbor Ice Rink, another of the big attractions which opened Saturday and will remain in place through Jan. 20.


Sadberry, of Towson, said their initial plan was to come to the book festival after church.

“But we never made it past the ice,” he said.

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Malik and Malia Wongus, who are twins, celebrated their 10th birthday at the festival with their mother, Crystal Wongus, and other family members on Sunday.

Asked why they wanted to spend their special day at the festival, the pair responded in unison: “It’s fun.”

Ice skating was the top item on both of their to-do lists, too, they said.

Asked what else he wanted to do, Malik mumbled a little before removing a set of plastic vampire fangs from his mouth.


“Eat,” he replied.

Their mother laughed.

“I wanted to see the lights,” she said.