1,000-foot water slide draws 3,000 people to Hillen Road

Hundreds of people beat Saturday's heat and humidity by playing in a 1,000-foot water slide set up on Hillen Road near Lake Montebello. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

It's not every Saturday that several thousand people don bathing suits to slide down Hillen Road on tubes.

As temperatures neared 90 degrees, men, women and children of all ages zipped down a 1,000-foot water slide set up in the 3500 block of Hillen Road. Hoses sprayed people with cold water as they shot down. A puddle greeted them at the end. Saturday's event was the first time that Utah-based organizers brought "Slide the City" to Baltimore. All 3,000 tickets were sold before Friday night, the organizers said.


"It was great," Robert Bland, 51, said after his fourth trip down the slide. "With all the bad press we've gotten around here, we needed some positive news. This is a black, white, Asian and college student event. We're all here."

The event followed one of the city's deadliest months in 25 years, with 42 homicides recorded in May. The deaths came after riots and looting in the aftermath of Freddie Gray suffering a fatal injury while in police custody in April. Six police officers face criminal charges in connection with Gray's death.

Around 3:30 p.m. Saturday, about 600 people waited in line to enter the slide. Many kept cool by walking under misters spraying cool water from a Baltimore City firetruck. Hundreds more people lined Hillen Road in lawn chairs and under trees and umbrellas. Lines also formed at several food trucks. Other entrepreneurs sold cold drinks from coolers and out of car trunks.

Many people tried holding hands or going down the slides in groups — they rarely reached the bottom together.

"It was fun," said 7-year-old Kimari Curtis. "We got stuck and had to get splashed by the water."

Amber Rhone said she will return next year if the event comes back to Baltimore and said the city needs to host more functions for people of all ages to enjoy.

"It was family-oriented," she said, standing next to her three sons. "We've never had anything like this before."

"I liked going fast," said Rhone's 7-year-old son, Ryan McLaurin.

Program coordinator Samantha Conkey of Massachusetts said organizers didn't expect to sell all 3,000 tickets before Saturday. Overall, she said, the biggest complaints involved people cutting in line and the wait to register when the event started.

Attendees paid $25 to $35 for one, three or an unlimited number of trips down the slide. The cost included a tube, a mouth guard, tattoo and a drawstring bag to keep valuables dry. Workers had to turn away people who didn't register in advance for tickets, Conkey added.

"It's a lot of fun," said Netta Contee, who drove up from Washington for the event. "It's different. It's positive for the city."

While people romped in the water, police and firefighters chatted with people along Hillen Road.

Bland said he made a point to shake officers' hands and thank them for working to keep the city safe.